Peninsula murder mystery 'The Lady of the Lake' to be students' TV project
John Whitman, 19, a North Olympic Peninsula Skills Center student, studies “The Lady of the Lake” by Mavis Amundson, in preparation for filming a docudrama based on the true-crime tale of a body found in Lake Crescent in 1940. -- Photo by Lisa Hitt.
By Arwyn Rice
Peninsula Daily News
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Planned as a docudrama based on historical accounts, “The Lady of the Lake” is currently in preproduction by 16 students in the skills center broadcast technology classes taught by Lisa Hitt.
“No one has done it, can you believe it?” Hitt said.
At least one scene will take place in a rowboat on Lake Crescent, showing Mont-gomery “Monty” J. Illingworth dumping the body of his wife, Hallie Latham Illingworth, into the lake. He later was convicted of having beaten and strangled her.
Filming will be weather-dependent and is likely to begin in spring, when the weather is warm enough for sensitive electronic equipment, Hitt said.
Hitt and her students are seeking interviews with people who were in Port Angeles in the early 1940s who remember Illingworth's trial, knew those involved in the trial, or have memorabilia, clothing or cars from that era that can be used in filming.
Anyone interested in helping with the historical aspects of the film are asked to phone Hitt at 360-565-1533
The docudrama will lean toward the creepy, inspired by classic thrillers, Hitt said.
“[Alfred] Hitchcock did it best. You don't see everything,” she said.
Hitt said that modern teenagers grow up surrounded by dramatic cinematography, from the Internet to video games and television.
They absorb the cadence, styles and techniques used in visual storytelling, she said, and often have developed a feel for it without textbook instruction.
The Skill Center broadcast technology program, which can accommodate up to 16 students, has the equipment it needs for the filming, including a high definition underwater camera and access to two ROV cameras that can fly over scenes for dramatic shots.
She said she hopes to sell the video to a Seattle area television station as a local area real-crime docudrama, possibly as a package with other mysteries that lay beneath the deep blue waters of Lake Crescent.
And plenty of those mysteries exist, including tales of a train that toppled into the water, taking passengers and cargo to the bottom and the 1929 disappearance of Russell and Blanch Warren of Forks, who are thought to have accidentally driven off the road and into the water. There's also an ambulance wreck that took the life of the injured person inside and recent claims of confessed serial killer Israel Keyes, who said he dumped at least one body into the lake.
Lake Crescent's reputation for dead bodies makes it a bit disconcerting to swim there, since it's so easy to imagine one of those bodies returning to the surface, ala the Lady of the Lake, Hitt said.
“You can see deep. You can see a floater coming up,” she said.
The true crime book The Lady of the Lake, by Mavis Amundson and published by a Peninsula Daily News subsidiary, details the history of the participants, the crime, investigation, trial and aftermath.
In July 1940, two fishermen found a woman's body, wrapped in blankets and tied with heavy rope, floating in Lake Crescent in Olympic National Park.
Her body was not decomposed, but saponified — turned into a soap-like substance due to minerals in the lake and the very cold water temperatures.
Although her face was not recognizable, investigators identified the body as Hallie Illingworth, a waitress at Lake Crescent Tavern (now Lake Crescent Lodge) who had been missing since 1937, Amundson wrote.
Monty was known to police, who said they had been called to least one domestic violence call to the couple's home, and co-workers said she often showed up to work with black eyes or other injuries.
Hallie was also known to be violent, sometimes starting fights in bars. The fights were often over interest other women showed in her husband.
Monty said that his wife had left him for another man — which would have made him the third husband she had left behind.
Her family and friends never heard from her again.
He moved to California with another woman.
The autopsy identified the woman showed that Hallie Illingworth's neck was bruised and discolored, and her chest showed evidence of extensive hemorrhage.
The coroner determined that she had been beaten and strangled.
Investigators said that they believed that Monty tried to conceal the crime by driving to the Log Cabin Resort with his wife's body in trunk of his car, wrapped the body in blankets and tied the bundle with a rope.
Monty then attached weights to the bundle and rowed into deep water, where he dropped the body overboard, they charged.
When the ropes rotted, the saponified body floated to the surface, where it was found by the fishermen.
Monty was arrested in Long Beach, Calif., in October 1941, extradited to Washington and charged with murder.
He was tried in Clallam County Superior Court, convicted of second-degree murder on March 5, 1942, and sentenced to life imprisonment at the Washington State Penitentiary in Walla Walla.
Monty was paroled in 1951 after serving nine years, and died on November 5, 1974, in Los Alamitos, Calif.
Reporter Arwyn Rice can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 5070, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The book, The Lady of the Lake, is available for $5.95 weekdays at the Peninsula Daily News' main offices at 305 W. First St., Port Angeles.
Last modified: October 21. 2013 6:27PM