As forensic experts examine a car found late last week buried on the grounds of a $15 million property in Atherton that may contain human remains, more details are emerging about the man who owned the home when the car was likely buried.
Johnny Bocktune Lew, who owned the home from 1990 to 2014, died at the age of 77 in Washington state, other media outlets have reported. The Almanac is working to confirm this with the state health department.
Lew spent three years in prison in Los Angeles County after he was convicted of the murder of his mistress in 1965. The second-degree murder verdict was overturned by the California Supreme Court due to an error in admitting hearsay statements.
Lew, an American citizen raised in Hong Kong, moved to the U.S. in 1959, according to court records. He served several years in the police force in Hong Kong before moving to the U.S. Lew, who was 28 at the time he was convicted of murder, claimed to be studying to join the FBI during his trial in Los Angeles County, according to an October 1966 article in the Press-Telegram, a publication in Long Beach.
He married his cousin Marguerite in South Carolina in 1961. The couple lived in San Francisco and later moved to Los Angeles in 1963, where he enrolled at El Camino Junior College to study police science, according to records.
He met Karen Gervasi, a fellow classmate, in 1964. Gervasi graduated from Bishop Montgomery High School in Torrance, California, in 1962, according to the school’s website and online records. Gervasi was majoring in psychology, according to a 1965 Press-Telegram article.
Both transferred to California State College in Long Beach and in September 1965 they began an affair. Lew, who lived in Inglewood, testified that he tried to break things off with the 21-year-old Gervasi in mid-November 1965. When she said she may be pregnant, Lew considered marrying her.
When Lew's wife noticed blonde hair in their shower, she confronted him. He admitted the affair and possible pregnancy, and the two talked about divorcing, according to records.
The three met at a bowling alley parking lot around Dec. 3 to talk. During the meeting, Marguerite pulled out a gun and threatened to shoot herself, records show.
On Dec. 14, Lew said Gervasi showed interest in firing a gun. The two examined a .32 caliber Savage automatic pistol on a chair in Lew's living room. He said that he handed Gervasi the gun. The clip fell to the floor and as he bent over to pick it up he heard a shot. Gervasi was bleeding from a gunshot wound to the left temple.
Gervasi ultimately died during surgery. An autopsy surgeon testified that it was impossible for him to state that death was not caused accidentally.
On a table in the living room officers found an envelope labeled "Marguerite K. Lew" containing the ownership documents for the car, boat and trailer and a withdrawal slip on the couple's San Francisco savings account, all endorsed in blank by Lew.
Gervasi's parents and neighbors described her as a "quiet, sweet child," according to a 1965 newspaper report.
The chair of California State College Long Beach's police science department at the time, C. Robert Gutherie, said Lew was a "bright, pleasant fellow," according to the report.
Other murder charge
In 1977, Lew was sentenced to five years to life in prison for shooting and killing Marsha Dwyer, an 18-year-old freshman at University of California at Los Angeles, and the attempted murder of her father Leslie Dwyer in February 1970 at the Dwyer family's Westchester neighborhood home, according to a Santa Monica-Southside Advertiser article.
He spent three years in prison for this crime, the San Francisco Chronicle reported.
Lew fled the country for Hong Kong after shooting Dwyer, who was Lew's girlfriend at the time, according to the publication.
A nationwide manhunt began for Lew, who sometimes went by the alias "John Reads," with the search spanning from Hawaii to Baltimore, according to a 1970 article from the Independent, a Long Beach paper. Police described him as 6 feet tall, 165 pounds, with dark hair.
His arrest came in May 1976 when he enrolled at University of Manitoba in Winnipeg and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police identified him as the murder suspect, the Indepedent reported.
Insurance fraud: the Norwel yacht
Lew was caught up in a sting operation with state insurance investigators in 1999 for offering them $50,000 in cash and other valuables to sink his $1.2 million yacht for the insurance payout.
The Redwood City Police Department arrested Lew and charged him with insurance fraud, grand theft and making a terroristic threat in October 1999, according to an October 1999 Almanac article.
Lew, who was 62 at the time, offered undercover agents $50,000 to scuttle the Norwel, a 56-foot yacht, off the Golden Gate Bridge, according to Almanac archives. He hoped to cash out on insurance money.
Undercover investigators staged the theft of the yacht and secured it in dry dock storage while Lew was traveling in China, investigators said. Lew offered $30,000 in cash and $20,000 in gold watches, according to a San Francisco Chronicle story from 1999.
Lew told undercover investigators that the vessel belonged to Asian crime group called the "Triad" and he or his people would kill or have killed anyone who told of the scheme, state insurance investigators said at the time.
on Oct 25, 2022 at 12:34 pm
on Oct 25, 2022 at 12:34 pm
It appears he had an infant daughter Lorena Chiu Yin Lew that died in April of 1963
on Oct 27, 2022 at 8:33 pm
on Oct 27, 2022 at 8:33 pm
Excellent reporting, thank you. It appears, in short, this man was a crook.