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Roseville’s Stone House has a dark legacy

Real story behind the property more powerful than rumors
By: J’aime Rubio for the Press Tribune
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Many cities have their own urban legends or folklore about haunted cemeteries or old, abandoned houses; and while such stories are often conjured by partial truths and overactive imaginations — once in a while a tale is based on reality.

Sitting at the end of Stone House Court in Roseville, just overlooking Interstate 80, is an abandoned, overgrown home once owned by the Purdy Family. Chester S. Purdy was a rancher, and the origins of Stone House may have started as a small, one-room building that was added onto over the years. Today, the building is a shell of its former self, with doors removed, floor planks torn up, broken bottles strewn and scattered and windows covered with boards.

 The foreboding sentence "Go Home and Never Come Back" is spray-painted across an upper partition viewed from the front porch.

Why has Stone House been in disrepair for so long? The answers may lie in the dark history behind its walls, and a tragic event that shocked Roseville’s tight-knit community back in 1954.

According to archives from both the Press Tribune and the Daily Independent Journal, on January 27, 1954, a mentally disabled young lady by the name of Nadine Purdy was shot and killed in Stone House’s front yard. The trigger man was her uncle, Chester Purdy.

Newspaper reports indicated the slaying took place after an argument within the family over whether Nadine would be put in a mental institution. Chester was 77 and worried he would not be able to take care of the girl. Chester’s wife, Edith, had passed away 14 years earlier. In the wake of the killing, Chester told reporters that he’d eventually decided he couldn’t allow Nadine to be placed in a mental hospital or insane asylum; so he made the only choice he thought he had left.

After the murder, Chester did not resist arrest. He fully cooperated with Placer County Sheriff Charles Ward’s investigation. A few months later a trial was commencing when Chester Purdy gave the court, and Roseville, another shock: Only a few days into his testimony, Chester died at Placer County Hospital from a partial heart attack and viral pneumonia.

Newspaper headlines had called the saga a “mercy killing.”

Over the span of 60 years Chester and Nadine Purdy’s story faded, leaving only rumors and gossip left to float around the ruins of Stone House. Opinions about Chester Purdy have varied over the years. Some have painted him as cold-blooded. Others have recognized the complexity of his situation. But delving further into Chester’s background, there may be a second layer to the story that Roseville’s community was unaware of in 1954 — an incident that took place 24 years earlier, which may have convinced Chester that ending Nadine’s life was his only option.

There was a reason Chester and his late wife Edith were raising Nadine instead of her actual parents.  

In 1929, just a few months after Nadine’s birth, her mother, Mabel Steele, reportedly had a nervous breakdown. Mabel was institutionalized for a year in Southern California, only to be released in a worse state than before. According to The Los Angeles Times, a month after Mabel’s discharge from the hospital her sister, Ruth Wiemer, shot and killed her.

Wiemer claimed at the time she only killed Mabel “to end her suffering.”

Newspaper reports indicate that Wiemer was actually acquitted of all charges around the death of her sister, with a Los Angles jury labeling it a “mercy killing.”

Did Mabel’s deterioration in the wake of a stay at mental hospital convince Charles Purdy that same sad fate would happen to Mabel’s daughter Nadine after he was dead?

Did the so-called “mercy killing” that took place in L.A. in 1929 directly inspire the shooting at Roseville’s Stone House in 1954? Only speculation remains; though one thing that's known is that — in life — Nadine Purdy suffered the same inner demons as her mother, and ultimately departed life in the same violent way.

When drivers on Interstate 80 pass by the vacant, weed-hemmed home on the hill, withering, deteriorating and fading in real time, few know its sad history.