• Kaitlyn Scott

Robbery at Rainbow Bridge

Hi, thank you for checking out our new blog, Folsom Unveiled. My name is Kaitlyn Scott and I’m Folsom Historical Society’s historian. Each week I will be highlighting a different topic related to Folsom’s history that not everyone knows about by diving deeper into a place, event, person or piece in our collection.

If you have ever taken a walk above Rainbow Bridge near Johnny Cash trail, you have most likely noticed stairs leading down into a concrete hole in the grass. This was the site where a man named Andy Colner and his wife Marie lived on the south bank of the American River. While the home is long gone, the stairs and concrete remain indicating where Colner had built a pool in his yard. I have never seen pictures of the actual home, but it sounds amazing if only for the view and pool.

View of Rainbow Bridge

Remains of the Colner's pool

Andy was born in 1895 in Croatia and Marie was born in Russia. Andy moved with his family to California as a child with his parents and siblings and ended up in Roseville before marrying and moving to Folsom. In Folsom, he started a gold buying business that became quite profitable. He was an amateur filmmaker and was able to self-fund his hobby. He would travel to nearby towns with his films and show them for free or to raise money for charity. Two of his popular films were based in Folsom, the first being Amphibious Attack which was about Salmon in the American River and the second was The Construction of Folsom Dam which followed the dam’s creation from start to end and took Andy over 7 years to complete.

It was no secret that Andy Colner was wealthy. He often did his gold buying in the evening so his days could be used for his latest film project. After a transaction was completed, the cash and whatever gold he had on hand was kept in the house and brought to the bank in the following days. Folsom in the 1950s was a fairly safe place, Colner typically did not have to worry about anybody trying to break in and rob them but that changed in 1951.

Colner home was in a secluded location

On November 30th, 1951, the Colners were at home around 8:00 PM, Andy was listening to a fight on the radio and Marie was reading in bed when there was a knock on the door. Andy got up to answer it and saw a man he did not recognize on the porch through the window, he later recounted that the man looked young and clean-cut, not like a criminal. He opened the door and the man immediately stepped forward, pressing a long barrel pistol against his ribs. A smaller man followed in behind him, wearing a Halloween horror mask that covered his entire face so the Colners could only see his eyes peeking out.

The young man without a mask went down the hall to where Marie was reading and the Colners’ dog, Pooch, began barking, growling and snapping at the robbers. They begged for them not to hurt their dog and he was taken to a back room and locked inside. Marie was made to lay down on the bed and both of the Colners were tied up with wires around their wrists and ankles and then tied their wrists to their ankles, Mrs. Colner said she thought they may have been in the military at some point because it reminded her of pictures she had seen during the war. They gagged Andy and asked Marie where the cash and gold was located, and she directed them to it.

LA Police modeling a mask used by the gang. Courtesy of LAPD Archives.

When the robbers could not find it, they partially untied Marie and made her show them. They found the couples’ gun and took it and Marie later said they laughed because they had their gun, and the couple would not be able to use it. They asked her where the rest of the money was and when Marie told them there was not any more money, they made her go back to the bed and went to Andy. He showed them where some gold dust was and his filming equipment, but they kept demanding more. When the couple said there was not anything else, the man in the Halloween mask began lighting matches and burning Andy with them. Andy insisted there was no more money and the men finally left, they had been at the house for an hour.

Marie was able to get out of her ties after the men left, they were still loose on her wrists from when they let her up to show them where the money and gold was hidden. She hopped to the phone and called the police who brought a doctor for the pair as well.

While giving their statement to the police, Andy recalled that Pooch had been barking over the course of several days in the past week and they thought that maybe it was the two thieves staking out their home. In all, $4,000 dollars (worth about $45,000 today) was taken from the home and the Colners were brought to the hospital for treatment.

The police did not have any leads on who the men could be and assumed that they were not from Folsom as the pair did not recognize their attackers. During the 1950s, Folsom’s population was below 2,000 people and people tended to know everyone in town.

The case seemed to go cold and the Colners considered moving out of town but instead stayed and changed their business hours. Andy got an office in town and stuck to normal business hours, making deposits in the bank at the end of each day and not taking cash home.

Two years later in August of 1953 32-year-old George W. Boles, a former sanitarium worker in Placer County, was arrested for the murder of a Nevada City mine worker. Halloween masks were worn during this murder, so police brought a photo of Boles to Folsom and Andy Colner identified him as the unmasked man. After being identified, Boles wrote a statement saying that famous murderer/robber duo Jack Santo and Emmett Perkins were also behind the Colner robbery and that Perkins had been the man in the mask.

Jack Santo planned the robbery; he had staked the house out for several nights prior but did not take part because police were already looking for him in connection to several other crimes. He provided Boles and Perkins with a stolen Chevrolet and the three of them met up at a hotel in Roseville after the robbery to split the cash. Santo took the gold bar and sold it and then split that cash as well. Boles claimed to not know that Andy had been tortured during the robbery, but Andy was able to testify that he had been in the room when it happened proving Boles was lying about his involvement.

Santo and Perkins were already on trial for a different murder along with Perkins’ girlfriend, Barbara Graham, by the time Boles was arrested and their connection to the Colner robbery was known.

While Santo, Perkins and Graham were sentenced to death at San Quentin in 1955, Boles served only 10 years in prison and was released in 1963. Several books about the gang have been written and a movie titled I Want to Live! was released in 1958 and focused on Barbara Graham’s story.

L-R: Santo, Perkins and Graham

The Colners remained in Folsom and Andy continued working on his films, finishing up one on Folsom’s Pioneer Festival shortly after the trials ended.

Andy Colner's work at the Folsom Historical Society Archives