Murder House in Alhambra: The Pyrenees Castle

If you look on a Northeastern direction from King Hall, you can see Pyrenees Castle on top of a hill. The castle is very easy to spot: the signature red roof, white walls, and the Himalayan deodar trees. It almost seems out of place sitting in the neighborhood of Alhambra because of its gigantic size. The castle’s walls are 3-feet thick at the foundation and 1-foot wide eaves. It has 10 bedrooms, 8 fully-tiled bathrooms with Italian marble floors, a game room, a breakfast room, an office, dens, service and utility rooms, a large basement, an extensive balcony, covered patios and a large wine cellar. The 3-acre property also includes tennis courts, playgrounds, and guarding towers at each corners.

The Pyrenees Castle was planned and built by Sylvester Dupuy in 1926. He and his wife Anna Dupuy first came to Southern California from the Pyrenees area of France in the 1870s and developed their 80,000 sheep ranch. Their first house was located at the base of the hill, where Cal State LA is now sited. Mr. Dupuy always dreamed of building his own French chateau like the ones in the Pyrenees mountains. He then hired architect John Walter Stuart to design the chateau in 1924 and they finished in March, 1926 at a cost of $40,000. Unfortunately, Mr. Dupuy lost most of his money in oil investment later on and died of a stroke in 1936.

After the Dupuy family, the castle was converted into 8 departments by E.T. Bondurant, then owned by R.W. Wilson for about 20 years, and then sold to Chinese industrialist Todd Hsu in 1985. The castle also had many legends about its ownership: a wealthy motor magnate who never let himself be seen, eastern gangsters who built secret entrances that required passwords, and an anonymous woman with 25 dogs who never moved in. However, none of the tales could compare to its recent owner, Phil Spector.

Phil Spector had a successful career as music producer, who shared many memories with the Beatles at the Pyrenees Castle. However, he was addicted to alcohol, pills, and obsessed with firearms after his son’s death in 1992 due to leukemia. With the profound loneliness inside him, Spector often became paranoid and locked the gates to prevent the guests from leaving the castle. Before he was convicted of second-degree murder on April 13, 2009, he had been sober for quite some years and slowly began to socialize again.

On February 2, 2003, Spector met Lana Clarkson at The House of Blues VIP Foundation Room in Hollywood. Clarkson was a B-movie actress who worked as a hostess to make ends meet. When Spector invited her to come back to the castle with him and have one more drink, naturally, she agreed. At 5 a.m., Spector’s driver Adriano De Souza saw his boss came out of the gate with his bloody hand and said, “I think I killed somebody.”

Clarkson died from a single gunshot wound inside her mouth. She was sitting on a chair near the castle’s front door with blood covering her face when the police came in. Nobody knew what exactly happened besides Spector himself but he never talked. The police didn’t find his fingerprints on the supposed murder weapon nor the identity of its owner. There were also conflicting interpretations of blood spatter patterns and gunpowder residue, which further confused the case. They couldn’t be sure if Spector was anywhere near Clarkson during her death.  Spector’s lawyers also found another piece of evidence unsettling. Clarkson was 40 years old, 5 feet 11 inches tall, weighed 160 pounds and Spector was 5 feet 4 inches tall and in his 60s. She could have defended herself easily before the gun was pointed in her mouth, but the case remained a mystery.

The conviction was mainly based on his driver’s testimony on Spector’s quote and his female acquaintance’s past experience with his obsession for firearms. He was sentenced 15 years in prison and 10 more years if the jury found he actually used a gun in the shooting.

Spector’s young wife Rachelle still lives at the castle nowadays. Although she is trying to free him, there’s no guarantee he will ever see his castle again. And what truly happened on the evening of February 2, 2003, only Phil Spector knows.

Throughout the years the Pyrenees Castle has become a spooky spot in the neighborhood and the rumors continue to bring people shivers and goosebumps.

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