On Christmas Eve 1955, The Lennon Sisters made their debut on The Lawrence Welk Show. The group was comprised of real-life sisters Peggy, Janet, Kathy and Dianne Lennon, who were so loved by the audience, they became weekly regulars on the show until 1968.
With the girls’ fame came much-unwanted attention. In 1964, Peggy Lennon married Dick Cathcart, a trumpeter she met on The Lawrence Welk Show. Shortly after, Chester “Chet” W.H. Young, a former air force officer began writing letters to the Lennon family.Chester was convinced Peggy Lennon was in love with him but her father, William Lennon, was standing in the way of their relationship. Later that year, Chester showed up at the family’s home. Although police were notified, Young continued sending letters to the Lennons. He even wrote a threatening letter to then-President Lyndon B. Johnson, complaining he could not receive permission to marry Peggy. Shortly after noon on August 12, 1969 William Lennon was leaving the Marina Del Ray Golf Range where he worked as a pro when Chet Young emerged from behind a parked car and pulled a gun on Mr. Lennon. There was a struggle over the gun as Young swore at Lennon. Witnesses say Lennon swore back and was heard pleading, “No, no, don’t do it. Help, help!”, then was able to briefly break away, running towards the entrance of the parking lot. The witness continued, “The man fired, hit him once, Bill staggered and ran toward a corner fence. The man fired again and hit him in the back. Bill crawled around the fence, the man ran up to him, put the gun to the side of his head by his ear and fired again.”. Immediately following the murder, Young ran across the street to another parking lot, threw the gun in the trunk of his car and drove off.
Even after the death of their father, Young continued to harass the Lennons; The family received a letter containing a cutout photo of their father with a gun pointed to his head and the words “HIGH NOON”, the time of day he had been murdered. On October 11, 1969, almost two months to the day after the murder of Willian Lennon, Chet Young committed suicide. He was found in the trunk of his car which was parked in High Sierra. He had rigged the trunk with a hose, appearing that he had originally intended to kill himself with carbon monoxide poisoning but failed. Ultimately, he shot himself with the same gun he used to kill William Lennon.
Chet Young left a note for his “wife”, Peggy Lennon. In it, he explained he had taken his life because they could not be together and asked her to apologize to their “children”. Young went on to tell her, “It was not easy to wait until high noon to kill Bill Lennon who instigated so many of the crimes. I was certainly justifiable and the least I could do as a husband and father.”.
The Lennon Murder was not as highly publicized as most crimes of its nature would be; At the time, the world was focused solely on the Tate/Manson Murder which had occurred only three days prior. William Lennon was the father of eleven children and left behind seven Lennon children under the age of eighteen. Peggy, Janet, Kathy and Dianne were set to star in their own variety show ‘Jimmy Durante Presents the Lennon Sisters Hour’. The show was scheduled to premier only six weeks after the murder of William Lennon and was canceled after only one season; It suffered severely due to The Lennon Sisters’ unimaginable grief.
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