The Murder of Louise Springer: Part 1

louise_portraitJune 16, 1949, the decomposing body of thirty-five year old Louise Springer, a beauty shop operator, was found huddled in the rear seat of her husband’s convertible automobile parked at 125 W. 38th Street. Springer had been garroted.

A length of clothesline was knotted around Springer’s neck, with two knots under her
left ear. Her face was swollen and nearly black. Her brown skirt and yellow suede
jacket had been twisted around her body, with her skirt tangled around her hips.

springer_houseA stick 14 inches in length and 1/2 inch thick had been violently driven into her vagina .

Laurence Springer had reported his wife missing about sixty hours before her body was discovered. Louise, a hairstylist, had been working until shortly before 9:00 p.m. on the night she disappeared. Laurence had arrived to pick her up from work and take her to their beautiful home in the Hollywood Hills.

He’d parked in a lot on Crenshaw across the street from the shopping center in which Louise worked. The couple walked to their 1948 convertible and Louise, who had spent hours on her feet, pulled off her shoes and put on a pair of slippers that she kept in the car. They were just about to head for home when Louise exclaimed: “Oh, I’ve forgotten my glasses.” Laurence told her to relax and listen to her favorite radio show while he went to retrieve her specs.

Laurence got Louise’s glasses, then stopped to buy a magazine and chat with a friend. He wasn’t gone for more than 10 or 15 minutes, but when he returned both Louise and the car were gone.springer_car

Laurence knew that something was wrong, she wouldn’t have driven off and left him. He looked around for a few minutes but he couldn’t find his wife. He called the cops at about 10:00 pm and a few moments later a prowl car met him at the parking lot. The officers looked around but they didn’t find anything either. Laurence accompanied the police to the University Division Station where he filed a missing persons report. He then went home to be with his 21 month old son.

The Springer’s housekeeper and nanny, forty-nine year old divorcee Elizabeth Thompson, nearly collapsed when she received the news of her employer’s disappearance. Thompson told police that the Springers were happily married and that as far as she knew they had no enemies. She said that the couple had sold the beauty shops they owned in Northern California, then moved south to L.A. They hadn’t been in town for very long before Louise was slain. spring_child

Thompson injected a note of mystery into the investigation when she said that she had received an obscene phone call from an unknown woman about three months prior to Louise’s disappearance. The caller asked several times for Thompson to identify herself, which she refused to do — then the caller made a lewd proposal and Thompson hung up on her. Cops didn’t believe that the phone call had anything to do with Louise’s disappearance, but during the initial stages of the investigation they couldn’t rule anything out.

springer_headlineOne of the most disturbing aspects of the case was that the parking lot from which Louise Springer had been abducted was only about a block away from the lot where the body of Elizabeth Short had been discovered in January 1947!

Women were terrified by the thought that the Black Dahlia’s killer was once again hunting the streets of L.A. for victims. An enormous manhunt, the largest since Short’s murder, was soon underway.

Witnesses in the neighborhood where Louise’s body had been found came forward to say that they had seen a man in the murder car and watched him as he seemed to adjust something on the backseat – which is where Louise’s body had been found covered with a tarp. A man was seen exiting the car, and some people thought that he may have been wearing a military uniform.

springer_cluesPolice forensics investigators were having a difficult time trying to determine if Louise had been slugged before she was strangled, or if she’d been sexually assaulted. A relatively new test called the acid phosphatase test was used to try to determine if semen was present, but the test was inconclusive due to decomposition.

The main piece of physical evidence, the twig that was violently inserted into Louise’s vagina, was becoming a huge problem for investigators — it couldn’t be identified. Bonnie Templeton, curator of the botany department at the County Museum, had been called in to lend her expetise in identifying the twig. She said that it could have come from “four of five” species of trees or shrub.

It was beginning to look as if the LAPD was going to have another unsolved homicide of a woman on the books.

NEXT TIME: The investigation into the murder of Louis Springer continues.

13 thoughts on “The Murder of Louise Springer: Part 1

  1. I don’t think any of these murders are related, I just think the nut cases were having a field day and the police just couldn’t keep up. Fingerprints from the car? This is fun!

    • I don’t think that the murders are related either. I believe that in Post-War L.A. there were enough damaged vets
      and transients to account for the spike in violent crime.

  2. I tend to agree that a lot of crimes allegedly “related” to the Dahlia probably are not, but it’s interesting to me that Roscoe Cox lived at 1611 N. Orange. That’s where Beth Short lived the fall before her death.

    • There are many uncomfortable coincidences surrounding Short’s murder. One of the LAPD’s main suspects, Leslie Dillon, had an aunt who lived on Crenshaw and he often drove through the neighborhood where Short’s body was found. Thank you for your comment!

  3. I disagree, Don’t see how it is possible that that all of the Lone Woman murders in 1940s LA were ALL separate murderers! At least a few must be the same individual (s)

    • Daisy — there’s never been a credible link between the unsolved homicides of women during the 40s — that’s not to say that something won’t come to light in the future, but of course with each passing year it becomes less likely. If you think about L.A. during the war years and in the post-war period it doesn’t seem so far-fetched that the homicides could have been one-offs. The population was transient: war workers, servicemen (some of whom came home with serious emotional issues) and when you put a large group of rootless people in their 20s in such an environment I think it can become volatile and perhaps even deadly.

      • I can’t see how you can say that the cases aren’t related. All of them young white(one Mexican) women, killed by strangulation or being beaten or both, killed in the night, and dumped publicly so that they could be easily found. All cases unsolved. It’s clear that a serial killer was prowling the streets of LA.
        There is no way that Black Dahlia was the first victim of her killer. No way that a 1st timer would carry out the gross mutilations that were inflicted on her body.

        • I respect your opinion–however I don’t agree with your conclusion. One of the reasons I can say cases are not related is that I was fortunate to have seen LAPD’s files on Short’s murder when I assisted in curating an exhibit on the Black Dahlia case at the Los Angeles Police Museum and there was nothing I saw that would lead me to believe that her slaying was connected to any of the other unsolved homicides of women in L.A. during the 1940s. Of course it’s always interesting to speculate. There are several “daddy did it” books and everyone seems to have a theory — me included. But in the end it is all just a thought exercise because I believe that we will never know who the killer was. Thanks for reading the blog and for your comment. Best – Joan

        • Sadly, all the reasons you think these cases assess connected (all white, young, killed in they night, strangled, beaten, etc.) describes the vast majority of murders in general. You said it yourself, there’s no way the black dahlia was done by a first timer. Many of the line woman victims disappeared after her, many of whom weren’t ever found. Thissis completely contradictory to what we saw with dahlia. Her murder was gruesome, took time, thought, and patience. Her body was left, very publicly displayed, in a manner suggesting (in my opinion) the killer wanted everyone to know she was a whore, or worthless. With her legs spread, fake smile cut into her face, breasts and body horribly maimed. Typically serial killers progress in their “art” of killing. Getting more creative and cruel. They don’t typically digress from horribly maiming and very publicly displaying bodies, to strangling and/or hiding the bodies with either the intention of them never being found or being discovered in a not-so-public manner (e.g. stuffed in the back seat of a car). It’s very likely this killer had much practice before dahlia, of that we can agree. I just don’t see any evidence to suggest her murder was related too any of the others in the lone woman cases. Facial lacerations? Dismemberment? Disembowelment? Mutilation in general? Very public displays of the bodies? I just don’t see it.

  4. I am totally addicted to your site. Every story you have posted is so interesting, I love to do a little investigating my self on these unsolved crimes you post. Keep up the good work :)

    • Estrellita, Thank you so much for reading the blog! I love that you’re inspired to do some investigating on your own. If you find anything, please let me know.

      Best,
      Joan

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