Harvey Glatman: The Glamour Girl Slayer, Part 4

Shirley, Ruth, Judy

Shirley, Ruth, Judy

Harvey Glatman was busted when the woman he intended to be his fourth victim, Lorraine Vigil, kicked, clawed and bit her way to freedom. Instead of being celebrated for her courage, Lorraine was dismissed from her job as a result of her notoriety. Adding insult to injury reports circulated that she’d known that Glatman was an ex-con when she accepted the modeling job:

“I didn’t know he was an ex-convict. If I had I certainly wouldn’t have agreed to pose for him.”

Cops hoped to clear up more unsolved homicides of women when they hooked Glatman up to a lie detector for hours of questioning; but they would be disappointed. Homicide Lt. Herman Zander said:

“There is nothing to indicate that Glatman is connected with any other crimes at this time.”

The psychology of a killer is not a certain thing, but I believe that if Glatman had committed any other murders he would have been delighted to have taken credit for them. He couldn’t keep his mouth shut, especially about his rope.

“It seems like I always had a piece of rope in my hands when I was a kid,” he told officers “…I guess I was just kind of fascinated by rope.”

confessedHarvey took cops on field trips to the body dump sites of his victims. He led them to a place within 25 feet of the spot where Judy Dull’s remains had been found in December 1957. He recounted his story of her murder dispassionately and without an ounce of remorse. He said that after he’d photographed and raped Judy in his Melrose Avenue apartment on the night of August 1, 1957, he had bound her hands and driven her into the desert to murder her. He never revealed his intentions to her — in fact he led Judy to believe he was going to release her in Blythe and put her on a bus.

Even when they stopped near Indio, Glatman told Judy that it was so that he could rape her again, which he did.  Then he tied her hands and feet, looped the rope around her neck and pulled it tight while pressing his knee in her back until she was dead. He left her body in a shallow grave in the sand.

Harvey confessed to officers that he’d followed virtually the same scenario in each of his subsequent killings.

Glatman’s crimes spanned miles and more than one county, but he was turned over to San Diego County for prosecution in the slayings of Shirley Bridgeford and Ruth Mercado. Against the advice of his mother and his attorney, who wanted him to plead insanity, Harvey entered a plea of guilty and eloquently argued for his own execution.

“I think,” he said, “the guilty please was proper. If I don’t think these people (his attorney and his mother) really believe I am or was inane. This is just a delaying maneuver. My actions justify my previous plea. I would reather be executed than spend the rest of my life behind bars.”

Judge John A. Hewicker wasn’t accustomed to defendants in a capital case pleading guilty, let alone demanding to be executed. He said:

“Do you realize that you are likely to be sentenced to death? You may think that’s what you want now, but as the time approaches, you may think differently.”

Glatman said he understood the likely outcome of his guilty plea and hoped it would speed the process. Judge Hewicker was taken by surprise and decided to continue the case while he tried to wrap his head around Glatman’s request.

On December 17, 1958, Judge John A. Hewicker found Harvey Glatman, 31 year old television repairman, guilty in the murders of Shirley Bridgeford and Ruth Mercado. The deceptively meek looking rapist and killer was sentenced, as he had demanded, to death in San Quentin’s gas chamber.

Glatman requested that his attorney not file an appeal on his behalf but such pleas are automatic in California for a death penalty case. The appeal didn’t make a significant  difference in the amount of time that Harvey had left on the planet — he was executed on September 18, 1959 in the gas chamber at San Quentin.

Jack_Webb_DragnetHarvey was cleverly mocked in the made-for-television DRAGNET 1966:

Negler: The reason I killed those girls is they asked me to. (pause) They did; all of ‘em.

Joe Friday: They asked you to.

Negler: Sure. They said they’d rather be dead than be with me.



Harvey Glatman: The Glamour Girl Slayer, Part 3

lorraine paper cropLorraine Vigil was a hero — she had disarmed Harvey Glatman and was responsible for his capture. I love that it was a woman who took him down.admits slaying_headline

Once in custody the jug-eared little freak (sometimes I can’t stay objective, sorry) was only too happy to take cops on a tour of the body dump sites for his three victims: Judy Dull, Shirley Bridgeford and Ruth Mercado.

Glatman boasted to the cops about how he carried out his attacks:

“With each one I did it the same way. After I attacked them I knew I had to kill them, for they could identify me and identify my car. So I would drive into the desert, sometimes on the pretense of taking more pictures, sometimes without any reason.”

“I would make them kneel down. With every one it was the same. With the gun on them I would tie this 5-foot piece of rope around their ankles. Then I would loop it up it up around their neck. Then I would stand there and keep pulling until they quit struggling.”

Harvey told investigators that he had buried Judy Dull in a shallow, sandy grave, but he didn’t bury Shirley Bridgeford, his lonely hearts club date, because he walked her “almost a mile into the desert and I didn’t think anyone would find her there.”glatman_suspect

For once in his pathetic life Harvey Glatman was the center of attention and he seemed to revel in it. He explained in gruesome detail how Ruth Mercado had become his final victim. He said that he had first called on her through a modeling advertisement. But when he went to pick her up she was too ill to go out. He left for a little while, but returned to find no light on in her apartment. He was at a crossroads — should he move ahead with his plan? He stopped in at a bar to contemplate his next move. He decided to drive by her place one final time and there was a light on so he knocked on her door.glatman_mercado

Harvey spent the night in Ruth’s apartment repeatedly raping her at gunpoint. The next morning he forced her to walk to his car which was parked a couple of blocks away.

Harvey told the cops that he didn’t want to kill Ruth:

“She was one I really liked. so I told her we were going out to a deserted spot where we wouldn’t be bothered while I took more pictures. We drove out to the Escondido district and spent most of the day out on the desert. I took a lot more pictures and tried and tried to figure out how to keep from killing her. But I couldn’t come up with any answer, so I got out the rope and did it the same way I did the others. I piled some brush and debris on her body and left her there.”

Harvey_GlatmanGlatman left Ruth’s naked corpse and took her clothing home with him, except for her underwear which he threw from his car on his way back to Los Angeles. The cops found Ruth’s slip, stockings and a photograph of her when they searched his apartment.

Each of the women Glatman had assaulted had suffered for hours before he killed them. They had to endure multiple rapes and the further humiliation of posing for photographs so that Harvey would have trophies. Robert D. Keppel (retired as chief criminal investigator for the Washington State Attorney General’s Office; author of Riverman) said this about Glatman’s photos, particularly the postmortem shots:

“They were even more horrifying to police (than the in-life ones) because they revealed Glatman’s true nature. They showed the ways the killer had positioned his victims, and the psychological depravity they evidenced was deeply revolting. That a human being could so reveal the depths of his own weakness and feelings of insignificance through photographs was something investigators had not seen before.”

The bondage photographs that Glatman took of his unwilling models followed a pattern that was truly horrifying. The following quote comes from Robert Keppel’s book, Signature Killers.

“They were images of Glatman’s detailed methodology of murder, which showed a sequence of terror by re-creating the entire psychological arc of the crime. He first photographed each victim with a look of innocence on her face as if she were truly enjoying a modeling session. The next series represented a sadist’s view of a sexually terrorized victim with the impending horror of a slow and painful death etched across her face. The final frame depicted the victim’s position that Glatman himself had arranged after he strangled her.”

NEXT TIME:  Justice for Judy, Shirley and Ruth.

Harvey Glatman: The Glamour Girl Slayer, Part 2

By August 1958, twenty-nine year old Harvey Glatman had found a beautiful young blonde to whom he would lose his virginity — she would also, very likely, be his first murder victim.


wirephoto_dull_cropNineteen year old Judy Ann Dull was just the sort of woman who wouldn’t have bothered with Harvey Glatman under any other circumstances except those in which she found herself on August 1, 1958. She was estranged from her husband and they had locked horns in a custody battle over their fourteen month old daughter. When Judy, a pin-up model, got a call from a guy named Johnny Glinn who was willing to pay her $50 to pose for him she took the gig.

Judy shared a West Hollywood apartment with two other pin-up models, Betty Carver (18), and Lynn Lykles (22) and when the unremarkable looking bespectacled man arrived to pick-up Judy for the photo shoot none of the women felt threatened by him — he even left his telephone number with Betty. Although Johnny didn’t seem scary, he did seem peculiar. Betty said:

“I knew there was something odd about the man. He said he wanted to shoot pin-up pictures. Yet he told her (Judy) to bring a selection of street outfits, which she did.”

Judy Dull’s roommates never saw her again.

When Judy failed to return from the photo session, Betty called the phone number Johnny had left with her, but it wasn’t a photo studio as he’d said, it was a machine shop and nobody there had ever heard of a Johnny Glinn. Betty and Lynn called the cops.

The L.A. County Sheriff issued an all-points bulletin for Glinn, who was described as being about 29, 5 feet 9 inches, 150 pounds, brown hair, olive complexion, wearing horn-rimmed glasses.

Just days after Judy’s disappearance her estranged husband, twenty-four year old Robert L. Dull, was awarded custody of their daughter, Susan. Robert testified that before she had vanished Judy had kept the baby’s home and person “in a filthy state”. Nobody in the courtroom knew that it no longer mattered what kind of a mother Judy had been, or could have become, she would never hold her little girl again.

Judy Ann Dull’s dead body was about 160 feet off of a highway, four and one-half miles west of Indio. The rope that had been used to bind and kill her had been taken away by her slayer; he would use it again. The grave wasn’t deep enough to deter the desert animals from tearing off bits of Judy’s flesh. Her skeletal remains would be discovered in December, but she wouldn’t be identified until months later.


bridgefordA Sun Valley divorcee and mother of two, Shirley Ann Bridgeford (24), was reported missing in mid-March 1958. Shirley was trying to get back into dating and had joined a lonely hearts club. She had gone to a dance with a man who gave his name as George Willams. Police said that a man of that name registered with the club but had listed a nonexistent Pasadena address. Mysteriously, the description of Williams on record with the club didn’t tally with that of the man who picked Shirley up for a date.

Shirley’s friends and relatives combed through stacks of police photos in an effort to identify George Williams. Detectives admitted that they had little to go on in the case. Williams may have had a date with a Hollywood secretary two days before he registered with the lonely hearts agency, but the cops couldn’t say with certainty that the man even existed.

The man who had taken Shirley wasn’t going to be found in the mug books. While her loved ones held out hope, Shirley’s dead body, like that of Judy Dull, was being ravaged by the hot sun and desert creatures.


glatman_mercadoRuth Mercado was reported missing from her W. Pico Avenue rooming house on July 27, 1958 by her landlord, four days after she’d left for a photo shoot with an unknown man. Her landlord had opened the door to her room when he began to worry about her. He found a small dog and two parakeets near death from starvation and lack of water.

Ruth hadn’t been in Los Angeles very long. She’d moved west, as Glatman had, from New York. Since arriving on the west coast Ruth had worked as a pin-up model and she’d also worked as a stripper under the name of Angela Rojas. Any dreams she’d had were stillborn. Her body had been covered with brush and debris by her killer and had been left to decay in a remote spot on the way to Escondido.

Harvey Glatman had gotten away with the murders of three L.A. glamour girls, but in October 1958 he was going to tangle with the wrong woman.


lorraineTwenty-eight year old Lorraine Vigil had registered with a Hollywood modeling studio and was about to go out on her first job. The agency phoned to tell her that they had a client who would pick her up at her 6th Street home and take her to the studio for the shoot.

Lorraine would later say:

“I thought it odd when he came to the house that he did not come in, but I was not alarmed. He said his name was Frank Johnson. He was a thin man. When I drove off with him, I noticed that he did not turn toward Hollywood and asked him why. He said we were going to his studio.

She continued:

“I did not become alarmed, however, until we entered the Santa Ana Freeway and he began driving at a tremendous speed. He wouldn’t answer my questions or even look at me. We eventually reached a lonely section and he turned off into a little tiny side road and stopped just off the highway. He said he though he had a flat tire. Suddenly he pulled out a gun and point it at me.”

Driven by sheer ball-busting moxie, Lorraine grabbed the muzzle of the gun! Glatman was enraged, he said:

“I’m an ex-con and I’ll kill you. I don’t give a darn if I go to the gas chamber.”

Lorraine was still holding the gun and screaming as Glatman picked up a piece of rope from the seat and tried to force the hand that wasn’t holding the gun behind her back!

“Just do as I tell you and you won’t get hurt,” he said.

Luckily for Lorraine she knew bullshit when she heard it.

“I knew, however, that he would kill me and I wouldn’t let go of the gun. Somehow with the other hand, I opened the door on my side and we both fell out onto the street. We rolled over and over on the shoulder of the road. Cars, millions of cars, passed, but none would stop. Once the gun went off. The bullet went through my skirt and burned terribly on my thigh. I will never forget the hideous sound of the bullet as it whined off into the night.”

Harvey was just beginning to get a taste of what Lorraine was capable of:

“I bit his wrist and he cried out, then suddenly I found I had the gun in my hand. I turned it around and pointed it at him. If I had known how to fire it, I believe I could have killed him. But he just stood there and watched me and after a while the police came.”

In my book Lorraine should have been given a parade and a key to the city, any city, — not only did she save her own life but she cut short Glatman’s murderous career. Unfortunately for Lorraine her employers, Mr. & Mrs. Harry Ellis with whom she resided, didn’t appreciate her notoriety.

Mrs. Ellis told reporters that she was going to ask Lorraine to move!

“I don’t like this publicity.” Mrs. Ellis said. “I warned Lorraine about the hazards of being a model but she would not listen to me.”

Lorraine responded:

“It was my first and only job, ” Lorraine added. “I think I applied for it because I was lonely.”


NEXT TIME: Glatman testifies and the harrowing stories of his victims last moments are revealed.