The Devil in Orange County, Part 2


A trail of blood led from the late 1960s into the new decade of the 1970s: the 1968 assassinations of Martin Luther King, Jr. and Robert F. Kennedy; the stabbing death of Meredith Hunter at a December 1969 rock concert in Altamont, California; the August 1969 bizarre and brutal slayings of Sharon Tate, Abigail Folger, Wojciech Frykowski, Jay Sebring, Steven Parent, Leno and Rosemary LaBianca; the November 1969 revelation of the My Lai Massacre by American troops of hundreds of civilians in a Vietnamese village; and the killing of 4 unarmed students at Kent State University by the Ohio National Guard during a protest of the U.S. government incursion into Cambodia.

John Filo's Pulitzer Prize-winning photograph of Mary Ann Vecchio, a 14-year-old runaway kneeling over the body of Jeffrey Miller minutes after he was shot by the Ohio National Guard.

John Filo’s Pulitzer Prize-winning photograph of Mary Ann Vecchio, a 14-year-old runaway kneeling over the body of Jeffrey Miller minutes after he was shot by the Ohio National Guard.

It seemed as though the world was on fire and everyone and everything was about to be consumed in a massive conflagration.

Columnist Art Seidenbaum wrote an editorial, The Wind of Fear, for the L.A. Times in which he described the summer of 1970:

“It (fear) swirls and grows around multiple murders. It whistles in the wake of terrorist bombings. It gusts along the roads for hitchhikers and drivers alike.”

In his annual report for the year 1969 J. Edgar Hoover, Director of the FBI, stated that while the population of the U.S. had increased only 13% during the previous nine years, the crime rate had increased by 148%. It was a terrifying statistic.

Despite the crime and chaos all around, life appeared to be quiet and safe in Garden Grove, California during the first half of 1970 — but appearances can be deceiving.


carlin beating deathAt approximately 2 a.m. on June 2, 1970, the body of Jerry W. Carlin was found beaten to death in the restroom of the Richfield Service Station at 3724 Westminster Avenue. The murder was discovered by David Miller, a driver for Southland Ambulance Service. Miller had made a routine stop at the gas station when he found Carlin face down on the blood smeared floor of the restroom. It was the third time Jerry Carlin had been robbed that month. Carlin was only 20 years old, a newly-wed, and he died not knowing that he was going to become a father.

A reward in the amount of $2,000 (approximately $12,000 in current dollars) for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the person or persons who murdered Carlin was offered by someone who asked to remain anonymous.


Two weeks after she’d gone missing, the body of thirty-one year old El Toro School teacher, Mrs. Florence Nancy Brown, was discovered by a hiker in a shallow grave 50 feet off Ortega Highway near El Cariso, about 19 miles southwest of Elsinore.body found

Mrs. Brown had been reported missing on June 4th by her husband, Ralph, after she had failed to return home following a routine errand. It was clear to investigators that Mrs. Brown had been killed elsewhere before being buried off of the Ortega Highway. The Riverside County coroner’s report disclosed Mrs. Brown had died of multiple stab wounds in the chest. The weapon used by her killer was believed to have been a large hunting knife or bayonet, and the victim’s right arm had been severed and her heart and lungs removed. Her wedding and engagement rings, a wristwatch and a number of oil company credit cards had been taken.

Cops didn’t yet know that the two killings were connected, but they would soon get a tip that would reveal the names of the possible killers.


craig_photoBy the 1st of July 1970 arrests had been made in connection with the murders of Jerry Carlin and Florence Brown. One of the alleged perpetrators was a 20 year-old transient, Steven Hurd — the other person who was arrested was an old acquaintance of my brother’s, 16 year-old Arthur Craig Hulse, the boy who had my brother’s back in junior high school, and the same the guy that my brother’s best friend and I had picked up hitchhiking shortly before we heard about the murders!

I had never thought of Craig as anything but a kid with an unhappy home life. He wasn’t the brightest of the assorted misfits and oddballs who hung out at our home while my brother and I were growing up, but that had never mattered to any of us. All you had to do to be accepted in our circle of friends was simply be yourself, contribute to the conversations if you wished, be able to take a joke at your expense and respect our home.

In our short lives my brother and I had known people who went had gone down a bad road. Some of the people we had known had died of drug ODs and suicide, others had survived minor brushes with the law, but no one and nothing had prepared us for the summer of 1970.

At first it was impossible to conceive of Craig as someone capable of killing, but then the tale of the two slayings started to unfold; and it was grotesque.

NEXT TIME:  Jerry Carlin, Florence Brown and their killers.

The Devil in Orange County



Groovy, baby.

Beginning with the Summer of Love in 1967 the Baby Boomers felt that they were on to something profound — all you had to do was wear a garland of flowers around your head, smoke a few joints, flash the Peace Sign, and major changes in society would follow. If only it had been that simple.

bombing for peace If you were in your teens or twenties during that time, life was a contact high; everywhere you went it seemed like there was great music and free dope, but no high lasts forever. Eventually a decent buzz becomes harder to sustain.  At first you chase the high in the bright sunlight with energy and enthusiasm because it feels so damned good; but there comes a time when the high proves elusive — you catch glimpses of it as it disappears down deeper and darker alleyways.

Less than a year after the Summer of Love, on April 4,1968, Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated. People barely had a chance to process the pain and horror of his death when, on June 6,1968, Robert Kennedy was gunned down in the pantry of the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles. The Age of Aquarius was on life support.

Robert F. Kennedy

Robert F. Kennedy

The ultimate perversion of the hippie ethos occurred on August 9, 1969, with the cruel and senseless torture and slaughter of Sharon Tate and her unborn son, Abigail Folger, Wojciejk Frykowski, Jay Sebring, and Steven Parent. The next night, Leno and Rosemary LaBiana were brutally murdered. The cryptic blood-scrawled words “Rise”, “Pig” and “Healter (sic) Skelter” at the crime scenes had terrified everyone. Had Satan had taken up residence in Los Angeles?  Maybe Hollywood was Sodom after all.

A raid on the Spahn Ranch in mid-August 1969 by L.A. County Sheriffs uncovered stolen car parts, teen-age runaways, drugs and weapons. While the raid was being conducted Woodstock (“Three days of Peace & Music”) was in full swing on Yasgur’s farm in New York.

By December 2, 1969 the Manson Family was being exposed for what they really were, remorseless killers. The month of December had started out bad and it wasn’t going to get any better.

Hell's Angels attacking a concert goer at Altamont.

Hell’s Angels attacking a concert goer at Altamont.

The final fuck you to the hippie dreams of Flower Power came at a free concert at Altamont in Northern California on December 6, 1969. The concert was meant to be Woodstock West, but instead it became an ugly confrontation between the Hell’s Angels, who had been hired as security for the event, and the musicians and concert goers. The night ended with three accidental deaths and the stabbing death of Meredith Hunter.

Despite its early promise of peace & love, the ’60s had died a terrible death — bathed in blood, choking on shattered dreams and littered with acid casualties.

Maybe the ’70s would be better.


Orange County, California, a collection of quiet suburbs, has long had a reputation for political and social conservatism. The inhabitants of Orange County are described as living behind “The Orange Curtain” a play on the infamous Iron Curtain which once separated communist and capitalist Europe.

orange_groveI grew up behind the Orange Curtain in Garden Grove, a middle-class suburb close enough to Disneyland for my family to be able to watch the summer fireworks from our living room window. There were orange groves and strawberry fields near our home and the smell of orange blossoms, not easy to find anymore, brings back memories. The city’s claim to fame was as the home of the Garden Grove Community Church (the “drive-in” church) designed by the visionary architect Richard Neutra.

Garden Grove Community Church.

Garden Grove Community Church.

The first summer of the 70s was just beginning, and my brother’s best friend and I were driving around in my 1964 VW Beetle. We were headed home when we noticed Craig Hulse, whom we hadn’t seen in ages, hitch-hiking at the side of the road. I pulled over and Craig got into the car.

Craig was sixteen years old, a big kid, at least six feet tall and well over 200 lbs. We’d known him for years, he and my brother had gone to junior high school together. My brother is cursed with the Renner mouth — it’s an affliction I share — we seem to lack a necessary filter between the brain and mouth so we often say exactly what we’re thinking — and that isn’t always wise. A sense of humor and the ability to take a wicked joke at your expense was de rigueur in my family, but my brother’s quick wit and missing filter caused him a few problems in school.  However Craig, who had earned the nickname “Moose”, occasionally came to his rescue.

It was no surprise to find Craig hitch-hiking, everyone did in those days. We heard that he’d dropped out of school, run away from home and was heavy into Seconal and booze. Once he was in the car we asked him how he was doing and if he was okay. He said that things weren’t going well and that he was thinking about enlisting in the military to try to get his life in order. Enlisting would have had him on a plane to Vietnam before the year was over, but we figured maybe his life was bad enough to warrant drastic action. We dropped him off a few miles down the road and wished him well.

Days later, as the Manson jury was being selected, we heard that Craig had been arrested in connection with two brutal murders. One of slayings was rumored to have been part of a Satanic ritual.

The 70s were off to a scary start.

NEXT: Two murders and the dark side of an old friend.

Film Noir Friday: Dragnet 1966

Harry-Morgan-jack-webbWelcome!  The lobby of the Deranged L.A. Crimes theater is open! Grab a bucket of popcorn, some Milk Duds and a Coke and find a seat. Tonight’s feature is DRAGNET 1966,  starring Jack Webb and Harry Morgan.

Dragnet 1966 is a made-for-TV movie that initiated the return of the Dragnet series to television. It was intended to be the TV pilot of Dragnet 1967 but was not aired as originally planned. It was eventually broadcast in 1969.

The Internet Movie Database says:

Sgt. Joe Friday is called back from vacation to work with his partner, Off. Bill Gannon, on a missing persons case. Two amateur female models and a young war widow have vanished, having been last seen with one J. Johnson. In the course of tracking down Johnson and the young ladies, the detectives wind up with two different descriptions of the suspect, one of which closely resembles a dead body found in a vacant lot. But the dead man, later identified as Charles LeBorg of France, proves not to be J. Johnson, when a third young model disappears.

The story is based on the Harvey Glatman case.

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.

Harvey Glatman: The Glamour Girl Slayer

Los Angeles Police Museum located at 6045 York Blvd, Highland Park, CA

Los Angeles Police Museum located at 6045 York Blvd, Highland Park, CA

I have been a volunteer archivist at the Los Angeles Police Museum for over three years and it is one of the most interesting and rewarding things I’ve ever done. My primary project has been the archiving of Los Angeles Police Daily Bulletins. The Bulletins began in March 1907 and the collection at the LAPM goes through 1958. The Bulletins are an extraordinary glimpse into the history of Los Angeles filtered through the lens of law enforcement.

In 1907 LAPD hunted for the occasional robber on the lam, missing or runaway children, stolen horses, bicycles (or “wheels” as they were called) and missing or stolen dogs. By 1957 the concerns reflected the era and LAPD had to cope with strong arm robberies, bad checks and juvenile delinquents sporting “rebel without a cause” wardrobes. Some of the juvies were hell-bent on crime, others were in the wrong place hanging with the wrong crowd and didn’t understand that rolled-cuff Levis and a duck tail hairdo don’t necessarily make you a bad-ass.Poster - Rebel Without a Cause_02

Last Friday while I was archiving Bulletins from 1958 I came across the photo of a missing woman. Her name, Ruth Mercado, seemed familiar. I read that she’d gone missing from her West Hollywood apartment on July 23,1958 and that she was a stripper and a pin-up model. I set the Bulletin aside and continued my work.

A bit later a friend of mine Mike Fratantoni, who is a fellow crime historian, stopped by. When he saw what I was doing he asked me if I’d run across any of Harvey Glatman’s victims among the missing women in the ’58 Bulletins. The light bulb finally switched on over my head — no wonder Ruth Mercado had seemed familiar to me — she was the last woman Harvey Glatman murdered.

Harvey Murray Glatman was born in the Bronx in New York on December 10,1927 and raised in Colorado. Harvey seems to have been hard-wired for deviance. His parents once found him with a string tied around his penis, the loose end of which he had shut in a drawer, he was leaning backwards so that the string pulled his member taught. He was four years old.

Harvey’s parents were alarmed by their son’s behavior, but his indulgent mother, Ophelia, believed he would grow out of his more peculiar habits, while his father Albert hoped that occasional discipline would straighten the boy out. His parents faced bitter disappointment. Nothing and no one would prevent Harvey from pursuing his pleasure.

Puberty is a confusing and difficult time, perhaps more so for a young man whose fantasies and desires didn’t include holding hands at the local malt shop, or fastening a corsage to a prom dress. Not that he could have done those things even if his day dreams had been more typical. Harvey was painfully shy around girls and he was further handicapped by looks that earned him the nicknames “Weasel” and “Chipmunk”. If Harvey was going to have a sex life he was going to have to build it on vivid fantasies, nocturnal home break-ins, stolen lingerie, a gun and a length of rope.glatman_teen

Glatman committed his first sex offenses while he was a teenager. He would break into women’s apartments, tie them up and fondle but not rape them. As a way to recall his conquests he would force his victims to pose for photographs. In 1945 he was arrested and charged with attempted burglary. He was impulsive offender, fueled by lust and a significant amount of rage for the women he victimized.  While he was still out on bail awaiting trial he kidnapped and molested another woman before releasing her — that uncontrollable urge cost him eight months in prison.

Harvey’s assaults on women grew bolder and more violent following his move to New York in 1947. He was eventually arrested for a series of muggings and sentenced to from five to ten years in Sing Sing. Prison psychiatrists diagnosed Glatman as a psychopath. His psychiatric problems didn’t keep him from being a model prison however, and he was released in 1956.

By 1957 Glatman had moved to Los Angeles and was working as a television repairman. The time had finally come when it wasn’t enough for him to choke himself into unconsciousness for sexual release. He was no longer satisfied merely fondling the women he bound and gagged or forcing them to cuddle with him while they watched TV sitcoms. Harvey was pushing thirty when he decided to lose his virginity, and he was eager to try out his favorite sex toy, a piece of rope, on someone other than himself.

One of the women Glatman ultimately terrorized and murdered in L.A. was Ruth Mercado, the woman whose photo I saw in a 1958 Los Angeles Police Daily Bulletin. But before Ruth there was Judy Dull and Shirley Bridgeford.

NEXT TIME: The deaths of three L.A. glamour girls.



Film Noir Friday (on Saturday): The Tattered Dress [1957]

Film Noir Poster - Tattered Dress, The_01

Welcome!  The lobby of the Deranged L.A. Crimes theater is open, a day late. Grab a bucket of popcorn, some Milk Duds and a Coke and find a seat. Tonight’s feature is THE TATTERED DRESS, a 1957 crime drama, starring Jeff Chandler, Jeanne Crain, Gail Russell and Elaine Stewart.

From Turner Classic Movies:

After a wild night, wealthy Michael Reston’s adulterous wife Charleen comes home with her ripe young body barely concealed by a dress in rags; murder results. Top defense lawyer J.G. Blane, whose own marriage exists in name only, arrives in Desert View, Nevada to find the townsfolk and politically powerful Sheriff Hoak distinctly hostile to the Restons. In due course, Blane discovers he’s been “taken for a ride,” and that quiet desert communities can be deadly…

Death Of A Free Spirit: Conclusion

alexandra bathing suitLos Angeles County Sheriffs had few clues in the murder of Alexandra “Xandra” Roos — but then most murder cases don’t come with a suspect and confession tied with a big red bow. The lack of evidence in the case meant that investigators had to rely on old-fashioned grunt work — and they began to question all of Xandra’s friends and acquaintances to see what they could shake loose. A logical place to begin was with Xandra’s ex-lover, and father of her child, Alan Brown.

According to Brown he had become involved with Xandra in 1950 during a rough patch in his marriage. After giving birth to a little girl, Xandra threatened him with a paternity suit unless he agreed to support the child. Brown decided to pay up and he had been sending Xandra $10 weekly support through the City Attorney’s office for a couple of years.

Homicide investigators weren’t completely satisfied with Brown’s statement, it seemed too neat, so they pushed him a little harder.

During his interrogation, Alan revealed that he’d taken Xandra out for at least four months before she had finally consented to have sex with him. He also confessed to the cops that he and the dead woman had continued their affair, off and on, until there was an ugly confrontation between Xandra and his wife, Viola.

Xandra had been pressing Alan for child support, and to make sure he knew that she was serious she turned up at the house he shared with Viola. The visit didn’t go well. Viola called Xandra a bum, and Xandra responded by calling Viola a slut. It was a nightmare for Alan who had been led woefully astray by his penis. He was just an average Joe in his 40s looking to bed a sweet young thing while he and his wife were on the outs — but his entanglement with Xandra had nearly cost him his marriage and had briefly made him a murder suspect. There’s a lesson in there somewhere.

While detectives were grilling the people who had played a part in Xandra’s life, the fate of her daughter, Allison, was getting more complicated by the minute. Xandra’s will made it clear that she didn’t want her mother and step-father, Frieda and Hugh Schmidt of Tukahoe, NY, to have any role in her daughter’s upbringing. Xandra had stipulated that the Schmidt’s should:

“…be not designed or appointed guardian of the person or property of my daughter.”

Mrs. Hannah Frank of the Bronx, N.Y., who had once taken care of Allison, was named
as the girl’s guardian. But Alan’s wife Viola declared that not only had she forgiven her husband for the affair she was eager to bring his child with Xandra into their home. She declared:alan viola brown

“We want to make a real home for Allison and give her the love parents — something she has never known.”

The battle for guardianship of Allison raged on while services for her mother were held in the chapel of the McGlynn Mortuary. Among the small group of mourners was Xandra’s mother, who flung herself over the flower-decked coffin of her murdered daughter. She sobbed uncontrollably for a few minutes before being led away.

Xandra’s personal life and finances were so complex that detectives despaired of ever untangling the mystery of her murder. They didn’t even have a clear motive for the killing until they learned of Xandra’s relationship with Frank and Anita Meloche.

Xandra had first met Anita and Frank in July of 1954 when she answered their rental ad. The situation at first seemed to be mutually beneficial — Anita cared for Allison while Xandra worked, which meant that the Meloches collected both rent and money for babysitting. Then in August or September Xandra approached Anita with an interesting proposition. Xandra offered to loan the couple enough money to purchase a bigger home — the only attached string was that Anita would continue to care for Allison.

It sounded like a good deal, so Anita and Frank went for it. Xandra loaned them five thousand dollars (equivalent to $43,000 in current U.S. dollars) which they used to buy a home on the 4200 block of Perlita Avenue in Glendale.

anita melocheXandra moved with Allison to a nearby apartment, and then began to make plans to build a second house behind the home that Anita and Frank had purchased. The structure that Xandra had in mind turned out to be too large for the lot, so it was back to square one. Xandra then came up with the idea to purchase the house next door, but all the wheeling and dealing was getting to be too much for Anita.

Xandra had one last suggestion, and it seemed bizarre to Anita. Xandra said:

“What do you want to stay with Frank for? I can do so much for you, Anita, if you would only let me. Leave Frank and we’ll go somewhere.”

Anita was being run ragged between caring for her own children, babysitting for Allison, and running errands for Xandra. On top of everything, Xandra wouldn’t stop pressuring her to leave Frank, something Anita refused to do.

Once detectives discovered that Xandra had made a sizable personal loan to the Meloches, they had a thread to tug on. Money is a powerful motive — but would it lead them to a killer?

One of my favorite Sheriff’s investigators, Det. Sgt. Ned Lovretovich, interviewed Frank and he collapsed, sobbing — then he spilled the whole awful story. (For more on Ned see: Thugs With Spoons and Death Doesn’t Sleep )

Frank said that at about 6:30 p.m. on the evening of January 7, 1955, Anita asked him to go to the store for her. The errand shouldn’t have taken more than 30 minutes — but he was gone for over four hours.

When he finally turned up, Anita asked him:

“Where were you so long?”

Frank replied:

“I just got rid of her”.

Anita fainted.

Once she had regained her senses, Frank confessed to Anita — and he told the same version of events to homicide investigators.scene of crime

Frank had met Xandra at a streetcar stop at the intersection of Glendale Blvd. and Brunswick Ave. He wanted to persuade Xandra to stop making demands on Anita and to leave them alone. He said:

“She (Xandra) didn’t like me. She kept pestering my wife to take our children and come and live with her. She was making a slave out of my wife. I decided to tell her to stay away from us.”

Xandra got into Frank’s car and their chat quickly turned into a heated argument. Frank said that Xandra taunted him about his manhood, or lack thereof, and then slapped him hard across the face. Frank pulled his car to the curb near the intersection of Hart St. and Sepulveda in Van Nuys, and then he snapped. He said that he grabbed Xandra around the neck and throttled her — minutes later she slipped to the floor of the car, dead.meloche

Frank drove her body out near the beach where it was discovered a couple of weeks later.

Frank said that he couldn’t take any more of Xandra’s abuse, and that he had felt an explosion in his brain which compelled him to grab the woman and choke the life out of her.  Evidently Frank was no stranger to brain explosions. He had been discharged from the Navy during WWII after being diagnosed as a “constitutional psychopath” — a condition described in 1926 in The Journal of the American Medical Association as:

“…a generic term to include the six classes of constitutional psychopathic states noted in the nomenclature; criminalism, emotional instability, inadequate personality, paranoid personality, pathologic liar and sexual psychopathy.”

Frank Meloche was found guilty of murder and sentenced to from one to ten years in prison.

Despite Xandra’s will custody of her daughter, Allison, was awarded to Frieda.

Judge Wolfson said that he had disregarded Xandra’s  wishes because:

“…sometimes we have an unconscious hate for those we know we have wronged.”

It wasn’t made clear in what way Xandra may have wronged her mother and stepfather.grandparents

Alan and Viola Brown had filed a petition for custody of Allison, but the judge denied it because he thought they seemed a little too interested in the girl’s inheritance.

The only good news in connection with the Roos case was that the Sheriff’s investigators, who had managed to solve the case despite the initial lack of evidence or clues, were recognized for their accomplishment. Cited were: Lt. Al Etzel, commander of the Sheriff’s homicide detail, and Det. Sgts. Harry Andre, Claude Everley, Jack Lawton, Norman Peterson, Ned Lovretovich, Hubert A. Waldrip, Norman Hamilton, Ray Hopkinson and Lyle Stalcup.

Unfortunately even a successful investigation couldn’t bring Xandra back to life. Alexandra Roos was a fascinating and complex woman; she was a free spirit with a strong will and sense of independence unusual for her time; but she still had a long way to go — how sad that she never got the chance to realize her potential.

Death Of A Free Spirit

On January 23, 1955 the decomposing body of a woman was discovered lying face down in some weeds, ten feet down the bank of the west side of Latigo Canyon Road in Malibu.

The body was resting on a bed of heavy brush, inches above the dirt, and the head and face were almost completely decomposed. When Los Angeles County Sheriffs Detectives examined the woman in situ she was still completely dressed and her clothing was intact. She was wearing a beige nylon skirt with variable colored horizontal weave; green seersucker blouse; nylon stockings; white cotton garter belt; and a short black wool coat. Her undergarments were not disturbed. The woman was determined to be 25-30 years of age with crooked teeth and a slight overbite. She was a brunette, five feet tall, and petite. No shoes had been found at the location, however the cops thought she would wear a size 4 to 5. There was no jewelry and no ID found on or near the body.

Sheriff’s investigators had nearly nothing to go on — and until they had the results of the autopsy they couldn’t even be sure that the woman had been murdered.

The coroner completed his autopsy and concluded that Jane Doe had been struck over the head and strangled. It was a murder case. But the cops didn’t know who she was, where she’d been slain, or by whom.

With so few clues to sink their teeth into the detectives followed up on the scant leads they had from the clothing found on the corpse. They got nowhere.

alexandra id headlineOn the morning of January 24, 1955, Bob and Joy Monetti arrived at the Sheriff’s detective bureau and said that they had read an account of the woman and her clothing and believed her to be their missing friend, Alexandra Roos. Joy was able to positively ID the dead woman’s clothing as belonging to Roos, and the coroner confirmed the identification based on her fingerprints — she had worked at an Air Force base.

Joy and Alexandra had worked together in the credit department at the Bank of America located at 7th and Olive. Joy told the detectives that Anita Meloche, who babysat for Alexandra’s three year old daughter Allison, might be able to provide further information regarding Roos and her clothing

When questioned, Anita stated that she had been caring for Allison and had last seen Alexandra at 8:00 a.m. on Friday, January 7th. When Alexandra didn’t turn up to collect her daughter Anita was worried — but not enough to report the woman she knew as “Xandra” missing. Xandra had stayed away for a weekend before, but when Monday rolled around and there was still no sign of her Anita decided she’d better take action. Anita went to the Highland Park Division of LAPD (now the home of the L.A. Police Museum) and filed a missing persons report.

Detectives began to piece together a picture of Xandra. She was thought to have had financial problems, but the supposed financial difficulties made no sense when the cops learned that she had been left a $15,000 (equivalent to $45,000 in current U.S. dollars) trust fund in New York and it had been under her complete control since she had turned twenty-one.

Abbe Miller, the New York attorney who had represented Xandra in litigation connected with the trust fund, said that the young woman had never known her birth father who had died before she was born. She was raised by her mother and stepfather, Hugo and Frieda Schmidt, but she never got along with either of them and finally cut them out of her life.

Xandra had given birth to her daughter in 1951.  The identity of Allison’s father was unknown until Alan H. Brown, 46, a married film technician, came forward and admitted paternity.alexandra allison

Xandra was described by acquaintances as being “careless” in her relationships with men, she seemed to have a penchant for older guys. Joy Monetti said:

“She had two or three boy friends of her own age, but she seemed to prefer the company of older men. She didn’t go out very often, though. She spend a lot of her time at the library.”

The characterization of Xandra by her acquaintances calls to mind the expression “damned with faint praise”:

Damn with faint praise, assent with civil leer,
And without sneering, teach the rest to sneer;
Willing to wound, and yet afraid to strike,
Just hint a fault, and hesitate dislike.

–Alexander Pope, 1734

In nearly every statement made about Xandra she was described as moody, reserved, but also studious — which, combined with speculations about her careless love life, made her sound like a bookish slut.  A woman should expect kinder epitaphs from her friends.

Xandra had kept a diary for at least ten years and it revealed an independent streak and a strength of character than must have seemed confusing or even threatening to people during a time when women were still expected to be perfect wives and mothers.

Xandra had been a free spirit even in high school where her motto was: “Kiss them for it’s a pleasure”.


In her diary, Xandra wrote:

“I want to live by my own motivation, attached to someone I would feel the necessity of performing all the small duties and chores that make life worthwhile…”

She also confided to her diary:

“Accept me the way I am, for what I am, or do not accept me at all.”


Remarkably, only a couple of weeks after having been handed a murder mystery Sheriff’s homicide investigators had a suspect and a confession.

NEXT TIME:  The conclusion of the Death of A Free Spirit.