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.
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 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.