A Death on Mulholland Drive, Part 1



On September 10, 1927 a young couple, fueled by love and $300 (equivalent to $4200 in today’s money) in stolen cash, left Philadelphia for Los Angeles to start fresh. The money would last long enough to get them to Los Angeles and provide them with a stake sufficient to find a place to live and get settled. The pair moved a couple of times before they located the perfect apartment in a bungalow court slightly northwest of downtown at 841 Golden Avenue. New lives occasionally call for new identities, so the couple became Barbara and Russell Burnholme.

Barbara was at home during the day while Russell was at work so the neighbors and local tradesmen got to know her the best. Barbara was well-liked by the people in her new life.  She had a ready smile and a sweet manner and when it became evident that she and Russell were going to become parents the neighbors were thrilled for her.  Their neighbors never thought twice about the reasons for the Burnholme’s move from Philadelphia to Los Angeles; hell, most people in L.A. were transplants.

During her last trimester Barbara busied herself nesting, doing the sorts of homey things that young mothers-to-be frequently do when the birth of a child is imminent. She sewed baby clothes, fixed up the little apartment and planted flower boxes because she wanted everything to be perfect for the baby’s arrival. During the weeks leading up to her due date Barbara was given a kitten by the local grocer, the small Burnholme family was complete.

At 10:00 a.m. on June 24, 1928, Mrs. Morris Allen, one of the Burnholme’s neighbors saw Barbara and Russell getting into a rented roadster.  It was a nice day for a Sunday drive and the parents-to-be were wise to take advantage of an opportunity to spend time alone,  they might not have another chance for a long time. Russell had borrowed a gun from a friend and it was his intention to go out along a stretch of Mulholland Drive and shoot a few rabbits while Barbara put her feet up and enjoyed the summer air above the city.

No matter how excited an expectant mother is about her future the last few weeks of pregnancy can be incredibly uncomfortable. Discomfort can lead to a short fuse and a flood of hormonal emotions. Often times a new father, especially if it is his first child, can be left scratching his head and treading on egg shells.

Mrs. Allen lived across from Barbara and Russell at the bungalow court and she saw him return from the Sunday drive alone. When asked, Russell told his neighbors that Barbara had gone back east to have the baby; but that wasn’t the only story he told.

Russell also told people that he and Barbara had quarreled during  their Sunday drive and she had jumped from the car and had stubbornly refused to allow him to drive her home. It was quite a hike from Mulholland Drive to Golden Avenue, at least fifteen miles, and much of way home felt remote, even if the city lights could be seen twinkling in the distance. While the sun was still up hawks could be seen circling high in the blue skies waiting for the right moment to swoop down and make a meal of a rabbit or a mouse. After dark the mournful cries of local coyotes would shatter the silence and a person’s nerves; and the rustling of roadside brush would be unnerving as unseen creatures either hunted, or attempted to avoid becoming prey. If Russell had worried about Barbara’s safety it wasn’t enough to make him turn around and try to convince her to get into the car with him.

Over the next few days Mrs. Allen heard Russell moving about the little apartment whistling, and she saw him wrapping up some bundles for mailing. Nothing sinister in that, right?

NEXT TIME: Where’s Barbara?


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