Former Nazi prisoner 33822 sat at the defense table, her hands clasped
tightly. Her light blue cotton dress was wilted from the heat and her
dab of lipstick only accented her jail pallor. Police said Laja Minc, who lost a father, stepmother, two sisters and a brother at Auschwitz, was a
thief. Police said Laja Minc, 36, who used the name Linda Mintz, she was a brutal
She was liberated Feb. 13, 1946, and brought to the U.S. on May 2,
1952, The Times said. There was a brief postwar marriage that resulted
in a son, Alex, who was now 11.
Mintz had worked as a maid in the homes of several Los Angeles families
that felt sorry for her. But she always stole from them and was
Her latest employer was Thelma Macomber, 42, who lived with her husband, contractor Fred S. Macomber, at 11920 Laurel Hills Road in Studio City. Thelma’s 65-year-old mother, Irene Sampson, also lived in the home with her new husband, Robert M. Sampson, 28.
It was Robert who found Thelma’s body in the bedroom. Her skull was
bashed in and the bed had been set on fire. He tried to revive her, but
she died at North Hollywood Receiving Hospital.
During the investigation, Mintz said that a freelance photographer who
visited the home a week before had gone into the bedroom and argued
with the victim. Upon reading the account in the newspapers, Max
Tatch, 53, contacted police and said he had been to the home the
week before to photograph the exterior but denied any allegations that
he had returned.
At the police station, Mintz positively identified Tatch as having been at
the home and he was arrested. Investigators had trouble verifying
Tatch’s movements on the day of the killing. He had been at a camera
shop earlier in the day but had spent most of the afternoon sorting
negatives at his apartment and could not provide any witnesses.
Polygraph tests were administered to Mintz and Tatch, but the results
Tatch was released and Mintz was charged with homicide after police
chemist Ray Pinker performed a detailed analysis of the badly damaged
push vacuum cleaner taken from the Macomber home. Analysis found fatty
tissue and broken teeth in the appliance and its sharp edges matched
wounds on the body.
A search of Mintz’s room revealed a cache of items stolen from her
employers: silver spoons, kitchenware, bedding, hand-embroidered
doilies, cut-glass stemware, silver trays, jewelry, a fur, sheets, a
Paris gown and spike-heeled shoes.
Mintz insisted that Tatch was the killer, even though Irene Sampson
insisted that Mintz never saw Tatch when he visited the home and
therefore had no idea what he looked like.
At her first trial, she was found not guilty by reason of insanity and
sentenced to a mental hospital. Pronounced sane a few months later, she
was retried, but the jury deadlocked. Rather than undertake a third
trial, the district attorney’s office dropped the homicide charges.
Courtroom spectators applauded as Mintz was released after 22 months in jail.
In 1960, Laja Minc, a.k.a. Linda Mintz, was arrested for shoplifting
from a grocery store at 1020 S. Crenshaw Blvd.
According to the Social
Security Death Index, Laja Mintz died in August 1981 in Hennepin, Minn. Social Security records say Laja Mintz was born in 1916, which would have made her 41 at the time of the killing rather than 36.
Fred S. Macomber died Jan. 7, 2002, in Santa Monica, according to Social Security records. Thelma Macomber is buried at Pierce Brothers Valhalla Memorial Park.
In a letter to The Times, Tatch thanked his friends and clients for their support and newspapers for their fairness while he was being investigated in the killing.
"I wish to pay tribute to the fine men of the Van Nuys detective department who worked so hard and left no clue unturned to prove conclusively that I was innocent," he wrote.
"Such men as Lt. Ernest Johnston and Detectives Stewart, Kealy, Hoakum and Nelson are a credit to the community and their profession. Any innocent person who comes before these excellent officers will receive a square deal and courteous treatment, providing, of course, he or she is willing to be helpful and co-operative, as I tried my best to be."
Photograph by Max Tatch, Los Angeles Times, May 11, 1947