Los Feliz strangler

Aug. 20, 1957
Los Angeles

It’s late afternoon and we’re parked outside a 1926 bungalow at 4020 Holly Knoll Drive. Pretty soon the street will be full of police and reporters, but right now everything is quiet.

Ready? Let’s go in. Keep your hands in your pockets and don’t move anything. You’ll see soon enough that something doesn’t add up.

Notice that the front and back doors are locked. Here’s our victim. Her name is Esther Greenwald and she’s 52. Esther is lying face-down across the hallway with her head in a pool of blood on the bedroom floor and her feet in the bathroom. She’s wearing a blue nightgown, gray housecoat and red slippers and has been strangled with the cord from her housecoat. Someone doubled it and tied a simple knot in the back. (Police say that whoever killed Marjorie Hipperson and Ruth Goldsmith used square knots). She’s wearing two diamond rings.

Dr. Gerald K. Ridge, the medical examiner, says that death occurred sometime between 1:30 a.m. and 5:30 a.m. Margaret Chabolla, who lives behind the Greenwald home at 1950 Myra Ave., says she was reading when she heard two short, hysterical screams between 1:15 a.m. and 2 a.m.

Look at Esther’s face. The police are going to say she’s been so badly beaten that she could have died of head injuries while Dr. Frederick Newbarr, the other autopsy surgeon, says there are only a few bruises on her face.

The autopsy report is going to show that she “had a hemorrhage on the left temple and a wide variety of abrasions over the eyebrow and near the bridge of the nose. A groove on the right side of the nose was caused possibly by a fist with a ring.” The report also says she wasn’t raped.

Let’s go into the bedroom. Notice that her diamond wrist watch is on the dresser and there’s a fur stole in the closet. Take a look at the bed: Only one pillow has an indentation and the bed covers are only mussed up on one side.

She’s married to Maurice H. Greenwald, 49. He’s her second husband and works at a stationery supply warehouse. Maurice is going to be the one who finds her, somewhere between 5:55 p.m. and 7:30 p.m., depending on the newspaper account. He’s going to say that Esther was in her robe when he left at 7:15 a.m. and usually didn’t get dressed until noon.

Maurice’s story is that he and Esther were at the airport to see off some relatives who were flying to Hawaii. They stopped somewhere for bagels and coffee, and didn’t get home until 2 a.m. or 3 a.m. Interesting–Ridge says there was no solid food in her stomach. If Maurice left about 7:15 a.m., that means he got five hours’ sleep, at most.

Did you notice the laundry bag near the body? The first suspect police detain will be a 61-year-old delivery driver for a laundry. He will say that Esther complained about some wrinkled pillowcases and he assumed she dropped his service. His alibi will check out to the minute.

The next suspect they will arrest is an ex-convict named Harry Schwartz. He’s the brother of her former husband, a bail bondsman named Irving “Izzy” Schwartz, whom Esther married in 1928 and divorced in the 1930s. Although Harry will insist he hasn’t seen Esther in years, police will say that a polygraph shows he is lying. He denies knowing anything about the killing and tells investigators to check with about 40 jewelry clients he saw on the day of the murder.  Esther’s friends say he was extorting money from her.

The inquest is going to decide that Maurice killed Esther. A jury will find him not guilty, but unfortunately, The Times didn’t cover the trial, so we don’t know what happened. Maybe the prosecution had a lousy case, maybe the jury wasn’t sure, or maybe Maurice had a good attorney and didn’t do it, although his story doesn’t fit with the facts. I wish I knew.

Well, Maurice will be here any minute, we better get going. Maybe we should visit Esther at Beth Olam Mausoleum at Hollywood Forever Cemetery on our way back.

According to California death records, Maurice Harold Greenwald died Feb. 9, 1988.

Esther’s killing remains unsolved.

Map from the Marjorie Hipperson crime scene to the Greenwald crime scene.

Email me

About lmharnisch

I am retired from the Los Angeles Times
This entry was posted in 1957, Homicide, LAPD. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply. Note: Your IP is logged with your comment so a fake name and email address are useless.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s