War Hero Kills Rich Widow in Botched Burglary

Aug. 23, 1963, comics


rant Edward Anderson was a war hero, a burglar and a killer.

A paratrooper in the 82nd Airborne, Anderson served 19 months overseas, received two Purple Hearts,  and was awarded the Bronze Star for dragging four wounded men to safety through a mine field in Italy.

1000 Block of San Vicente Boulevard
The 1000 block of San Vicente Boulevard via Google’s Street View.

Discharged from the Army in 1945, he received a monthly disability payment because of shrapnel in his right knee. But for some reason, Anderson turned to crime. He was sentenced to prison in 1959 for a burglary in Santa Barbara and released in 1961.

He was arrested later that year for burglarizing the Beverly Hills home of Helen Noga, the manager of singer Johnny Mathis. Police found him loading a stolen car with clothing, jewelry and appliances taken from the home at 806 N. Elm Drive. They found something else: A tourist map of movie stars’ homes, marked in seven places where Anderson planned burglaries.

Eight days after Anderson was released from San Quentin, on July 24, 1963, the body of Charlotte Crawford, 70, was found gagged, bound and beaten in the second-floor bedroom of her home at 1036 San Vicente Blvd.  Police theorized that the widow of Samuel J. Crawford, a former judge and director of the Metropolitan Water District, had returned from a walk and surprised an intruder. Neighbors were shocked that anyone could get into the home, saying that it was “built like a fortress” with bars over all the windows.

Police determined that the killer climbed over a gate, used an overhang on the home to lift himself to a window for a closet on the second story and went into the bedroom.

Grant Edward Anderson Crawford was strangled with a bra and beaten. The autopsy determined that she died either from being strangled with the bra or from “blood inhaled from a broken bone in her throat,” The Times said.

Anderson escaped through the kitchen door, leaving bloody footprints on the bedroom rug, and fled in Crawford’s 1963 Buick.

Stealing license plates from a used car lot in Long Beach, Anderson drove to Bakersfield, where he pawned one of Crawford’s cameras. His signature was only partially legible, but he used his Army serial number for identification, police said. From there, he headed to Seattle, and on July 30, charged $4.61 in gasoline, claiming to be Crawford’s late husband, Samuel.

He left Seattle and drove to Minnesota, Chicago, New York, Florida, Houston and Reno, then returned to Seattle, covering 10,000 miles.

He was captured Aug. 21, 1963, near Issaquah, Wash., after police saw him driving Crawford’s car. He had compiled a 32-page list of wealthy potential victims from all over the U.S., including George Jessel.

Under questioning by the FBI, Anderson said:  “I didn’t think I hit her that hard. When I left, I didn’t know she was dead.”

Charlotte Crawford As a detective filmed the reenactment, Anderson cried as he showed police how he burglarized the house and killed Crawford.

“When she saw me she started screaming. I told her if she kept quiet I wouldn’t hurt her. But she kept screaming so I hit her in the face with my first. I didn’t think she was dead. I didn’t think I hit her that hard,” he told police.

In a confession, he said: “I know I knocked her down. It had to be me. All I remember is my gloves were bloody.”

When he was told that he could get the gas chamber, Anderson said: “Well, that’s not much worse than a life sentence.”

Anderson was found guilty in 1964 and sentenced to life in prison. Noting Anderson’s long record for burglaries, Judge David Coleman said: “We see here an atrocious example of miscarriage in prison administration.”

In 1970, at the age of 46, Anderson used a bicycle to escape from the California Men’s Colony at San Luis Obispo.

He was caught a few days later hiding in the hills near the prison after he was seen by a guard scanning the area with binoculars.

California death records list a man named Grant E. Anderson, who died in San Luis Obispo County in 1974 at the age of at the 50, but it’s uncertain whether this is the same man.

About lmharnisch

I am retired from the Los Angeles Times
This entry was posted in 1963, Art & Artists, Comics, Crime and Courts, World War II and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to War Hero Kills Rich Widow in Botched Burglary

  1. lmharnisch says:

    Google doesn’t always hit the address exactly so I am intentionally vague, saying “the 1000 block of Main Street,” which is standard newspaper practice these days. Many homes have undergone extensive renovations and additions over the years (think stucco and aluminum windows), so their appearances have changed–sometimes drastically. This is Los Angeles, after all.


  2. Duane Laible says:

    Judge Coleman’s words are accurate even today, almost 50 years later.


  3. Arye Michael Bender says:

    Had he tried Jessel, all he would have gotten would be an IOU.


  4. Nancy King says:

    His death was factual, he was my father.


  5. Nancy King says:

    The date of his death is correct, he was my father.


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