Georgette Bauerdorf found dead, Oct. 13, 1944, Los Angeles Times.
Oct. 13, 1944
This account has been assembled from newspaper stories that generally agree, but contradict one another on some details. Newspapers of this era often published long excerpts from coroner’s inquests, but not in the Bauerdorf case, so I have had to gather the details piecemeal. Here’s what I have gleaned from The Times, the Examiner, the Daily News and the Herald-Express.
Note that breaking news stories in this era were typically done by rewrite men taking information over the phone. As a result, names are often spelled phonetically, depending on what the rewrite man thought he heard, such as Atwood/Attwood and Lulu/Lula.
Georgette Bauerdorf, an Unsolved Murder:
Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6 | Part 7 | Part 8 | Part 9 | Part 10 | Part 11 | Part 12 | Part 13 | Part 14 | Part 15 | Part 16 | Part 17 | Part 18 | Part 19 | Part 20 | Part 21 | Part 22 | Part 23 | Part 24 | Part 25 | Part 26 | Part 27 | Part 28 | Part 29 | Part 30 | Part 31
Between 11 a.m. and 11:30 a.m. on the morning of Thursday, Oct. 12, 1944, Fred Atwood (also identified as Fred Attwood and Charles Atwood) and his wife, Lulu (or Lula), entered a unit at El Palacio Apartments, 8493 Fountain Ave, West Hollywood, where Atwood was a janitor and his wife, Lulu worked as a housekeeper.
Fred Atwood said that the front door to the two-story apartment was half-open, so they entered to perform what was apparently their usual cleaning duties. (Daily News, Oct. 21, 1944). There was no sign of forced entry. (Daily News, Oct. 14, 1944). Atwood said he had only spoken once to the young woman who was living there. (Herald-Express, Oct. 20, 1944). She had been living in the apartment alone since her father, stepmother and sister went back East on Aug. 28, 1944. (Examiner, Oct. 13, 1944; Daily News, Oct. 14, 1944).
The Daily News, Oct. 13, 1944.
“We shouted ‘Anybody upstairs?’ but there was no answer.” Atwood said. “We were kind of worried about that, but we had work to do, so we started cleaning the downstairs rooms. Then Lulu heard water dripping upstairs.”
Lulu Atwood went to investigate and then yelled: “There’s somebody in the bathtub upstairs — face down — and the water’s bloody!” (Daily News, Oct. 21, 1944).
The Herald-Express reported Fred Atwood’s account: “We found the door of the apartment ajar — we had been cleaning in the adjacent apartment — went in and my wife called upstairs. There was no answer and we heard water dripping and my wife went up to investigate. She came running down the stairs, calling: ‘There’s a body in the bathtub.’ ”
Fred Atwood said: “We ran up together then and I found it was Miss [Georgette] Bauerdorf herself. She was only in her pajama tops and the hot water was still running into the tub. I shut off the faucet and we ran to tell the manager to call the police.” (Los Angeles Examiner, Oct. 21, 1944).
According to the Herald-Express, the hot water faucet was dripping and “the room was stifling hot,” Atwood said.
According to the Examiner, Lulu Atwood said: “It is a two-story apartment and when I heard water dripping upstairs I went up to investigate. I saw her floating on top of the water. I leaned over and turned off the faucet and then I ran out to get my husband and Mrs. [Thea] Alexander, the manager.”
Fred Atwood said: “I thought she had fainted, so I let the water out of the tub to revive her.” He said the water and the body were warm, but when he realized that she was dead, he did not turn her over. (Daily News, Oct. 21, 1944)
The first floor of the Bauerdorf apartment, showing the front door and the stairway to the second floor, shown in the Oct. 17, 1944, Examiner.
Sheriff’s Deputies A.L. Hutchinson and and Ray T. Hopkinson responded to the scene.
Hutchinson said the victim’s bed “was not disordered, although it appeared she [the victim] had used it. A newspaper was lying beside the bed, and so was her purse.” (Daily News, Oct. 21, 1944). A copy of the Daily News “as well as a diary and pencil were found in the heiress’ virtually undisturbed bed.” (Daily News, Oct. 19, 1944). The Times reported that there were blood spots on the bed (Oct. 14, 1944).
Blood on the floor of Georgette Bauerdorf’s bedroom, as shown in a Daily News photo published Oct. 14, 1944.
Hutchinson said he found what appeared to be blood on the floor, noting that it was still damp “as though someone had tried to wash it out.” (Daily News, Oct. 21, 1944). Blood was found on the bathroom floor and on the rug in the bedroom, The Times said. (Oct. 13, 1944). However, The Times reported the next day that no blood spots were found in the bathroom.
The victim’s pajama bottoms — described as pink rayon (Daily News, Oct. 14, 1944) — were found on the foot of the bed. They were also spotted with blood. (Daily News, Oct. 13, 1944). The pajama bottoms were torn down the side (Examiner, Oct. 14, 1944). Two informants later stated that the victim only slept in her pajama tops and never wore the bottoms (Daily News, Oct. 19, 1944).
Description of the Apartment
“There was no sign of drinking or partying in the apartment yesterday and but for the disorder in the girl’s bedroom, the rest of the richly furnished apartment was undisturbed. (Daily News, Oct. 13, 1944).
Although the apartment was in disorder, the Examiner said, there was no sign of theft. The victim’s purse was open, but all that was apparently missing were the car keys and possibly some cash. (Examiner, Oct. 14, 1944)
”Cast in disorderly heaps on the floor of the bedroom were the girl’s clothes, while near the door of the bedroom her handbag lay open with its contents strewn around it.” (Daily News, Oct. 13, 1944; Herald-Express, Oct. 13, 1944). She was not known to carry large amounts of cash. (Examiner, Oct. 14, 1944).
But according to the United Press account of testimony at the coroner’s inquest, “The sheets of the bed were not disturbed. The blanket had been pulled back and there was an indentation in the pillow.
“A daily newspaper was folded neatly by the pillow. Her purse was on the floor and open, but the contents had not been scattered. There were two ashtrays on the floor, but had not been overturned.
“Her clothes were hung neatly in the closet. Her apartment otherwise was in good order.” (Bakersfield Californian, Oct. 20, 1944).
The Times reported that the victim had cashed a check for $175 and bought an airplane ticket to El Paso for $90, speculating that the killer may have taken the remaining cash. (Oct. 15, 1944). The Times reported the next day that “a large roll of $2 bills and thousands of dollars worth of sterling silver lay in an open trunk.”
Georgette Bauerdorf’s bedroom and the adjoining bathroom where she was found in the bathtub, published in the Los Angeles Mirror, May 17, 1949.
The victim’s expensive jewelry and other items of value were untouched. (Daily News, Oct. 13, 1944). Numerous cigarette butts were found in an ashtray, but none bore evidence of lipstick. Bauerdorf was still wearing lipstick when her body was removed from the bathtub. (Examiner, Oct. 14, 1944). (No news account ever established whether the victim was a smoker.)
Investigators also found the victim’s datebook with several entries. On the bureau was an airplane ticket to El Paso departing Oct. 13, 1944.
The Examiner (Oct. 17, 1944) said there were large bundles of letters from Coast Guard members, Marines, sailors and soldiers thanking the victim for allowing them to sleep in the living room when they had nowhere to stay, investigators said.
In the kitchen wastebasket, investigators found melon rinds and an empty can that had contained string beans. (The Times, Oct. 15, 1944).
Investigators found many fingerprints in the apartment. (Examiner, Oct. 15, 1944). Subsequent investigation revealed that they matched the fingerprints in the victim’s car. (Examiner, Oct. 15, 1944). (More about the car in another post).
“Strong clear prints were found in the apartment on glass-topped tables, on the bathtub where her body was found, on doors and many other places. Good prints also were found on the car.” (Herald-Express, Oct. 14, 1944).
Fingerprints were also found “on the night light over the entrance” to the apartment. “The night light had been turned in its socket so that the bulb would not operate by the switch….” Although the bulb was eight feet from the floor, a tall man could have reached it or anyone of smaller stature could have touched it with the aid of a garden chair standing outside. Prints on the bulb were smudged.” (Daily News, Oct. 16, 1944).
Investigators noted that the victim’s car, an older model that often broke down due to engine problems, was missing. The Daily News reported that the victim’s car was a green 1936 Oldsmobile coupe, California license plate 59-B-875.
To be continued.