Georgette Bauerdorf at the wheel of a Jeep at Camp Pendleton in an undated photo, courtesy of the Los Angeles Public Library.
The final hours of Georgette Bauerdorf’s life remain something of a mystery.
On Oct. 11, 1944, Georgette departed alone from the Hollywood Canteen between 10:30 p.m. and 11:30 p.m. She apparently picked up a hitchhiking serviceman, Sgt. Gordon R. Aadland, at Sunset Boulevard a few blocks west of Vine Street between 11 p.m. and midnight, a location in the vicinity of the Hollywood Canteen, which was at 1451 N. Cahuenga Blvd. just south of Sunset Boulevard.
Georgette Bauerdorf, an Unsolved Murder:
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Aadland said she dropped him off in the area of Sunset and Laurel Canyon boulevards. Aadland said Georgette turned right on Laurel Canyon, which would have taken her into the Hollywood Hills or over into the San Fernando Valley, rather than back home to El Palacio Apartments, 8493 Fountain Ave.
This is particularly curious because Georgette told Aadland that she was in a hurry to get home because she was expecting a phone call from Pvt. Jerome “Jerry” Brown, whom she was going to visit in El Paso.
The Daily News (Oct. 14, 1944) said, based on preliminary results from the autopsy: “All that is known is that she stopped somewhere on the way home and ate a substantial dinner, including meat and string beans, about an hour and a half before she died.” Investigators examining the kitchen wastebasket at the Bauerdorf home found melon rinds and an empty can that had contained string beans, but none of the news accounts mention whether she had eaten melon before she died.
Lulu Atwood in an undated photo, courtesy of the Los Angeles Public Library.
Recall that when El Palacio opened in 1931, The Times noted that the building featured soundproof floors and walls. So it’s not much of a surprise that some of Georgette’s neighbors said they heard nothing on the night of the killing.
For example, actress Stella Adler, who had the apartment across from the Bauerdorfs, said: “I didn’t hear a thing all night.” (Los Angeles Examiner, Oct. 14, 1944).
However, Fred and Lulu Atwood, the custodians at El Palacio, reported hearing a disturbance, although they did nothing about it.
Fred Atwood, a janitor at El Palacio, said “about midnight I was awakened by the noise of a woman’s high heels clicking back and forth on the floor. I recognized the noise as coming from the girl’s kitchen.
“Once there was a loud crash, like a tray or something, had dropped on the floor.” (Los Angeles Times, Oct. 21, 1944).
Lulu Atwood told investigators that she and her husband had been awakened by a disturbance, noting the crash “of something that sounded metallic.”
“We couldn’t tell what time it was because we do not have a clock in our room, but we are quite sure it was in the early morning hours,” Lulu Atwood said. (Los Angeles Examiner, Oct. 14, 1944).
News accounts of the coroner’s report vary (more about that later), but all versions say that Georgette ate a substantial meal, including string beans, within about an hour of her death. Recall that investigators examining the kitchen wastebasket found melon rinds and an empty can that had contained string beans.
An unidentified neighbor gave investigators the following account: About 2:30 a.m., “She let out a scream that made me sit right up in bed. “Then I heard her yell: ‘Stop, stop, you’re killing me!’ ”
The neighbor said the screams seemed to quiet down and suddenly were silenced. Being sleepy and thinking it might be just a family squabble, he went back to sleep without investigating. (Los Angeles Times, Oct. 16, 1944).
The Los Angeles County autopsy surgeon estimated the time of death at 2 a.m. to 3 a.m.
To be continued.