A photo (possibly hand-tinted) of Georgette Bauerdorf, National Police Gazette, August 1946, courtesy of Steven Bibb.
And now we enter the realm of speculation in the Georgette Bauerdorf case. We have looked at all the evidence as it was reported in the newspapers, but without access to the autopsy report or the Bauerdorf apartment, everything remains tentative at best. We can only theorize as to what might have occurred.
Let’s examine several scenarios that were suggested by the original investigators.
Georgette Bauerdorf, an Unsolved Murder:
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The light fixture in the entryway to the Bauerdorf apartment had been disabled by someone slightly unscrewing the bulb, photo courtesy of the Los Angeles Public Library.
Sheriff’s investigator John Schilling examines the bulb from the apartment light fixture for possible fingerprints, photo courtesy of the Los Angeles Public Library.
One popular theory involved the light fixture in the entryway to the Bauerdorf apartment. The bulb had been unscrewed about two turns, so that it appeared unchanged but didn’t work. Some news reports referred to it as a night light that came on automatically, raising the question of whether it was on a timer, an electric eye or some other mechanism and not controlled by a switch in the Bauerdorf apartment.
News reports said that the fixture was about eight feet off the ground and could have been reached by a very tall man or by someone standing on one of the nearby chairs, as demonstrated in the above photo.
Investigators said that there was no sign of forced entry and according to this theory, the killer disabled the light so that Bauerdorf wouldn’t be able to see him when she opened the door. He presumably forced his way in, so the theory goes, and then raped and killed her.
The problem with this scenario (as was noted at the time) is that none of the other evidence supports this theory. Bauerdorf had apparently retired to bed for the night – or at least was on the bed — and was only wearing the top of her pajamas. Investigators found a folded copy of the Daily News on the bed, so it seems likely that Bauerdorf was not dressed to answer the door.
Here’s a photo of the front door, courtesy of the Los Angeles Public Library.
Notice that there is a switch by the door, one that presumably operates an exterior light.
As noted earlier, without access to the apartment, it’s impossible to be sure, but the presence of a switch in the apartment calls into question whether the light was truly “automatic.”
In any event, based on the late hour and the way Bauerdorf was dressed when she was killed, it seems most likely that the theory of the disabled light fixture is a red herring.
Notice anything else interesting about the front door?
To be continued.