Georgette Bauerdorf, an Unsolved Murder, Part 26

 

 

Aug. 19, 1940, B-girl killing

 

We don’t know much about the man who killed Georgette Bauerdorf, but let’s see what we can infer. The way he killed her was quite unusual (more about that later) and his behavior after the killing was also somewhat unusual. But rather than trying to take the phases of the crime in chronological order, let’s go from least speculative to most speculative.

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 21Part 22 | Part 23 | Part 24 | Part 25 | Part 26 | Part 27 | Part 28 | Part 29 | Part 30 | Part 31

We can be fairly certain that the killer was strong, perhaps remarkably strong: According to the coroner’s office, “Thumb and finger marks on her face, lips, abdomen and thighs prove the attacker was powerful with almost ape-like hands.” (Examiner, Oct. 15, 1944).

We have further evidence of his strength because once she was dead, he placed her body in the bathtub. We don’t know if he carried her from the bedroom to the adjoining bathroom or whether he dragged her, although no newspaper accounts describe drag marks in the rug. Either way, the killer  — without assistance —  lifted a dead victim and placed her into the bathtub, which took strength.

But he wasn’t done. After putting the body into the tub, he turned on the hot water and left it running.

To an outsider, all of this appears unnecessary and delayed the killer’s escape. Why did he do it?

It was much more common in the historic period for a female homicide victim to be left where she died, usually on the bed or possibly on the floor. In several murders,  the killer covered the body in some way, possibly with a sheet or a coat. But putting a body in a bathtub and turning on the hot water was extremely unusual.

Here’s another peculiar element: Investigators found blood on the bedroom rug – and noticed that someone had tried to clean it up, presumably the killer. Again, the killer did something totally unnecessary and once again delayed his escape. Why?

For comparison, let’s look at the Aug. 18, 1940, strangulation of B-girl Clara Williams to see if there are any parallels with the Bauerdorf case.

Here’s the scenario:  Clara Williams (alias Clara Reed, alias Dorothy Reed) met Henry Andrew Hardesty while working as a B-girl in a bar on East 5th Street. In a practice that was later outlawed, B-girls sat with customers and conned them into buying expensive drinks in an arrangement in which the bar and the B-girl split the money. Regardless of what the B-girls ordered, they were usually served cold tea. B-girls were often involved in prostitution. Notice that The Times reports Williams had been arrested many times on morals charges.

Hardesty, 50, a 220-pound hospital orderly,  said that after a few drinks, Williams returned with him to his rooming house at 412 E. 5th St. According to subsequent testimony, they had more drinks and Hardesty gave her $10. At that point, she screamed for help and started to leave, Hardesty said.  “She tried to chisel me out of $10 I had given her. I told her I would be the last man she would ever victimize, and grabbed her by the throat.” He later said: “I knew that I was being tricked and I went haywire. I had been tricked out of money too many times already so I reached out and grabbed her by the throat.”

Hardesty said he knew exactly where to press on her neck to strangle her.

“I don’t know how long it took — about five or six minutes, I think — before she died. She struggled for a brief time and then became passive.”

Pay close attention to what happened next:

“After she was dead I placed her body on a bed. I took off her shoes and covered her up to the head with a sheet. As a gentleman I thought I owed her at least that much respect. I thought it wasn’t the thing to do to kill a woman and then not treat her right. For a long time then — an hour or two, I believe — I sat and looked at her. Her face was discolored. It had a bluish cast from the strangulation.”

Afterward, Hardesty went on a binge. He was eventually picked up for being drunk and confessed the killing to police.  He was convicted and sentenced to one to 10 years in San Quentin.

Aug. 19, 1940, Henry Hardesty

There are many obvious differences between these two cases, but also some intriguing similarities. Let’s examine the postmortem behavior of this killer, Henry Hardesty.

Hardesty considered himself a gentleman, but he saw that he was being tricked again by a B-girl and “went haywire.” Once his anger subsided, he realized what he had done and he engaged in what is sometimes called “undoing.” “As a gentleman,” he put her body in bed, took off her shoes and covered her with a sheet. And he sat and looked at her for what felt like several hours.

Perhaps Georgette’s killer behaved a similar way.

Let’s say our unidentified killer erupted in anger or that he panicked when she screamed. Georgette was by no means a B-girl, but she was a high-risk victim who had numerous brief encounters with men she didn’t know. It is entirely possible that she was operating out of genuine support for the war effort, but it’s equally possible that these servicemen might have gotten the wrong expectations about her overnight hospitality. The phrase “Spending the night on the couch” might have meant one thing to her and another to a man who was “nervous in the service.”

In this hypothetical scenario, the killer might have considered himself to be a gentleman, like Hardesty, but “went haywire” for some reason.

Once his anger or panic subsided, perhaps the killer put Georgette in the tub in some attempt to “undo” the crime. This might explain the effort to clean up the blood in the bedroom. And, like Hardesty, perhaps the killer spent some time with the body – just looking at her – before fleeing in the Bauerdorf car.

It’s worth noting that according to the coroner’s inquest (United Press, Oct. 20, 1944 via the Bakersfield Californian) two ashtrays were found on the bedroom floor. The Examiner reported (Oct. 14, 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.”

This is rather speculative, but it’s possible that after strangling Georgette, the killer left her on the bedroom rug — long enough for rigor mortis to set in — and sat there smoking cigarettes and looking at her before he put her in the bathtub.

Notice that unlike Hardesty, who was a hospital orderly, Bauerdorf’s killer  — despite his strength — had no idea how to strangle someone and killed her by ramming a piece of fabric down her throat, presumably during a struggle in which she fought back aggressively.

To be continued.

About lmharnisch

I am retired from the Los Angeles Times
This entry was posted in 1940, 1944, Cold Cases, Crime and Courts, Homicide and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

17 Responses to Georgette Bauerdorf, an Unsolved Murder, Part 26

  1. Eve says:

    A bit of a hijack, but I knew someone in Baltimore in the ’70s who said she’d been a B-girl during WWII. “I wasn’t a hooker, hun, I would ask for tips for the ladies’ room and if they wanted to take me home, I’d slip out the back door or a window.”

    She was very sweet but very shady, I don’t know how much of her stories to believe.

    Like

  2. Santos L Halper says:

    I’m confused as to where the blood would be from if this was a strangulation. The autopsy or subsequent media reports didn’t mention any lacerations or superficial cuts, did they?

    Like

  3. Steven Bibb says:

    Just an observation. If she was found wearing lipstick, wouldn’t the lipstick have smeared on the bandage which was shoved down her throat? I think women remove lipstick before bed (she was in pajamas, so I would assume she had retired to bed). Is it not possible that the killer applied the lipstick to her body after she had been killed?

    Like

  4. Riley says:

    Ever since I read it in the papers over 60 years ago, I thought B-Girl was newspaper shorthand for Bad GIrl. So it really means Bar Girl?

    Like

  5. kthursby says:

    What a mug shot!

    Like

  6. mandymarie20 says:

    The B-Girl scam was as old as time. They did the same thing in the Old West. I think people did whatever they could to earn a buck. It’s easier, and probably more pleasant, to get money out of drunk people than a long day working in a factory.

    Like

  7. mandymarie20 says:

    Side note, I think you should combine your long series investigation posts, like the Bauerdorf story, into Kindle books. I know I’d buy them, like I did Mary Mallory’s book.

    Like

    • lmharnisch says:

      Thanks…. That’s an interesting idea.

      Like

    • CassellCan says:

      Great idea, mandymarie. I would buy them too. I am totally enjoying immersing myself in bygone L.A.

      I grew up in post World War II Los Angeles. My father was a Midwestern boy turned Army captain, who visited L.A. on a furlough — not unlike the guys who danced with Georgette or slept on her floor — and decided that was where he wanted to settle and raise his family. I lived in the Wilshire District and in West Hollywood (and later in the Valley), attended to a private high school in Hollywood not unlike the one Georgette attended, and ate at restaurants she would have known. My L.A. was still very much like hers, and I knew lot of women who who were a lot like her.

      I doubt Georgette was sexually promiscuous. (I’ll bet she was a virgin.) I think she was naturally friendly, a young innocent from a protected background, lonely without her family, overly sympathetic to the hard luck stories the soldiers and sailors would have told her at the Canteen, and because she WAS a child of privilege in a more straight-laced world, it was natural to help them in the ways she could. It was a time when Los Angeles really was the City of Angels.

      Yes, that made her at high risk for being hurt, but it wouldn’t have occurred to her that she was vulnerable. Our men in uniform were the good guys. They’d been vetted by the military, and found worthy of wearing that uniform.

      Yes, to us, she looks like a playgirl, looking through a 21st century lens because our world is so different. But during the war, many people went out of their way to help GIs, because they hoped their own family members serving in uniform far from home were benefitting from kind gestures of strangers. We are too lascivious and cynical to identify with Georgette.

      I lived in L.A. for more than 30 years, and though I’ve been gone for for almost as long, I’m enjoying how these postings are bringing the city of my youth back to me. Thanks so much, LMH!

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Very thought-provoking post. The word “undoing” seems to explain a lot.

    Like

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