Oct. 20, 1944: Garner Brown examines the piece of crepe tetra used to kill Georgette Bauerdorf, Daily News.
In an attempt to distill the character traits of the man who killed Georgette Bauerdorf, we have been looking at his unusual and unnecessary behavior at the crime scene: Putting the body in the bathtub, turning on the hot water and trying to clean up the blood on the bedroom rug. And rather than taking the phases of the crime in chronological order, we are going 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 21 | Part 22 | Part 23 | Part 24 | Part 25 | Part 26 | Part 27 | Part 28 | Part 29 | Part 30 | Part 31
It was useful to compare the killer’s actions to those of Henry Hardesty, a hospital orderly who in 1940 strangled B-girl Clara Williams and then engaged in postmortem “undoing” in which he put the body in bed, took off her shoes, covered her with a sheet and sat and looked at her for what seemed to him to be several hours. He said: 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.”
This time we’re going to look at what may be the most peculiar detail about the killer: The unusual piece of fabric about 9 inches square that he rammed down Georgette’s throat. Whoever killed Georgette Bauerdorf used an uncommon and inefficient way to kill her.
Let’s examine Hardesty’s account of how he strangled Williams:
Aug. 19, 1940: Henry Hardesty describes strangling B-girl Clara Williams, Los Angeles Times.
As a hospital orderly, Hardesty knew how to strangle a victim who “struggled for a brief time and then became passive.”
Compare this to the Bauerdorf case.
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).
But despite the killer’s strength, he struggled to get control of Georgette, who defended herself aggressively. “Dr. Frank R. Webb of the coroner’s office said abrasions on the knuckles of the girl’s hands showed she fought desperately against the attacker.” (Examiner, Oct. 15, 1944).
In other words, this was probably not the way an experienced rapist or killer would go about his crime.
In all the reading I have done about killings in Los Angeles, either in the present day or the historic period, I can’t recall a single instance other than the Bauerdorf case in which a victim was killed in this manner.
One of the most common methods of strangulation in the historic period was a ligature. An examination of news stories from 1940 to 1950 shows that victims were strangled with such items as a piece of rope, a stocking, a lamp cord, the belt of a bathrobe or a handkerchief.
Going back to the Albert Dyer case of 1937, we find that in planning the sex killings of “the three babes of Inglewood,” Dyer cut several lengths of rope in preparation for strangling his young victims – in fact, Dyer brought extra lengths of rope in case he could entice more children to follow him.
More recently, a piece of rope was used in the 1949 slaying of Louise Springer in the Green Twig murder. Stockings were used in a series of rape-murders in Los Angeles in the 1950s. And in the 1958 killing of Geneva Ellroy, the killer pulled the rope so hard that it broke, so he used a stocking.
The other common method was the killer choking his victim with hands, such as the 1940 slaying of B-girl Clara Williams.
But Georgette’s killer didn’t use any of those methods. Why did he use this fabric and where did he get it?
Let’s look at this piece of cloth, which is described this way:
Oct. 20, 1944: a description of the piece of crepe tetra, Daily News.
Crepe tetra was “coarsely knitted gauze. It was a certain elasticity found beneficial in binding and supporting sprained muscles. It is also widely used as a navel band for babies.”
And it was folded in a particular manner:
Oct. 14, 1944: The girl had been strangled by a large scrap of toweling which had been folded diaper shape and forced down her throat, Examiner.
Let’s see if we can get a better look at the fabric.
The piece of crepe tetra used to strangle Georgette Bauerdorf, from a news photo with the perspective corrected.
Here’s a detail from another news photo with the perspective corrected.
The first detail we notice about the fabric is that it’s splotched with blood. The second detail we notice is that a ragged tear is visible at the top center of both images. Recall that the killer made an attempt to remove the fabric, but that rigor mortis had set in. Georgette’s jaws were tightly clenched on the fabric, so that it ripped when the killer tried to pull it out, which fits with all the other evidence of “undoing.” If you look carefully at the rip, you can see what might be the curved outline of her teeth.
Investigators found blood on the rug in Georgette’s bedroom, the water in the bathtub was bloody and there is clearly blood on this fabric. (The Daily News reported Oct. 13, 1944, “No marks of violence — apart from a bleeding nose — were apparent on the body,” so she may have had a bloody nose).
Oct. 14, 1944: blood on the rug in Georgette’s bedroom, Daily News.
Let’s get another look at the bloodstain on the bedroom rug with the perspective corrected:
An enlargement of this detail from a news photo with the perspective corrected shows a fair amount of blood and the outline of what was apparently Georgette Bauerdorf’s buttocks. It seems relatively safe to infer that this was caused by heavy vaginal bleeding either from her monthly cycle, the trauma of the rape or both.
Now what if Georgette was having her period? That might explain several things. We know that she was prone to cramps, which might explain why she didn’t want to dance with the jitterbugging G.I. at the Hollywood Canteen. It might explain why she was only wearing the tops of her pajamas. It might also explain the source of the mysterious crepe tetra. What if – and this is highly speculative – she had fashioned some sort of emergency sanitary napkin from this piece of gauzy cotton fabric? Perhaps that was why the fabric was folded “in a “diaper shape.”
It might even explain the mysterious datebook entry “Mr. Wade” on Oct. 10, less than 48 hours before she was killed.
Suppose – and this is highly speculative – that she was tracking her monthly cycle in her datebook. Chances are that as a refined young lady, she might use a cryptic notation known only to her to record something so private and intimate. “Mr. Wade” was never publicly identified, so without access to her datebook, it’s impossible to tell if this theory is correct, but it would offer one explanation.
This goes far into the realm of speculation, but if Georgette was having her period (which seems likely), she might have fashioned some sort of improvised sanitary napkin out of this fabric. And no, it’s not clear where she might have gotten it or how she would have held it in place.
Let’s say the killer intended to rape Georgette. He encountered this piece of fabric. They struggled and when she screamed, rather than strangle her with his hands, he grabbed the first object he could find – this piece of fabric – and rammed it down her throat to silence her.
Afterward, he might have felt some degree of remorse, which would account for all the “undoing”: Putting her in the bathtub, turning on the hot water, trying to clean up the bloodstain on the rug and attempting to remove the fabric from her throat. All of which delayed his escape, possibly for a fair amount of time.
To be continued.