Note: This is an encore post from 2005 and originally appeared on the 1947project.
Her name was Vesta Belle and she was 17, an honor student at Jefferson High, a mile and a half from her home at 5320 Holmes Ave. You might think she got her name in the paper for earning a scholarship or receiving an academic award.
Instead, her 14-year-old brother, Carlisle, came home from a playground and found Vesta Belle Sapenter’s body in her bedroom. She was partially undressed and had been strangled with a thin hemp cord. With so many murders of women in Los Angeles, you might expect The Times to give it decent play, but Vesta Belle got two paragraphs on Page 8. Just enough to give a few details and that fact that she was black.
Public records turn up a bit more: She was born in Texas and her mother’s maiden name was Lavollette. Her younger brother Carlisle got a Social Security card in California (556-40-2045 ) and died in Houston in 1983 at the age of 52. But in all, it was not a good day for newspapering in Los Angeles.
Here’s a link to some pictures from Jefferson High’s 1947 yearbook: http://4dw.net/socal/1947jeffwin.html