Note: This is an encore post from 2005 and originally appeared on the 1947project. It was a response to Kim Cooper’s post on the stabbings of Lillian Dominguez and Barbara Jean Morse.
I’m really glad you picked this one, Kim, as it helps disprove the current myth—promoted by many aspiring sleuths—that serial attacks/killings were an unrecognized phenomenon until recently and that the local police (the LAPD in the Black Dahlia case and Santa Monica police in the Dominguez case) were incapable of connecting seemingly random murders into the “obvious” pattern.
Unlike the Georgette Bauerdorf, Black Dahlia and Jeanne French cases, to cite one popular but erroneous theory, the Dominguez and Morse cases were related by location and method, occurring within a few weeks of one another. Morse was stabbed Sept. 2, 1947, and Dominguez was killed Oct. 1, 1947.
Police quickly connected the Dominguez and Morse cases and possibly included a third attack that occurred Nov. 19, 1947, when Mrs. Frank Elizarras was stabbed in the hip with an ice pick in a club at 121 W. 18th St. Based on witnesses’ accounts and the fact that the attacker didn’t flee until Lillian’s companions yelled out in Spanish, police assumed the killer was Mexican—probably an illegal immigrant—and interviewed many of them.
“They were bringing them in by the carloads,” said Lt. Edgar L. Hicks, one of the original investigators. “About 20 men from the Border Patrol were sent here along with immigration officials, but we still weren’t able to catch our man. The net result was that we booked 14 suspects for illegal entry into the country.” One suspect was Jose Hinojosa, who was also under suspicion in the Rochelle Gluskoter case, one of the most heartbreaking killings of the 1940s (more about that in November).
Police also questioned youths who attended the dance where Lillian had been earlier in the evening, along with her classmates and friends, but nobody could provide more information. Undercover officers were posted at a memorial Rosary said for Lillian as well as her funeral in hopes the killer would appear.
There was more activity after a furniture dealer going through mail shoved under his door found a message scrawled on the back of a business card from a neighboring diner: “I killed that Santa Monica girl—will kill others.” Lillian’s sister and girlfriend received anonymous mail as well, mostly religious pamphlets.
Long Beach police arrested a man carrying 16 sharp palm fronds and sent them to Santa Monica investigators on the theory that they might have been used in the stabbings and while they appeared unrelated, they were placed in Lillian’s file.
Santa Monica police kept the case open as late as 1961, but Hicks said: “We didn’t have much to go on. There was nothing at the scene, not even a footprint or weapon. And there wasn’t any apparent motive.”
“You can never tell when something will turn up to lead us to the murderer,” said Capt. Earl Reinhold.
Bonus factoid: The Bauerdorf murder occurred late Oct. 11 or early Oct. 12, 1944.
Quote of the day: “I play an amorous dipsomaniac and go insane at the climax of the drama…. If the play flops I’ll be back in Hollywood.”
Jessica Tandy, on giving up her movie career to begin rehearsals for “Streetcar Named Desire.”