Note: This is an encore post from 2005 and originally appeared on the 1947project.
The last words her neighbors heard were “Stop, stop, you’re killing me!” as she fought hard for her life. The housekeeper found the body in the bathtub the next day, when she heard water dripping in the upstairs bathroom.
Because the apartment at 8493 Fountain Ave. is in West Hollywood, rather than the city of Los Angeles, the murder was handled by the Sheriff’s Department rather than the LAPD.
The victim was Georgette Bauerdorf, a Hollywood Canteen hostess who normally shared the apartment with her older sister, Connie, who was in New York, along with their father, George, and stepmother. Two days before she was killed, she wrote in her diary: “Call to Jerry [Pvt. Jerry Brown, a boyfriend] at 6:30 a.m. came thru—Jerry’s a lamb. Letter from Dud and Jerry—wrote Jerry.”
Family friends say that Georgette, a graduate of exclusive girls’ schools, was well mannered and never entertained men at the apartment. “Perhaps, on occasion, one of her gentlemen friends might stop in for a moment or two, but she never asked them to remain,” her father’s secretary said. “She was schooled in a convent in New York, on Long Island, graduated from a girls’ school here and had very definite ideas of propriety.”
With no signs of forced entry, sheriff’s detectives believed that the killer might have used a passkey to get into the apartment, but the two former employees who had passkeys proved that they had turned them in. Cosmo Volpe, the GI who aggressively cut in with Georgette’s other dance partners on the night she was killed, contacted detectives and proved that he had checked into his barracks at the Lockheed Air Terminal at 11 p.m. Another potential suspect, an unidentified man who was 6 feet, 4 inches tall, was also cleared by investigators, according to a 1950 story in The Mirror.
In December 1944, John Lehman Sumter, 22, who had been discharged from the Navy and court-martialed by the Army, confessed to the murder. Confronted with contradictions in his story, Sumter admitted that he had lied: “I wanted to die in the chair because I had nothing to live for.”
Although The Times never followed up on White, it did report further inquiries focusing on Ray Dempsey Gardner (1949) and Cpl. Chester Vukas (1950).
In later years, the Bauerdorf case has been lumped with half a dozen unsolved killings, including the Black Dahlia, and some writers have gone so far as to create a fictitious friendship between Elizabeth Short and Georgette and to turn the 6-foot-4 soldier into Jack Wilson of “Severed” fame. The truth is that Georgette was
killed in 1944, the Hollywood Canteen closed Nov. 22, 1945, and Elizabeth Short didn’t arrive in Los Angeles until the middle of 1946.
Bonus factoid: Holy Land death toll for the day is three Arabs, two Britons and 17 Jews. Deaths since the Nov. 29 partition of the Holy Land reaches 369 in Palestine and 490 for the entire Middle East. “Palestine is heading for the biggest and bloodiest flare-up ever known in the Near East,” says Izzadeen (Izzidine) Shawa Bey, head of the Palestine Arab political mission in London.
Hidden in the entries for the Library of Congress’ 2005 National Film Registry, along with Buster Keaton’s “The Cameraman,” “Cool Hand Luke” and “The French Connection” is none other than Kroger Babb’s 1944 “Mom and Dad.” An obscure film to most, perhaps, but not to studious readers of the 1947 Project. See the entry for July 1, 1947:
Quote of the day: “Next to a hamburger stand, a woman’s knee is the ugliest joint in the world.”
Mrs. Howard Hawks, on being named one of the 10 best-dressed women of 1947 by the New York Dress Institute. It’s amazing how much detective work it takes to discover that she had a first name besides “Mrs.” She became Nancy “Slim” Hawks in The Times only after she sought a divorce in 1948.