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Strange Crime Unsolved Murders 

6 Unsolved Murders in California That Deserve More Attention

1 – Michelle Von Emster

Michelle Von Emster was a 25 year old woman who washed up off the coast of San Diego in 1984.  Two surfers found her body.  When she was found, she had several lacerations on her body and her right leg was missing.  Her neck was also broken and she had sand in her internal organs.

Shark Attack?

At first, investigators believed that she had died of a shark attack.  The evidence they cited were the tears on her body as well as the fact that her leg was completely missing.  The first person to make this claim was Robert Engel, the medical examiner who first examined her.  This was not a formal autopsy though.  That was done by Brian Blackbourne.  He determined that the cause of death was a shark attack but he himself had never seen a shark attack victim.  Ralph Collier, a shark specialist, examined her and determined that it was most likely not a shark attack because of the way her leg was broken.  Her leg was not broken cleanly, which would have been the case had she been attacked by a shark.

A Fall?

Another theory is that she fell from the nearby cliffs, which were quite high.  The reasoning for this is because she had sand in her mouth and organs, along with a broken neck.  According to this theory, she would have been washed out to see and partially eaten by sharks when the tide rose.  Both the shark attack and fall theories speculate she went for a nude swim in the middle of the night, leaving her wet suit at home.

Troubling Details

It was noticed right away that some details pointed to homicide.  Her purse was found a mile and a half north of her body but clothes were never found.  The area in which she was found was not a swimming spot at all, surrounded by high bluffs and known for powerful undertows and rip currents.  She was last seen by friends at the pier on Newport Avenue hanging with what they called a “hard crowd”.  She was last seen by a friend named Coco Campbell who dropped her off at the pier around 8PM.  She was last seen wearing a trench coat.

2 – Bryce Laspisa

While not technically a murder, this mysterious disappearance has baffled investigations.  Bryce Laspisa went missing on August 30, 2013 somewhere near Castiac Lake.  He was trying to tell his parents something on the day he went missing but we do not know what he was trying to communicate.

An Important Message

Bryce was on his way home from Sierra College, where he was attending school, on the day he went missing.  It should have only taken him a few hours to get home but he was driving for about 20 hours.  During that time he called his parents a few times with the last call coming in around 2AM when he told his mother that he was stopping to sleep.  Prior to that he told his parents he had something important to tell them but he was never seen or heard from again.

Friends and Girlfriend

Bryce’s girlfriend at the time, along with other friends, claimed that Bryce had been using prescription drugs and drinking heavily.  He broke up with his girlfriend while under the influence on the day he went missing.  At that time, he also gave away his mother’s earrings along with other possessions.

Crash

Bryce’s 2003 Toyota Highlander was found shortly thereafter, overturned in rocky terrain near his parents’ home.  The windows were broken and Bryce’s blood was found on the seats.  His wallet and laptop were both still inside the vehicle.  The police brought dogs to pick up his scent but his body was never found.

Mysterious Sightings

Since he has gone missing, his family has maintained a Facebook page where they track possible sightings of him, sometimes in surrounding states.  None of them have been confirmed but they are often from credible witnesses.

3 – Georgette Bauerdorf

Georgette Bauderdorf was a wealthy heiress to an oil fortune from Nevada.  She moved to Hollywood to become an actress when she was 20 where she lived at the El Palacio Apartments in West Hollywood.  On the night of October 11th, 1944, she cashed a check to pay for an airline ticket to El Paso, Texas.  She had told friends she was going there to meet a boyfriend, a soldier.  The man was Private Jerome Brown.

Murder Scene

On October 12th, she was found by a maid and janitor lying face down in a bathtub which was overflowing.  The theory was that someone had been waiting for her to come home because the security lights were unscrewed outside the home.  Fingerprints were also found on the tub.  About $100 in cash was stolen from her purse but none of her jewelry was taken even though it was out in the open.

Clues

Evidence indicates that Bauerdorf put up a fight.  She had several bruises and scrapes on her arms and the bones in her right hand were broken.  She had bruises on her face and abdomen and a piece of bandage was stuffed down her throat.  The investigators also determined that she had been raped.  A neighbor reported hearing Bauerdorf screaming at 2:30AM that someone was trying to kill her.  He went back to sleep, however, thinking that it was probably a domestic dispute.

Multiple Suspects

Bauerdorf worked as a Junior Hostess, which meant that she spent a lot of time dancing with servicemen who were in Los Angeles temporarily.  She danced with several on the night she was killed, according to friends.  One of these men had an infatuation with with Bauerdorf and was seen dancing with her on the night she was killed.  However, he was ruled out by investigators.  The man in El Paso was ruled out because he was not in town the night of the murder.

A Black Dahlia Connection?

Some have suggested that Georgette’s murderer could be the same as the Black Dahlia killer (see below for details of that murder).  One reason is that both women were upcoming Hollywood hopefuls.  Another reason is because a man by the name of Jack Anderson Wilson (also known as Arnold Smith) was connected indirectly with both women.  John Gilmore, an author, claims that there were several connections between the cases and that Jack Anderson Wilson linked them both.  One of Wilson’s aliases was Arnold Smith, a man who was interviewed in the Bauerdorf case.  Wilson had a history of sexual offenses and was a known alcoholic.  Whether Wilson was the murderer in this case or the Black Dahlia case may never be known.  Wilson died shortly before being cornered by police in a hotel fire that he accidentally caused by smoking in bed.

4 – Keddie Murders

In 1981, four people were found murdered in Keddie, California.  Three of the victims were found in cabin 28 which is where the murders took place on April 11.  The victims were identified as Glenna Sue Sharp 36, her son John, 15 and his friend Dana 17.  The final victim, Sue’s daughter Tina age 12 was found in 1984 in Camp Eighteen, California.  Sue, as she was known, had been renting the cabin with her five children since November of 1980.  On the morning of April 12th, her daughter Sheila Sharp, found the bodies of Sue, John and Dana tied up in the living room.  Oddly enough, Greg and Rick, the other two children, were found sleeping in another bedroom in the cabin along with Justin Smartt, a friend and the neighbor’s son.

A Vicious Killing

The bodies were found bound with medical tape and wire.  They were beaten with at least two different hammers of different sizes.  Sue and John were also stabbed several times.  Sue had also been beaten with a Daisy Air rifle.  Two knives were found along with a claw hammer, all covered in blood, lying next to each other on a table near the kitchen.

Cabin 26

Two men lived in the cabin next door to the Sharp’s.  The men, John Boubede and Martin Smartt both had criminal records and were considered the prime suspects before the investigation died out.  Martin “Marty” had been angry with Sue for itnerfering with his marriage.  As if this weren’t enough evidence, Marty wrote a letter to his wife Marilyn saying “I’ve paid the price of your love & now that I’ve bought it with four peoples lives, you tell me we are through” shortly after the killings.  However, there was not any concrete evidence that either of the men were involved.  Both are now dead.

Other Mysteries

A hammer was found by a man near a pond close to the Keddie property.  The hammer was a perfect match to a hammer that Marty had claimed he had lost.  In the case file, an unopened envelope contained a recording of a 911 call from a caller who identified the skull found in 1984 to be Tina’s, even before the medical examiner had drawn that same conclusion.  Rumors have circulated widely that other people in the small community may have been involved but nothing concrete has been discovered.

5 – Peter Ivers

Peter Ivers was a successful musician known for his debut album Knight of the Blue Communion and famous lyrics for other songs and musicals.  He was part of the famous New Wave Theater group.  In 1983, Peter Ivers was found bludgeoned to death in his bed at his apartment in Los Angeles.  The muder scene was difficult because so many friends were in and out of the important shortly after the police arrived.

Rumor and Mystery

Peter Ivers’s death is possibly more well known for the absence of information than what is known.  There is little in the way of reporting on this high profile crime.  At the time, there were several theories: a robbery gone wrong, a disgruntled fan, bad relationships, etc.  The murder had gone cold until Josh Frank and Charlie Buckholtz published their book “In Heaven Everything is Fine: The Unsolved Life of Peter Ivers and the Lost History of the New Wave Theatre” in 2008.  At that point, they uncovered knew evidence during the course of writing and the case was reopened.

6 – Christa Helm

Christa Helm was another Hollywood hopeful who did not find success on the big screen.  She had small parts in Wonder Woman and Starsky and Hutch but that’s about the extent of her Hollywood career.  She was, however, far more successful as a socialiate.  She was rumored to have been with Warren Beatty, Joe, Namath, Mick Jagger, Michael Sarrazin and even a Shah in Iran.  She kept her sexual conquests chronicled in a diary, along with sex tapes, which were all missing when she was killed in 1977.

The Murder of Christa Helm

Christa helm left a party on February 12, 1977 and was attacked from behind while walking home.  She had over 30 stab wounds and had been beaten badly with a blunt object thought to be a handle of a knife or a hammer.  Her body was found later by someone crossing the street.  Compounding the bizarre nature of the murder is the fact that the murderer was found, through DNA investigation, to have been female.  Because of the precise nature of the wounds, some have suggested it was a professional murder.

Her Records

Christa had kept detailed records of her sexual exploits and was rumored to have been in the midst of writing a book which would expose the identities of the famous men she had slept with.  Although it was common knowledge among friends that she was keeping such material, none of it was ever found.  Her diary was even reported to have contained rankings of how good the men were in bed.

Although Christa was a relatively high profile individual, the case was never widely reported, presumably because of the connections she had with the Hollywood Elite.

Famous But Unsolved – The Black Dahlia

This last murder is not under-reported.  It is one of the most famous murder cases of all time but it remains unsolved so we thought we would include it.  It also has a possible connection with the Bauerdorf murder.

Elizabeth Short was born in Boston, spent some time in Florida and eventually landed in Los Angeles.  She had a history of underage drinking and was known to associate with an Air Force officer by the name of Michael Gordon, Jr.  Gordon had reportedly asked for her hand in marriage but died a week before the end of World War II in a plane crash.

The Murder

Elizabeth Short’s body was found naked, cut in half, on the morning of January 15, 1947 on a vacant lot between South Norton Avenue and Coliseum Street.  The body had been cut in half at the waist and drained of blood.  The body was also washed thoroughly.  Slices of her thighs and breasts were cut off and her face had been cut from the corners of her mouth to her ears.  The cause of death was found to be hemorrhaging from the cuts on her face and bludgeoning of her face and head.

The murder was widely sensationalized primarily because of how it was handled by reporters of the Los Angeles Herald-Express who called Short’s mother claiming that Short had won a beauty contest and they needed information.  They only told the mother about the murder after she had given them all the information they requested.  They then offered to fly her out in an effort to keep her from talking to police and getting as much information as they could from her.  They reported her has having “prowled Hollywood Boulevard” and gave her the nickname “The Black Dahlia” from the movie, the Blue Dahlia.

A Mysterious Caller

A man called into the Los Angeles Examiner on January 23, 1947 offering to mail items belonging to Short in order to keep the case reporting active.  The next day, the newspaper received a package containing her birth certificate, hand written notes, an address book and photographs.  The address book had the name Mark Hansen embossed on it so Hansen quickly became a suspect.

Cleveland Torso Murders and a Troubling Suspect

Many authors made the connection between Short’s case and the Cleveland Torso Murders which were similar in nature.  Betweeen 12 and 24 victims (depending on the theory) of this Cleveland serial killer were found badly mutilated around the city of Cleveland.  Often, the bodies were cut in half.  The men were found castrated as well.  Although several names have been floated as the possible killer, one stands out here because he was also interviewed in the Bauerdorf case, Jack Anderson Wilson (a.k.a. Arnold Smith).  Wilson was interviewed in both cases and just before the detective handling the Black Dahlia case, John. P. St. John was about to arrest him, Wilson burned himself up inadvertently in a hotel fire.

Several authors and amateur detectives have tried to connect the Black Dahlia case with known serial killers because of the nature of the crime.  One interesting possibility is that the murders were both committed by the same person who did the Lipstick Murders.  The notes in both cases were very similar and contained similar handwriting characteristics.  There is also a connection between the name of one of the victims and a street near the Black Dahlia murder.

 

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