Shortly after 11 am on 12 October 1944, when Lulu and Fred Atwood, the maid and the janitor of the El Palacio Apartments were doing their usual cleaning of the apartments, along with their daughter, they were slightly surprised to find the door of a particular apartment, belonging to Georgette Bauerdorf, was ajar.
As they cautiously entered the apartment, feeling something wrong, Lulu Atwood went straight upstairs to check the sound of running water. However, she immediately called for her husband, as she was scared to find the half-naked body of 20-year-old Georgette Bauerdorf in the bathtub, filled with hot water, wearing only the top half of a pink pyjama, with her face under the water and her hair floating on top. She also noted that the tap was still running and the bath was overflowing with hot, bloody water. At the first sight, Fred Atwood thought that perhaps Georgette had fainted and he drained out the water in the tub. But, despite her warm body, possibly due to the scalding temperature of the water, when it became apparent that she was dead and not unconscious, he called the authorities. The Police arrived at the scene around noon and by that time, rigor mortis had set in the body, which means she had been dead for quite some time.
Born on 6 May 1924 to George Bauerdorf, a wealthy oil magnate and his wife Constance Dannhauser, Georgette Elise Bauerdorf lived luxuriously in New York City, along with her older sister, Connie. Both the sisters were educated in St. Agatha's School for Girls in Long Island, where they were trained in propriety and goodness. However, after the death of Constance in 1935, the family moved across the country to Los Angeles, where the sisters attended Marlborough School in Los Angeles, an all-girls prep school where students were called Violets and then West Lake School for Girls, from where Georgette graduated in 1941. As she intended to be an actress, after graduation, she moved to Hollywood to live with her older sister, Connie, at the El Palacio Apartment Complex, West Hollywood. To support herself, she worked briefly as a reporter for a local newspaper and then got a job to work as a junior hostess at the Hollywood Canteen, a popular club for servicemen in the 40s, where her duties included entertaining and dancing with enlisted soldiers. Unfortunately, within a short time, Connie became a young widow, as her partner, John Francis Dillon Jr was killed whilst in action overseas and around the time of her first wedding anniversary in August 1944, Connie decided to go to live with her father and stepmother in Nevada. From the day of her departure from the apartment until her death, Georgette lived alone in the El Palacio Apartment.
After being informed about the incident, the Police arrived at the scene around noon and during the preliminary investigation, found a spot of blood on the floor between the bathroom and the bedroom.As the carpet was wet at that spot, it was considered that someone had unsuccessfully tried to scrub the stain.
Although almost $100 was taken from her purse, jewellery and other valuables of the victim were not stolen and a large roll of $2 bills and thousands of dollars was also found lying in an open trunk. All these findings lead to the conclusion that robbery was not the motive. It appeared that Georgette had put up a great struggle till her end and as a result, apart from the abundant bruises and scrapes all over her body, a large bruise was found on the right side of her head and another on her abdomen, which were probably inflicted by blows with the clenched fist. Apart from that, the knuckles of her right hand were smashed and bruised and her right thigh showed the bruised imprint of a hand, probably the fingernail marks piercing the skin. Finally, she was strangled with a piece of bandage material stuffed down her throat, likely to stifle her screaming during the attack. Subsequently, an examination by Los Angeles County autopsy surgeon concluded that she was raped.The light over the outside entrance of the apartment had been unscrewed two turns to stop it working, but would look fine unless inspected closely. It was assumed that the murderer had to stand on a chair to reach the light bulb nearly eight feet off the ground. Her car, an Oldsmobile 1936, registered in the name of her sister, was found missing from the garage, neither was it parked in other regular parking lots. However, it was discovered on a later day, abandoned on East 25th Street, with a dent in one of the fenders and ran out of gas.
During the investigation, it came to light that on 11 October 1944, Georgette encashed a check for $175, purchased a plane ticket to El Paso, totalling $90 and had lunch with Rose Gilbert, her father’s secretary, before visiting a beauty parlour. Later, Gilbert told investigating officers that they had a fun day, shopping and lunching, when Georgette had seemed normal and absolutely in good spirits. But after that, when she went to work at the Canteen in the evening, she seemed to be anxious and nervous and even asked her friend, June Ziegler, to stay the night with her at her apartment, which unfortunately never happened. However, she spent around three hours in the Canteen, chatting and dancing with soldiers, when her friends noticed a serviceman continually insisting her to dance with him.
She left the canteen around 11:30 pm and her co-workers saw her walk to her car and drive away.
On her way home, she saw Sergeant Gordon Aadland, waiting for a lift as a hitchhiker and picked him. According to the Sergeant, she told him about her plan to visit her boyfriend, Jerry Brown, stationed at Fort Bliss, and seemed to be very much excited by the prospect and also said that she had to get home quickly as she was expecting a call from him. She dropped him on Sunset Boulevard and drove away and was never again seen alive.
Though the exact time Georgette arrived home is unknown, she was thought to have arrived around midnight and had a dinner of beans and melon, the remains of which were found in her stomach. After that, the apartment was then quiet until 2:30, when the janitor Fred Atwood was suddenly awoken by the sound of a woman’s heels walking on the kitchen floor, just above his apartment and then a loud crashing sound, as if something like a tray been dropped. He heard nothing more, as he returned to his slumber. However, another neighbour reported having heard a woman screaming, asking somebody to stop and saying it was killing her, but attributed it to a domestic dispute and went back to sleep, as the cries stopped. Nevertheless, the police started to work on the theory that someone had entered the apartment and killed Georgette, but they were not sure whether Georgette opened the door to her killer or if they snuck in.
Among the several suspects that came forth during the investigation, the first was the young enlisted man who had continuously interrupted her dances with other soldiers and insist she dance with him. He was identified as Cosmo Volpe, a soldier originally from Astoria, New York. Although he admitted that he had danced several times with Georgette, he refuted the allegation that he had annoyed or upset Georgette. He claimed that he was teaching Georgette to dance, because she wanted to learn and she was vivacious and happy all through the evening. He also said that after dancing three or four times with Georgette, he left with Sergeant James Driscoll and they hitchhiked back to the barracks within 11:30 pm. After checking his alibi it appeared to the police that he was not involved in the murder of Georgette Bauerdorf.
The police also investigated about Jerome Brown, a soldier stationed at Fort Bliss near El Paso, to whom Georgette planned to visit and purchased a plane ticket, found on her dresser. He confessed that he had met Bauerdorf at the Hollywood Canteen on 13th June of that year and since then exchanged letters and phone calls with her and handed over half a dozen letters he had received from her. The police were convinced about his innocence in the matter, as he proved with an ironclad alibi that he had been in Texas at the time of the murder.
Georgette Bauerdorf was buried in a Long Island cemetery plot of the Bauerdorf family, but despite an intensive police investigation and the questioning of several other suspects, the mystery of her murder remains unsolved and no one was ever charged.