“I am certain this death was accidental. We know she suffered from cramps and heart aches and refused to go to the doctor. Perhaps they might have caused it,” said Georgette’s father to the Los Angeles Times, at first believing a medical condition caused her drowning, not foul play.
When Georgette Bauerdorf is found by her housekeepers lying face-down in her bathtub, water is still dripping from the facet. She is wearing the top half of a pink pajama set but naked from the waist down. There is water on the floor but no blood or obvious signs of a struggle. Both police and her father believe her death was an accident – that she suffered from a fainting spell, an epileptic fit, heart troubles or cramps before falling into her bath water. No one suspected she had been murdered in her own home.
It’s when the medical examiner finds bruises, cuts and a piece of cloth shoved far down Georgette’s throat that it becomes clear her death was no accident.
Unsolved Murders: True Crime Stories show hosts Carter Roy and Wenndy Mackenzie dive deeper into the mystery surrounding the 1944 murder of socialite, heiress, and aspiring actress Georgette Bauerdorf.
A police officer questions Fred Atwood, one of the housekeepers servicing and living in Georgette’s apartment building, about the night of the murder. He tells the officer that he heard Georgette pacing back and forth in the middle of the night and a loud crash. The next morning, when Fred and his wife Lulu go upstairs to clean Georgette’s apartment, they find her lying face-down in the bathtub. When recalling the noises he heard the night before, Fred swears he thought she was alone.
In a flashback scene, Lulu knocks on Georgette’s apartment door, and it swings right open. It hadn’t even been closed shut. Lulu notices water all over the floor and goes to investigate. Her sudden scream brings Fred rushing into the bathroom. They call the police.
Upon closer inspection, the medical examiner and crime scene photographer find evidence that Georgette was strangled. The fabric extracted from her throat is a type of bandage produced overseas. Police suspect an American G.I., who perhaps knew Georgette from the Hollywood Canteen, brought the bandage from abroad and had it on him when he killed her.
From Georgette’s cuts, bruises and smashed knuckles, it is evident that she fought her assailant. The lack of blood at the crime scene suggests that the murderer may have cleaned up afterwards. Other than her wounds, the only signs of a struggle are found in her bedroom where her blankets are pulled aside and her pajama bottoms are found torn on the floor.
Police also find recently smoked cigarettes that likely belonged to her killer. When the final autopsy report comes back, investigators also learn that she had been raped. Unfortunately, the police department did not have DNA testing capabilities back in 1944, so there was little they could do with the knowledge.
They turn to investigating her stolen green 1936 Pontiac Coupe, hoping for a lead in the case. The car is found abandoned eleven miles away from Georgette’s apartment, but there is nothing pointing toward the identity of the killer.
Carter and Wenndy take a closer look at one of the details of the case – the lightbulb above Georgette’s apartment door had been unscrewed. They speculate that the Georgette was killed by a serviceman she recognized but didn’t know well enough to open her door for willingly past midnight. Not being able to see who it was, Georgette may have opened the door to see who it was. Or it’s possible the killer found a way in and used the brief cover of darkness to hide and lay in wait for her inside her apartment.
In Georgette’s datebook, she wrote down the names of all the servicemen she met or hosted at her apartment. The police question them all but none seem likely to be the killer.
Carter suggests the culprit was Fred Atwood or that he was paid by the killer to let him inside. Another possibility is Jack Anderson Wilson, a petty thief, con artist and sex offender who lived in Los Angeles at the time and was known to impersonate soldiers in order to get free food and money.
Carter then reveals that Jack Anderson Wilson was linked to the famous murder of starlet Elizabeth Short in 1947 – the Black Dahlia. Some researchers believe he wrote the strange letter found by eleven-year-old Marilyn Silk near Georgette’s apartment building a year after the socialite’s death. The letter told the police where and when they could find the killer.
However, just like every other lead the investigators had, this one goes nowhere and Georgette Bauerdorf’s case remains unsolved, as well as Elizabeth Short’s.