The Locations of L.A.’s 100 Most Memorable Crimes by Neighborhood

The neighborhoods, streets, and addresses that forever hold some of the city’s darkest moments
1048

Orange County, Los Angeles, and Other States

The “Dating Game” Killer
Serial killer Rodney Alcala, a former child photographer, had already killed four people by the time he appeared on The Dating Game. Authorities say he may have murdered more than 100.
Years: 1968-79
Read about it: In the Orange County Register, and People
Watch: 48 Hours

Rodney Alcala

Pacific Palisades

The Mysterious Death of Thelma Todd

In the words of the Chicago Tribune, “The death of Hollywood actress Thelma Todd in 1935 hit the world with the impact of the later death of Marilyn Monroe and the murder of Sharon Tate. The gorgeous blond comedian was a cross between Goldie Hawn and Farrah Fawcett, only more popular.” Todd was found asphyxiated in the garage of her popular seaside restaurant, and her death was ruled a suicide. But that didn’t explain the broken nose and cracked ribs.
Year: 1935
Location: 17575 Pacific Coast Highway
Read about it: In the Palisadian-Post, and the Chicago Tribune
Books: The Life and Death of Thelma Todd and The Ice Cream Blonde
Watch: Mysteries and Scandals, and the Loni Anderson TV movie White Hot: The Mysterious Murder of Thelma Todd

Circa 1930: Thelma Todd (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

Reseda

 ZZZZ Best Carpet Cleaning
Barry Minkow managed to turn a local carpet cleaning business that he started in high school into a public company valued at more than $200 million before it was exposed as a Ponzi scheme. The Los Angeles Times once called him “the FBI poster boy for fraud.”
Years: 1982-87
Location: 7040 Darby Avenue
Read about it: In the Los Angeles Times, Fortune, and the New York Times
Watch: 60 Minutes, and the ZZZZ Best Carpet commercial

Riverside

The Chicken Coop Killer
In 1926 Gordon Stewart Northcott beat and sexually assaulted at least a dozen boys, and killed three of them, on his chicken ranch in Riverside County. Beneath the chicken coop: a grave filled with bones.
Years: 1920s
Location: 6330 Wineville Road, Mira Loma
Read about it: In the Los Angeles Times
Book: Nothing Is Strange with You
Watch: The film Changeling was based on the case

Gordon Stewart Northcott

San Diego

Betty Broderick
A case that caught national attention and was a huge story locally. San Diego socialite Betty Broderick murdered her ex-husband and his new wife, and she confessed her crime to a Los Angeles Times newspaper reporter.
Year: 1989
Location: 1041 Cypress Avenue, Marston Hills
Read about it: In Los Angeles magazine, and the Los Angeles Times here and here

San Gabriel Mountains

The Deputy Who Disappeared
Jon Aujay went for a run in the desert in 1998 and never returned. Theories, suspicions, hunches—they’ve all been far more plentiful than actual clues in the search to discover the sheriff’s deputy’s fate.
Year: 1998
Location: Devil’s Punchbowl
Read about it: In Los Angeles magazine

San Pedro

Doris Courtemanche
Homicide Detective Ray Giese called the 12-year-old’s death “the most vicious murder in my entire experience,” according to the L.A. Daily Mirror.  A 16-year-old boy was convicted.
Year: 1943
Location: 751 N. Palos Verdes Street
Read about it: In the L.A. Daily Mirror

Santa Monica

Col. Griffith J. Griffith Shoots His Wife in the Eye
Yes, we mean the Griffith Park/Griffith Observatory/Greek Theater Griffiths. The family patriarch Col. Griffith J. Griffith entered his wife’s room at a Santa Monica resort with a gun in one hand and a prayer book in the other, questioned his wife’s loyalty and faithfulness, and pulled the trigger. Her escape was nothing short of miraculous.
Year: 1903
Location: Ocean Avenue between Railroad Avenue (now Colorado Avenue) and Front (now Pico)
Read about it: In KPCC

FBI officials discuss the arrest of Boston crime boss James “Whitey” Bulger (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)

Whitey Bulger’s Hideout
Saddam had his spider hole. Manson had Barker Ranch. For James “Whitey” Bulger, the anonymity of advanced age provided ample cover for him to hide out 16 years in Santa Monica, a stash of blood money stuffed in the walls, and guns at the ready.
Years: 1997-2011
Location: 1012 3rd Street #303
Read about it: In Los Angeles magazine
Book: Whitey Bulger: America’s Most Wanted Gangster and the Manhunt That Brought Him to Justice
Watch: CBS, and these movies were all in some way inspired by Bulger, including Johnny Depp’s Black Mass

Sherman Oaks

The Chiropractor’s Patient
An 8-year-old girl with cancer, Linda Epping, was taken to the hospital, but instead of surgery that might prolong her life, chiropractor Marvin Phillips talked the Epping family into letting him treat her privately for $500. She died, and Phillips was found guilty of murder in what was considered a landmark case, causing a death while committing felony.
Year: 1961
Location: Newspaper reports say Phillips worked in in Sherman Oaks
Read about it: In the Chicago Tribune, and Life

Silver Lake

The “Bat Man” Case
In a trial that grabbed headlines, and for good reason, a wife’s paramour who had been secretly living for 10 years in the attic directly over her marital bed shot and killed her husband while the married couple was quarreling. The man who pulled the trigger, Otto Sanhuber, hid “Dolly” Oesterreich in a closet before police arrived to find the dead body of Fred Oesterreich. She told police a burglar shot her husband. After learning of Sanhuber’s cave-like dwelling in the Oesterreich case, the papers dubbed it the “Bat Man” case.
Year: 1922
Location: 800 block of Lafayette Park Place in Silver Lake
Read about it: In the Los Angeles Times
Watch: Inspired the Neil Patrick Harris movie The Man in the Attic

Simi Valley

The Identity Thief
When Randy Kling got involved with a tight-knit Simi Valley family, lives were destroyed, and two men wound up dead.
Year: 2003-04
Locations: 2243 East Avenue I, in Lancaster; and Rio Vista Court in Simi Valley
Read about it: In Los Angeles magazineVentura County Star, and the Associated Press

South Los Angeles

Singer Sam Cooke Shot at Hacienda Motel
The circumstances surrounding the singer’s shooting death at 3 a.m. in the seedy Hacienda Motel remain murky, leading many to still wonder how the world lost the once-a-generation talent.
Year: 1964
Location: 9137 South Figueroa Street
Read about it: In the Wall Street Journal, and the Los Angeles Times here and here
Book: Dream Boogie
Watch: Cooke’s death is the topic of an upcoming movie

Lonnie David Franklin attends his arraignment in 2010 (Photo by Al Seib-Pool/Getty Images)

The Grim Sleeper
Lonnie David Franklin Jr. got his nickname because investigators believed there was a mysterious 14-year-gap between his killings. Like many serial killers, he targeted drug addicts and prostitutes—Janes Does few people would notice were missing. He was convicted of killing nine women and one teen girl, and detectives believe he may have killed at least 15 more. Also known as The Southside Slayer.
Years: 1985-2007
Read about it: In the Los Angeles Times
Book: The Grim Sleeper: The Lost Women of South Central
Watch: HBO documentary Tales of the Grim Sleeper

Latasha Harlins
A teen in a liquor store/deli put a bottle of juice in her knapsack. The shopkeeper accused her of stealing. A struggle broke out, and the shopkeeper shot Latasha Harlins in the face, lighting one of the fuses that would eventually explode into the 1992 riots.
Year: 1992
Location: Empire Liquor Market and Deli, 91st and Figueroa streets
Read about it: In the Los Angeles Times
Book: The Contested Murder of Latasha Harlins by Brenda Stevenson

“G”
George Torres (AKA “G”) founded the Numero Uno grocery chain and was a big-time political donor whose methods of protecting his empire caught the attention of federal authorities, who convicted him of bribery, racketeering, and solicitation of murder.
Year: 1994
Location: 701 East Jefferson (main Numero Uno market)
Read about it: In the Los Angeles Times

Studio City

Bonnie Lee Bakley, wife of Robert Blake
Minutes after eating at Vitello’s in Studio City, TV star Robert Blake left Bakley alone in their car while he went into the restaurant to retrieve a gun, which was not the murder weapon. That’s when Bakley was shot. Blake was found innocent in a criminal trial but guilty in civil court.
Year: 2001
Location: Vitello’s at 4349 Tujunga Avenue
Read about it: In the Los Angeles TimesCNN, and the New York Times
Watch: Dominick Dunne’s Power, Privilege, and Justice

Van Nuys

Diane Sparks

Photograph courtesy Valley Times Collection/Los Angeles Public Library

The Motor Officer’s Wife
The wife of an LAPD motor officer was found murdered. A neighbor was found innocent. And a key witness was never called to trial in the death of Diane Sparks.
Year: 1946
Location: Olive orchard a half-mile off Glenoaks Boulevard
Read about it: In Los Angeles magazine here and here

Good Cop, Deadly Cop
Stephanie Lazarus was an exemplary cop. And a murderer. How did she evade suspicion for 23 years when she should have been a prime suspect in the killing of Sherri Rasmussen?
Year: 1986
Location: Townhouse in a gated complex on the 7100 block of Balboa Boulevard
Read about it: In Los Angeles magazine, and Vanity Fair
Watch: Her interrogation, 48 Hours here and here

Stephanie Lazarus

Ventura

The Mother-in-Law
Jealous mother Elizabeth Ann “Ma” Duncan had her daughter-in-law killed when she was seven months pregnant. Investigators discovered that Olga Kupczyk Duncan and “Ma” Duncan’s unborn grandchild had been buried alive.
Year: 1958
Location: Casitas Pass Road in Ventura
Read about it: In Los Angeles magazineVentura County Star, and Los Angeles Times
Book: Ma Duncan

West Adams

The Filicide of Marvin Gaye
With his career back on the rise in the 1980s, the world-famous singer was shot and killed by his own father in his West Adams home.
Year: 1984
Location: 2101 South Gramercy Place
Read about it: In the New York Daily News, and the New York Times
Watch: VH1

West Hills

Clyde and Lulu Dayton
The health food pioneer Clyde Dayton (known as the “Red-Ripe Honey-Man”) and his wife, Lulu, were shot and burned to death in their Valley cabin. It was officially called a murder-suicide, but one investigator thought it might have been an act of revenge. It is believed the wealthy eccentric buried his fortune in mason jars somewhere on his 138-acre ranch, which is now a housing development.
Year: 1922
Location: Their ranch extended from Roscoe and Valley Circle to the Ventura County line
Read about it: In the Los Angeles Times

Jesse James Hollywood
Jesse James Hollywood was a small-time Valley weed dealer who fancied himself gangsta. Then he became one after kidnapping and murdering the younger brother of a West Hills rival and going on the lam.
Year: 2000
Location: Lizard’s Mouth hiking area
Read about it: In Los Angeles magazine
Watch: Basis of the movie Alpha Dog

West Hollywood

American actor Sal Mineo in 1972. (Photo by Terry Disney/Daily Express/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

Sal Mineo
Like his costars James Dean, Nick Adams, and Natalie Wood in Rebel Without a Cause, Sal Mineo met a tragic end. Mineo was stabbed to death after parking his car at a West Hollywood apartment building during a botched mugging by 19-year-old pizza deliveryman Lionel Ray Williams.
Year: 1976
Location: 8563 Holloway Drive
Read about it: In the Los Angeles Times, here and here
Books: Sal Mineo: A Biography, and Sal Mineo: His Life, Murder, and Mystery

Who Stabbed Christa Helm?
An actress who was intimate with powerful men, and kept a sex diary, was found stabbed to death on a street in West Hollywood. Her diary was stolen, and the killer was never found.
Year: 1977
Location: Lloyd Place
Read about it: In Los Angeles magazine
Watch: 48 Hours

The murder of Poltergeist actress Dominique Dunne
“The story of John Sweeney and Dominique Dunne that culminated in their fatal clash has all the elements of high drama—love and jealousy, fear and frustration, fame and poverty,” wrote Roxane Arnold in the Los Angeles Times.
Year: 1982
Location: 8723 Rangely Avenue
Read about it: In the Los Angeles Times, and from the perspective of her father, the author Dominick Dunne, in Vanity Fair

West Los Angeles

Melanie Howell

Who Murdered UCLA Medical Center Nurse Melanie Howell?
Someone suspicious had been loitering outside Melanie Howell’s apartment, so she called police and stayed elsewhere. On the day she went back home, she was murdered.
Year: 1976
Location: 1723 Westgate Avenue #6
Read about it: In Los Angeles magazine

Death of a Centerfold
It was Paul Snider who arranged to have nude photos of Dorothy Stratten sent to Playboy, sending the eventual Playmate of the Year on a path to stardom that would consume Snider with deadly jealousy. He killed Stratten and himself with a 12-gauge shotgun.
Year: 1980
Location: 10881 Clarkson Road
Read about it: In the New York Daily News, and the New York Times
Book: The Killing of the Unicorn by Peter Bogdanovich
Watch: Biography

Westwood

A Shooting in Westwood
Before the death of Karen Toshima, a 27-year-old Long Beach woman caught in gang crossfire while walking in Westwood in 1988, the university neighborhood was one of the most vital nightlife spots in the city. Her death marked a turning point in the city’s battle with gang violence. 
Year: 1988
Location: 1000 block of Broxton Avenue 
Read about it: In the Los Angeles Times

With contributions from: Chris Nichols, Julia Herbst, Thomas Harlander, Audie Metcalf Ruyle, Michael Petruncola, Kari Mozena, Mary Melton, and Matthew Segal.

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