Episode 154:


The Mysterious Death of Thelma Todd


The Footpath Murders


Episode 154: DNA Dad

Karen and Georgia cover the mysterious death of Thelma Todd and the Footpath Murders.

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The Mysterious Death of Thelma Todd

The Mysterious Death of Thelma Todd Notes:

Header Image Source: Photo by Kilyan Sockalingum on Unsplash

Image Sources:

Portrait of Thelma Todd from Wikipedia Commons

Speak Easily (1932) from Wikipedia Commons

"Thelma Alice Todd (July 29, 1906 – December 16, 1935) was an American actress often referred to by the nickname "The Ice Cream Blonde". Appearing in around 120 feature films and shorts between 1926 and 1935, she is best remembered for her comedic roles in films such as Marx Brothers' Monkey Business and Horse Feathers and a number of Charley Chase's short comedies. She co-starred with Buster Keaton and Jimmy Durante in Speak Easily. She also had roles in several Wheeler and Woolsey and Laurel and Hardy films, the last of which (The Bohemian Girl) featured her in a part that was truncated by her suspicious death in 1935 at the age of 29.

Todd was born in Lawrence, Massachusetts, to John Shaw Todd, an upholsterer from Ireland, and Alice Elizabeth Edwards, an immigrant from Canada. She had an older brother, William. She was a bright student who achieved good academic results. She intended to become a schoolteacher and enrolled at the Lowell Normal School (now University of Massachusetts, Lowell) after graduating from high school in 1923. However, in her late teens, she began entering beauty pageants, winning the title of Miss Massachusetts in 1925. While representing her home state, she was spotted by a Hollywood talent scout and began her career in film at Paramount.

During the silent film era, Todd appeared in numerous supporting roles that made full use of her beauty but gave her little chance to act. With the advent of the talkies, Todd was given opportunity to expand her roles when producer Hal Roach signed her to appear with such comedy stars as Harry Langdon, Charley Chase, and Laurel and Hardy. In 1931, Roach cast Todd in her own series of slapstick comedy shorts, running 17 to 27 minutes each. In an attempt to create a female version of Laurel and Hardy, Roach teamed Todd with ZaSu Pitts for 17 shorts, from "Let's do Things" (June 1931) through "One Track Minds" (May 1933). When Pitts left in 1933, she was replaced by Patsy Kelly, appearing with Todd in 21 shorts, from "Beauty and the Bus" (September 1933) through "An All American Toothache" (January 1936). These Roach shorts often cast Todd as a levelheaded working girl having all sorts of problems and trying her best to remain poised and charming despite the embarrassing antics of her ditzy sidekick. In 1931, Todd starred in Corsair, a film directed by Roland West, with whom she would later become romantically involved. Todd became highly regarded as a capable film comedian, and Roach loaned her out to other studios to play opposite Wheeler & Woolsey, Buster Keaton, Joe E. Brown, and the Marx Brothers. She also appeared successfully in such dramas as the original 1931 film version of The Maltese Falcon starring Ricardo Cortez as Sam Spade, in which she played Miles Archer's treacherous widow. During her career she appeared in around 120 feature films and shorts.

In August of 1934, Todd opened a successful cafe, Thelma Todd's Sidewalk Cafe, at 17575 Pacific Coast Highway in the Los Angeles coastal neighborhood of Pacific Palisades. It attracted a diverse clientele of Hollywood celebrities as well as many tourists.

On the morning of December 16, 1935, Thelma Todd was found dead in her car inside the garage of Jewel Carmen, a former actress and former wife of Todd's lover and business partner, Roland West. Carmen's house was approximately a block from the topmost side of Todd's restaurant.Her death was determined to have been caused by carbon monoxide poisoning. West is quoted in a contemporaneous newspaper account as having locked her out, which may have caused her to seek refuge and warmth in the car. Todd had a wide circle of friends and associates as well as a busy social life. Police investigations revealed that she had spent the previous Saturday night (December 14) at the Trocadero, a popular Hollywood restaurant, at a party hosted by entertainer Stanley Lupino and his actress daughter, Ida. At the restaurant, she had had a brief but unpleasant exchange with her ex-husband, Pat DiCicco. However, her friends stated that she was in good spirits and were aware of nothing unusual in her life that could suggest a reason for her committing suicide. She was driven home from the party in the early hours of December 15 by her chauffeur, Ernest O. Peters. The detectives of the LAPD concluded that Todd's death was accidental, the result of her either warming up the car to drive it or using the heater to keep herself warm. A Coroner's Inquest into Todd's death was held on December 18, 1935. Autopsy surgeon A.P. Wagner testified that there were "no marks of violence anywhere upon or within the body" with only a "superficial contusion on the lower lip." There are informal accounts of greater signs of injury. The jury ruled that the death appeared to be accidental but recommended "further investigation to be made into the case, by proper authorities." Subsequently a grand jury probe was held to determine whether Todd's death was a murder. After four weeks of testimony, the inquiry was closed with no evidence of murder being brought forward. The case was closed by the Homicide Bureau, which listed the death as "accidental with possible suicide tendencies." However, investigators were unable to find any motive for suicide or a suicide note.

Visitation was held at Pierce Brothers Mortuary at 720 West Washington Blvd in Los Angeles. Todd's body was cremated. After her mother's death in 1969, Todd's remains were placed in her mother's casket and buried in Bellevue Cemetery in her hometown of Lawrence, Massachusetts..."

— Source: Thelma Todd Wikipedia

The Footpath Murders

The Footpath Murders Notes:

Header Image Source: Photo by Thomas Griesbeck on Unsplash

"Thirty years ago this summer, at 4:30pm one Thursday afternoon, a 15-year-old schoolgirl called Dawn Ashworth set off from a friend’s house in the village of Narborough, Leicestershire, and began to walk home. Dawn lived in the nearby village of Enderby, a few minutes’ walk away, and chose to take a short-cut along a footpath known locally as Ten Pound Lane. And then she vanished. It was not until two days later that Dawn’s body was found in the corner of a nearby field, covered in twigs, branches and torn-up nettles. The pathologist established that she had put up a considerable struggle before being raped and strangled.

The hunt for Dawn’s killer was unlike any previous murder investigation, however: it was conducted with the help of a new science. The technique known as DNA fingerprinting was employed in a criminal investigation for the first time. Not only did this revolutionary technique lead, indirectly, to the killer being caught; it also prevented a grave miscarriage of justice. And it was employed in a manner that would, today, be likely to face resistance from some members of the public.

Fucking Hoorays!


Just a couple weeks ago Vince and I closed on a house and we’re going to be homeowners for the first time. It’s this gorgeous little bungalow, it was the first house we saw, and after we looked around I started crying because I realized that I could have it. I can’t believe it, I just love it so much and I’m so happy. Thank you all so much for helping make this happen.


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