“I suggest the possibility strongly exists this was a monoxide murder!”
Blonde Thelma Todd won the Miss Massachusetts beauty contest in 1925, which led to a call from Hollywood, and Thelma made her film debut in Fascinating Youth in 1926. That led to a highly successful movie career, working as a foil for virtually every comedian in film.
By 1934, divorced from her husband, she opened Thelma Todd’s Sidewalk Café at 17575 Pacific Coast Highway, north of Santa Monica, with producer and director Roland West. That year she began an affair with gangster “Lucky” Luciano (search the related post) who “arranged” for her to become hooked on diet pills. Luciano began pressing Thelma to let him use a room at the Sidewalk Café as a gambling den but she refused. On 14 December 1935 Thelma attended a party at the Café Trocadero in Hollywood. Before she left at 2.45am, a waiter told Thelma that a man was waiting to see her. He was an acolyte of Lucky Luciano and Thelma refused his “invitation”. Thelma was taken to the Sidewalk Café by her chauffeur Ernest Peters, arriving at 3.30am. Another car pulled up and Thelma got in, next to Luciano.
At 10.30am on 16 December Thelma’s body was found by her maid, May Whitehead, slumped on the front seat of her Packard convertible in her garage, the sliding doors slightly opened. According to Dr A.F. Wagner, Los Angeles County’s autopsy surgeon, Thelma Todd had died of carbon monoxide poisoning. The coroner’s jury returned a verdict of suicide but that was overturned and a grand jury hearing was ordered.
The jury foreman George Rochester, said: “I and other members of the jury believe a plot is afoot to show that Thelma Todd had a suicide complex, even though she had youth, health, wealth, fame,
admiration, love, and happy prospects. It looks as if they are trying to build up this case as a suicide, but in the actual evidence, I have found nothing to support this theory definitely. I suggest the possibility strongly exists this was a monoxide murder!”
17531 Posetano Road, Pacific Palisades, California, USA
10.30am Monday 16 December 1935
On 21 December 1935 the LAPD formally dropped their investigation into Thelma’s death. They agreed with the county autopsy surgeon’s report and coroner’s jury verdict that the actress died “apparently accidentally”. It seems likely that after Luciano dropped her off at the Café, two men grabbed Thelma and put her in her car, switched on the ignition and closed the garage door.