The Murder of Thelma Todd
Another one of Hollywood's most infamous and still unsolved crimes is the murder or suicide of actress Thelma Todd. She was born on July 29, 1906 in Lawrence, Massachusetts. After graduating from college, she became a teacher who also took a job as a model. She caught the attention of some Hollywood Talent Scouts and moved out to California. It wasn't long before she was recognized as a genuine talent and not just for her good looks. Her friends called her "Hot Toddy". But on the morning of Monday, December 16, 1935, her maid found her facedown in the seat of her Packard Automobile, cold and dead. The engine of the car was still running. She was 29 years old.
One of the chief suspects was the man who drove her home on the last night of Thelma's life. That man was director Ronald West.
That fateful night, she had been at a party thrown by Ida Lupino, a relative newcomer to Hollywood, and it had the makings of a blow-out Hollywood event. The guest list was vast and unfortunately included Thelma’s ex-husband, Pat DiCicco. After a few drinks, Thelma and DiCicco exchanged some heated words, which made Thelma drink even more. By the early morning hours of Sunday, she had downed more than her share of alcohol. Luckily, she a driver to take her home.
As she prepared to leave, Roland West, who was at the apartment over the cafe, received a phone call from theater owner Sid Grauman saying that Thelma was a “bit under the influence” and was on her way home. Grauman suggested that West see her safely into bed. But sometime between the telephone call and Monday morning, Thelma Todd died in the garage of West’s house on Pasetano Road.
According to Forensics, when Thelma Todd was found, her hair was matted, a false tooth had been knocked out of her mouth and there were blood spatters on her skin and dress. Despite the evidence which pointed to Murder, her death was ruled a suicide. She lay in state in a casket filled with yellow roses and was then laid to rest at Bellvue Cenetery in her hometown. But even as her casket was lowered into the ground forever, the scandal surrounding her mysterious death continued.
Who wanted her dead, and why? She had opened an eatery with Ronald West called Thelma Todd's Roadside Rest Cafe which was located on Pacific Coast Highway just under the Palisades. It was a place frequented by stars and fans alike. On the last day of her life, the cafe was also visited by a notorious gangster, "Lucky" Luciano. He had been on the prowl for an establishment that could house a casino, and it looked like Thelma's place could be a perfect front. He made her an offer....and she refused. Was it that refusal which cost Thelma her life? No one will ever know.
Meanwhile, the owners of what was once a Roadside Cafe have experienced strange occurrences in their place of business: Cold spots, missing items, the feeling of being watched....and the sounds of footsteps coming up the long cliffside stairs, footsteps belonging to something....or someone unseen.
Some believe it to be Thelma's ghost. Is she replaying the last tragic hours of her life as does a tragic heroine in a Hollywood Melodrama...or is she hoping that her earthbound spirit will one day point the way to a clue regarding what really happened on the night of her death?