Harvey Glatman: A Weird Boy Turns Ruthless Serial Killer

Last week we covered the bombing of the Los Angeles Times office building. This week, we stay in the City of Angels to meet serial killer Harvey Glatman.

Harvey Glatman

Harvey Glatman was a weird kid. Born in the Bronx in 1927, young Harvey showed an interest in deviant sexuality even as a child. When he was a teenager, he began breaking into women’s apartments and stealing small items, including lingerie. This escalated to assault as he grew older. Finally, in 1945, he was arrested and convicted of first-degree robbery but only served one month in jail.

Undated booking photograph of Harvey Murray Glatman (AP Photo/The Longmont Times-Call courtesy of the Boulder County, Colo.  Sheriffís Office)
Undated booking photograph of Harvey Murray Glatman (AP Photo/The Longmont Times-Call courtesy of the Boulder County, Colo. Sheriffís Office)

The following year, Glatman kidnapped and sexually assaulted a woman in New York. For this he received a sentence of 5-10 years. Initially incarcerated in the Elmira Reformatory, he was later sent to Sing Sing prison. He was paroled in 1948.

Harvey Glatman, Serial Killer

Harvey Glatman moved to Los Angeles in 1957. There he began trolling modeling agencies. He would contact potential victims and offer them work posing for illustrations for pulp fiction magazines. If an unfortunate girl agreed, he took her back to his apartment, tied her up, and sexually assaulted her before killing her. He took pictures of the women throughout their ordeal.

Judith "Judy" Dull, Glatman's first L.A. victim
Judith “Judy” Dull, Glatman’s first L.A. victim

The two women Glatman is known to have snared with the model scam were Judith Dull and Ruth Mercado. “Judy” Dull went with Glatman (who used the alias “Johnny Glenn”) to do a photo shoot on August 1, 1957. Her roommates at the El Mirador in Los Angeles never saw her again. A side note: actress Jean Harlow lived at El Mirador when she died in June 1937.

El Mirador, at the corner of North Sweetzer and Fountain Avenues in West Hollywood
El Mirador, at the corner of North Sweetzer and Fountain Avenues in West Hollywood

For his second know victim, Glatman changed is M.O. Instead of using a modeling agency, he contacted Shirley Ann Bridgeford through a lonely-hearts ad in a newspaper. He murdered her on March 9, 1958.

Shirly Ann Bridgeford. Glatman located her through a newspaper ad.
Shirly Ann Bridgeford. Glatman located her through a newspaper ad.

Ruth Mercado became Glatman’s third know victim on July 24, 1958. This time using the name Frank Johnson, he found her through a modeling agency just as he had Judy Dull.

Ruth Mercado also went by the name of Angela Rojas
Ruth Mercado also went by the name of Angela Rojas

Harvey Glatman Captured

In October 1958, Glatman hired twenty-eight-year-old Lorraine Vigil from a modeling agency. Supposedly traveling to his studio, Lorraine became alarmed when he hit the Santa Ana Freeway and started driving at high speed. Then, he stopped the car and pulled a gun. A terrified Lorraine grabbed it.

Lorraine Vigil managed to escape from Harvey Glatman
Lorraine Vigil managed to escape from Harvey Glatman

As the pair struggled for the gun, they fell out of the car and the gun went off. Lorraine ended up with it. She later said if she’d known how to shoot it, she could have killed him. Instead, she held it on him until a patrolman who’d seen the struggle stopped and arrested Glatman.

Glatman quickly confessed to three murders. He later led police to a toolbox that contained photos he’d taken of his victims.

Epilogue

On December 17, 1958, Judge John A. Hewicker found Harvey Glatman guilty in the murders of Shirley Bridgeford and Ruth Mercado and sentenced him to death. Glatman died in California’s gas chamber at San Quentin Prison on September 18, 1959.

San Quentin's death row gas chamber before being dismantled on March 13, 2019 (Photo by California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation)
San Quentin’s death row gas chamber before being dismantled on March 13, 2019 (Photo by California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation)

Decades after Glatman’s execution, researchers identified a woman previously known as “Boulder Jane Doe” as an 18-year-old woman from Phoenix, Arizona named Dorothy Gay Howard. Hikers found her body in Boulder Canyon in the spring of 1954. Police had long suspected Glatman in the murder (he lived in Colorado as a youth), although he never confessed to that crime.

Dorothy Gay Howard and her soon-to-be-ex-husband David G. Powell. Police suspet Harvey Glatman killed Howard but he was not convicted of that crime.
Dorothy Gay Howard and her soon-to-be-ex-husband David G. Powell. Police suspect Harvey Glatman killed Howard but he was not convicted of that crime.

A book about Glatman and his murders, Rope: The Twisted Life and Crimes of Harvey Glatman by Michael Newton appeared in December 2014.

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