Thelma Todd’s death – maybe murder after all?




I wrote a month or two ago about the death of actress Thelma Todd in 1935. Based on police and coroner’s reports, I chose to believe she died by accident. Since then, however, I have delved into the case more closely and I am now ready to accept that a monumental cover-up may have taken place. My change of opinion centres on two vital issues: a) the official time of death, and b) the witnesses who claimed they saw (and spoke to) her throughout the Sunday, many hours after she was supposed to have been already deceased. That does not mean I believe she was definitely murdered. Far from it. But the possibility exists.

 Café Trocadero – Rockin' at the Troc | Hollywood's Garden of Allah ...

The Trocadero 1935

On Saturday, 14 December 1935, a party for Stanley Lupino at the Trocadero Restaurant on Sunset Strip had been organized by his 16 year-old daughter Ida. Thelma was invited, being a good friend of Stanley’s. Ida rang her to say she had also ran into Thelma’s ex-husband, Pat DiCicco, and invited him as well. At 8pm, Thelma and her mother, Alice, were driven to the Trocadero by their chauffeur Ernest Peters in a rented limousine. There he dropped off Thelma, then drove Alice home. He arrived back at the Trocadero at 9pm, and waited to drive Thelma home again after the party.

Thelma Todd and husband Pat DiCicco | Weddings | Pinterest

Thelma & husband Pat DiCicco

During the evening Pat DiCicco danced with his date, actress Margaret Lindsay, Her career highlights consisted mostly of supporting roles as the star’s best friend, a kind of female Ronald Reagan, in pictures such as the Bette Davis hits Jezebel and Dangerous. She was very pretty, but never married, living with her sister for much of her life, and dating ‘safe’ escorts such as Cesar Romero, Richard Deacon and Liberace, all of whom were gay. She was, in fact, a lesbian whose great love was minor actress Mary McCarty, so she was an odd date choice for a hoodlum like DiCicco. She was also a close friend of Thelma’s, which also makes her choice of date a strange one.

Summer Stars Festival 2013: MARGARET LINDSAY | A Season of Stars

Lovely Margaret Lindsay

During the evening Thelma and her ex got into a heated argument, witnessed by a lot of people. He was a violent man, one of the reasons why she had divorced him. One beating too many. It should be noted in passing that he was the same Pat DiCicco who allegedly joined with his cousin ‘Cubby’ Broccoli and Wallace Beery a few years later to beat comedian Ted Healey into unconsciousness (the man died next day) – in the car park of The Trocadero, no less. He was also a known associate of gangster Lucky Luciano who was currently squiring Thelma about town.

Thelma’s partner in the café (and occasional bed-mate) was Roland West. She knew he closed up the café at 2am, but she dallied at the party and it was much later when she finally had Peters drive her home. He said he dropped her at the foot of the 63 steps around 3.45am, then headed off. Everything after that becomes surmise. Did she walk up the steps, knock on West’s door, get no response, and then walk a further 1,000 feet to the garage that contained her car? Or did she take the alternate route (over 200 steps), for there were two ways to get to the garage and apartment? Friends later told of her being previously diagnosed with a heart ailment. Would she have made either of these two climbs knowing this? They say no.


According to the police and coroner’s reports, she appeared to have reached the garage in a drunken condition, shut the doors, climbed into her Phaeton, turned on the ignition and the heater, and then succumbed to carbon monoxide poisoning. Accidental death. But there are questions about this. Quite a few, in fact.

Thelma Todd ' s Sidewalk Cafe on Pinterest | Sidewalks, Pacific ...

Thelma’s garage today

Thelma was no dummy. She was a former top student and schoolteacher prior to winning the Bathing Beauty Contest that took her to Hollywood. Was she really silly enough to not know the dangers of carbon monoxide poisoning inside a closed garage? Did she really risk the long walk up the hill, knowing her heart issues? Was she so drunk that she ignored these things altogether? Her autopsy report gave her alcohol level as .13, barely over the legal driving limit. If that is true, then she was not drunk enough to fall asleep in the car, certainly not as drunk as both the police chief and the coroner declared.

It was a cold, windy night, so why would a sober Thelma not simply drive her car down the road and stay at her friend’s home, in preference to sleeping in her car with the engine running? When she was found the vehicle still contained two gallons of gas in the tank. Everybody said the engine of her Phaeton was particularly loud, yet Roland West’s brother-in-law, a man named Schafer, who lived in the apartment directly above the garage, said he did not hear a car start up that morning.

Spine Tingling Tuesdays : Thelma Todd | Ruby's Musings

Thelma’s maid, Mae Whithead, found her body at 9.30am on Monday morning (the 16th) and immediately drove to the café to tell Roland West. He went straight to the garage, then told Schafer to drive to the police and report her death. It was about 10am. When Chief Detective Bert Wallis and Chief Medical Examiner A. F. Wagner arrived at Thelma’s garage, they immediately ordered all other police, photographers and reporters out of the garage, closed the doors, and remained inside and alone for an hour. They then opened the doors, let everyone back inside, and made their statement to the press. Meanwhile, the scene was trampled underfoot while Thelma’s lifeless body was photographed.

Buron Rogers Fitts (1895 - 1973) - Find A Grave Memorial

District Attorney Buron Fitts

According to historian Randy Young, who interviewed several Castellammare residents from the time, the local service station operator appeared on the scene ahead of them. He said he saw Thelma dead in the passenger seat, ‘kind of leaning over’. He also said there was a lot of blood on her and she had been hit on the head. She was not, he claimed, jammed under the steering wheel. The question is, did the two chiefs ‘arrange’ things; clear up the blood and move her corpse to the steering wheel side, during the hour they had alone with her in the garage? Was there a Luciano connection (see below) after all, and were they afraid of crossing him by conducting a thorough investigation? The man had already sent DA Buron Fitts a very clear warning, so why not these two lesser lights?

The first thing Wallis and Wagner announced was their estimate regarding time of death. They stated it was around 2 am on Sunday morning, over 30 hours ago, yet it was clear to all present that rigor mortis had only just begun to set in, which would indicate death occurred about 2 or 3 am Monday morning, 5-6 hours ago, perhaps even later. Wagner was an experienced coroner. Did he simply get it wrong? Was he fitting a time of death to a Sunday am time of death scenario? Were the others mistaken, those who claimed rigor mortis was just setting in?

Thelma’s body was wedged under the steering wheel, as surviving photographs clearly indicate. Those same pictures show no sign of blood or other injuries, yet reporters on the scene claimed they saw bloodstains on the seat earlier, and that she had sustained what appeared to be a broken nose. She had broken ribs and bruises to her face and throat, they said. The autopsy report mentions only a spot of blood on her lip, conducive with her head striking the steering wheel as she lost consciousness. Was the report faked or were the reporters (and others) in the garage that morning mistaken or sensationalizing?

One of her front teeth had been chipped, or so it was said. Try as they could, not one person in the garage could find the broken piece, not in the car, her clothing, nor in the garage itself. Death, the two chiefs said, was the result of carbon monoxide poisoning – an accident. It was their opinion that she arrived home very drunk, fell asleep at the wheel, and succumbed to carbon monoxide poisoning whilst asleep.

When asked about the bruises to her face and throat, Wagner stated they were caused by post mortem lividity! Such an explanation is simply ludicrous. According to other people present earlier, Thelma had been badly beaten, and that death had not taken place 30 hours previously. The ‘passing out drunk’ story is doubtful, given her blood alcohol level, although she might still have fallen asleep as she ran the heater to warm up in preparation for a drive down to her friend’s house.

The autopsy also found ‘peas and carrots in her stomach’, eaten around 5-6 hours prior to her body being found. Had she indeed died at 2 am Sunday morning, directly after being dropped off at her home after the party, then how could the peas and carrots be accounted for? There were no peas or carrots on the menu that night. How could she have eaten them on Sunday when she was already supposed to be dead?

Thelma was once married to Pat DiCicco, a mobster friend of both Eddie Mannix and Charles ‘Lucky’ Luciano. Lately, she had been dating Luciano who had been moving in on the drug scene in LA. In the previous few months he had been responsible for the murder of several rival dealers. Perhaps, Thelma knew details she should not have known. Maybe, she needed to be silenced. That Luciano was involved in those killings is a matter of fact. He even sent District Attorney Buron Fitts a warning note: ‘Stay out of the way’. Fitts did just that. He also made little or no effort to look into Thelma’s death. If by some chance Luciano was involved, the DA wanted no part of it.

It has been suggested that Luciano was keen to use Thelma’s café for his gambling operations, and that her refusal cost her life, but that is just not logical. He was making millions out of the Mob-controlled movie unions and drugs sales in LA. Any gambling at Thelma’s would be chicken feed by comparison, and certainly not worth risking a murder rap. But, if Thelma was ever to be called as a federal witness during any investigation into the unions, then she might become a real danger to him. Even so, he could have easily had her killed if and when she was ever called. Why would he eliminate her on the off chance she might one day be called? Not his style.

As many as seven people swore they saw or spoke to Thelma on the Sunday. Not only was she recognised sitting in her brown roadster at the lights (by two people), or driving past (two more), but they all said she was in the company of a swarthy, Italian-looking man! Two other witnesses saw her (and the man as well) at various times during the day. Could the man have been Luciano? Martha Ford, a close friend of Thelma’s, swore she received a phone call from her at 4pm Sunday, cancelling a dinner date.

There is one serious problem with the ‘Thelma was alive on Sunday’ scenario, however. Her body was found clad in the same clothes she wore to the Trocadero party on Saturday night. Those who knew her, in particular her mother, believed there was no way she would not have changed her apparel before venturing out on Sunday morning or afternoon. It is a compelling argument. Conspiracy theorists might argue that she was killed on Sunday evening or Monday morning, and then dressed in her party clothes in order to fit the Sunday am death time, but that surely is clutching at one straw too many.

Luciano flew out of LA at 7.45 am Monday morning, even before Thelma’s body had been found. He never returned. Writer Raymond Chandler spent a year working in Los Angeles. ‘He wrote: ‘Law is where you buy it in this town’. Buron Fitts was one of the most corrupt District Attorneys in US history, in the pay of every Hollywood studio for two decades. He was also a survivor who knew when to look the other way, especially when it involved the Mob. It seems he may have been afraid that Thelma’s death might not have been an accident, but did he send out Wallis and Wagner with instructions to sell the ‘accidental death’ story to the press? He was capable of virtually any skulduggery, but does that mean Wagner and Wallis were as well? We will probably never know, but surely these two gentlemen are entitled to the benefit of the doubt. Fitts, incidentally, would lose his DA’s job in the mid-forties. In 1973, he would pull up a chair in his garage and fire a .38 slug into his temple.

As for poor Thelma, well, if you lie down with dogs you’ll wake up with fleas. She married a mobster (DiCicco), she had mobster friends (Eddie Mannix and Johnny Roselli), and (it seems) she slept with at least one other mobster (Luciano). She also did drugs, drank too much booze and slept around. In short, she was a bit of a tramp, a likeable one, but a tramp nonetheless. And she enjoyed the company of dangerous men. All in all, her life was a recipe for disaster, as she ultimately discovered.

Perhaps, she was just unlucky. Maybe, she really did turn on the heater to warm up, and then drifted off – forever. At least, in her will she managed to have one final crack at sleazy Mr. DiCicco, the man who enjoyed beating up his women. She bequeathed him the princely sum of one solitary dollar, a ploy often used by spouses to thwart any later challenging of the document. Not that it affected him overly much. In 1941, he would charm and wed 19 year-old Gloria Vanderbilt, aware that she was due to inherit four million dollars when she turned 21. He beat her as well. By the time she realized what she had married, he had gone through the whole four million and left her. Nice guy.


  1. Another thing that is fishy about the Thelma Todd fateful weekend was the situation surrounding her Lincoln Phaeton disposition in the garage. Late afternoon on Sunday, Thelma’s friends from the Trocadero party showed up at her restaurant for the dinner Thelma had wagered a bet on whether or not they would show up. Roland West sent an employee up to see if Thelma’s car was parked in the garage, and in fact it had been parked in a position where it had been driven in front first. Also. the employee stated he looked into the car and no one was inside it. Of course the next morning December 16th, Thelma was found dead in the car and surprisingly the car was backed into the garage. So who moved the car Sunday night from being in the position it was from Sunday afternoon?

    Todd Hoss

    • Intriguing, Todd. I doubt if we will ever know the whole story at this late stage, but there are so many anomalies and question marks surrounding the official explanation for her death. Thank you for that added information, Todd. Like you, I feel there was foul play.

  2. It may seem stupid but pat dicicco was involved in beating comedian ted healey into unconsiousness he died the following day though it was undetermined if the beating he recieved the previous day was responsible for his death but it cannot have been as if it had then pat dicicco would have been charged with manslaughter or murder…..i am wondering if there is a connection/link between this incident and what happened to thelma That also involved dicicco.It was established that thelma was alive or must have been alive when she entered the garage did she enter it after she had been attacked outside??????????????and fearing for her life ran into the garage and to her own vehicle in desperation to get away from her asaliant opened the car door and got in and started the engine to both scare off her attacker and try to alert others to her plight???????????????????her attacker(still outside the garage)could have then fled/left the scene with thelma obviously distressed upset and frightened and having sustained injuries to her throat,neck,nose and face considering her ordeal she could have easily turned on the car engine and then forgotten to turn off the car engine fallen asleep and sometime after succumbed to the fumes i.e carbon monoxide that was believed to have caused her death and then did roland west go to the garage discover the scene i.e thelma dead panic and with the car engine still running reach in and turn off the ignition key stopping all the functions of the vehicle before returning to were ever he come from????????????????????????????it would be highly understandable for an innocent person who did’nt want to be accused/condemned of a crime after they had discovered someone else dead in suspicious curcumstances not to raise the alarm.I am beginning to wonder if this was the reason why roland west gave the confession on his death bed as to knowing more about thelma’s death then he had let on i.e not because he was responsible for her death but because he had had the terrible misfortune to come across such a harrowing scene himself.if this is what happened then thelma todd’s death was an accident(even if the events leading up to it were not)i maybe wrong but i don’t believe that her dead body was placed in the vehicle for a number of strong reasons if this is’nt what happened and her assaliant turned on the ignition knowing that she was in it and still alive and then left the scene then its murder plain and simple……and her assiliant was off course none other than pat dicicco.

    • There are so many possible scenarios, Ashley, I seriously doubt if any indisputable solution will be ever reached given the lapse of time, but it is certainly an interesting consideration. Thankyou.

  3. She was placed in the car it’s obvious and here is why:

    She was found by her maid sitting in more of an upright position with her hands in her lap not as you see laying over on her left side. She even made a statement to that effect to police.

    To start a car of that era a person has to be seated in the drivers seat and operate the manual choke,operate the gas pedal and step on the starter “button” located on the floor. It isn’t like a modern car where one sits down and just turns a key to start the engine.

    Look at the position of her legs in the photo taken from the passenger side door. Her legs are to the left of the gear shift and parking brake lever meaning someone placed her in the car from the drivers side in the middle of the seat, moved her legs over, got in the car and did all the above mentioned things to start the engine.

    She was alive but unconscious.

    Then after putting her in the car and starting the engine they got out of the car walked out and closed the garage door.

    That’s my theory and I am sticking to it 🙂

    • Thankyou for that fascinating information, Jim. Clearly, you know the case far more than most and you may well be right. What a pity that all those involved are no longer living.

  4. of all the places she could have died she just happened to die in a garage i.e out of sight and hidden from view behind closed doors?????????any person/s who wanted her dead would not be stupid enough to do it out in the open where they could/would be seen even at night as they would risk being caught….doing it behind the closed doors of a garage however would provide the perfect/ideal location to committ the perfect crime.she died of carbon monoxide poisoning meaning her car was definatetly started to get the engine running in order for the exhaust fumes to release the carbon monoxide.if she had committed suicide or died accidently the car’s engine would have still been running and exhaust fumes would have been coming out when she was found but it was’nt…………. how can a car’s engine stop with alot of fuel still in the tank to keep it going?????????????????the engine was’nt running when thelma was found how can someone turn off a car engine if they are already dead????????????did somebody attach a pipe or hosepipe onto the exhaust pipe and put the other end through and into the back of the car where it could’nt be seen?????????????and then obviously take it off/remove it once they knew thelma was dead????????????remember the names pat dicicco and lucky luciano——- they where friends—–who knew each other——-both where dangerous/violent——-and both had relationships with thema todd——both had beaten or attacked her in the past over run in’s—– with all this in common it seems”highly likely” that they meet up and one suggested to the other that they dispose of miss todd and they drew up a careful plan in order to do so.either pat dicicco or lucky luciano could have done this did they also enlist the support of roland west?????????????either yes or no…… I would say lucky luciano did it or an associate of lucky luciano maybe even bugsy siegel it definatetly was not a suicide or an accident(even if it looked like one)thelma todd knew and had crossed paths with to many criminals and dangerous ones at that for her death to be just a suicide or an accident.

    • Thankyou for your interesting comments, Ashley. For what it is worth, I believe she was probably murdered too, although how or by whom we will probably never discover after all this time.

      • It is common nature to reflect on one’s own opinions and change your mind as time passes and more hearsay and errant statements are continually offered up and stirred into the pot Alan Royle, one begins to unconsciously doubt ones-self or try to float with the prevailing nonsense of the day. You might rethink your original conclusion, I believe you had the answer the first time. Interesting write-up, though, thanks!

        • Hello Alan,
          I am impressed with your write-up, you are a gracious and sincere cold case investigator. Today I found a blog written in 2012, I am surprised I have missed it over the years as the Thelma Todd case has interested me for a few decades, for the most part I have relied on local newspaper accounts in 1935-36 and input from my family who were long time residents of the Santa Monica area from 1905 onward. The blogger pretty much holds the same conclusions as I have and does so without condemning other avenues. You have probably already come across this but it is worth a read to those who sit on the fence about the circumstances of Thelma’s death. I guess the peas and carrots are the only thing that stymies me but who’s to say she didn’t make entry into her cafe apartment and had a snack, an argument and then a brisk pissed-off walk to her car. One more thing I would point out that is never mentioned is that the weather was very cold at the beach that evening and for several days before and thereafter. If a person wants to argue time of death and stages of rigor mortis, onset of rigor can begin up to 30 hours after death in very cold weather. Through most of the ‘lost’ hours in question, the temperature was 34 Fahrenheit or about 1.1 Celsius. Anyway, I enjoy your take on the matter, thank you for prompting me to think outside of the box as I am former police officer but not afraid to admit I am wrong. So here is some more food for thought. Thank you for putting up with me! Good work, cheers Mate!

    • It is my firm belief that this was an accidental death. Lots of hearsay has been written into the script not to mention the sensationalizing by the press for titillating copy. But I won’t expand on my reasoning’s at this time. I mean to address Ashley’s comment “… can a car’s engine stop with alot of fuel still in the tank to keep it going?????????????????the engine was’nt running when thelma was found how can someone turn off a car engine if they are already dead????????????” The answer is so simple it was overlooked time and again, even by learned investigators. Any person familiar with carburetors would tell you that oxygen is necessary to keep a car running, a carburetor mixes air with fuel to create the explosive vapor that moves the pistons. After the carbon monoxide saturated the air in the garage and left the area void of oxygen the car would stall itself in a short matter of time.

  5. My dad was Thelma’s second cousin, and she was close with Ruth Todd (Southwick) her first cousin who lived in Andover when I was young and remember them well as they were family friends until they passed away in the late 1970’s. Thelma would visit always visit her cousin Ruth when she was overwhelmed by her life in Hollywood and would come home to see her mother, always gifting them with jewelry and occasionally a hat or gloves from movie sets. I agree with Todd Hoss’s Pat Diciccio scenario, the missing ring. Plus Gloria Vanderbilt stated when asked by a reporter, she thought it was her ex-husband who Thelma was with that fateful early morning claiming that during an abusive argument near the end of their marriage, he threatened her, asking if she wanted to end up like Thelma. The coroner reported bruising on her face and body from what I recall, haven’t read it in quite awhile, she was murdered, it probably was Diciccio, whether he did it for Seagal or not, we’ll never know. Unfortunately I was young when I knew Ruth, and Thelma never was spoken to me by my mom until after she died and never mentioned by my dad. Ruth left them under the impression it was probably Pat Diciccio as well if it had been murder, which the police conveniently never admitted. I don’t want to say the right person was paid off, in either the police dept. or coroner’s office, but it wouldn’t have been the first time.

    • Thank you for your highly interesting insights, Judith. You may well be right, of course, but one wonders if, at this late time, we will ever hear the full story. There was so much graft being paid at that time, only the perpetrators knew what really happened and they are almost certainly long dead. Pity. Thanks again for your fascinating comment.

    • It is ridiculousness at its grandest to suggest Stan Laurel offed Thelma. We who were born and raised in Santa Monica knew Mr Laurel who was always so very kind to fans and loved his wife dearly. For many years he would sit on the balcony of his apartment at the Oceana Hotel and wave to passers-by. He personally answered every piece of fan mail until he took sick before his death. He left show biz forever when his dear friend Oliver Hardy passed away. Not exactly killer material.

  6. As for being severely beaten, the death photos show an entirely unblemished face–save for the bloody lip caused by her head hitting the steering wheel. If the coroner covered up evidence of a beating with make-up or mortician’s wax, he would have covered up all the evidence, including her bloody lip, not just some of it. But he didn’t, leaving one to reasonably conclude that no such beatings occurred.

    • It is documented that there was blood on the car seat, on her coat, on her lip, streaked on her face, on the running board, a broken tooth and broken nose. Here is where I offer personal knowledge on death by carbon monoxide poisoning. I was friends with a young man, Byron, who died in similar circumstances in 1972. He left a party late, was too far from home to walk so he went to his place of work, an automobile garage, let himself in, got into a client’s car, a Rolls Royce no less, turned on the car and heater and succumbed. The attending detective told us that there was blood all over inside the car, the doors, headliner, backseat all over him. Moments before you perish in such a manner it is common to thrash about if you awaken near your last moments, there is insurmountable disorientation and while struggling for a breath, an exit, you don’t know up from down. He ripped his fingernails off trying to escape and was bringing up blood from his mouth and nose because of hemorrhaging and I believe the same thing happened to Thelma despite all of the mash-up testimony, hearsay and tabloid pap.

  7. Pat Dicicco was the one who did it. When she died, a sardonic ring that he gave her before they were married and was inscribed “my lambie” in the inner ring, was taken off her finger. On September 24, 1981 a mystery man (thug friend of DiCicco) gave it to Patsy Kelly backstage after her performance in a play and said “this was Miss Todd’s”. Roland West died in 1952 and Lucky Luciano in 1963. I think DiCicco was trying to make amends because he was dying of cancer. He was the only one left. I think he pushed the Luciano theory so much to deflect the crime from himself and I guess it worked.

    • Thankyou for that most interesting note, Todd. You may very well be proven right, of course. I thought the police and the DA handled the case very poorly and corruption was an integral part of law enforcement in those days. You have certainly given me food for thought. Thanks again.

      • Alan,
        I meant to say that the “mystery man” met Patsy Kelly backstage, to give her Thelma Todd’s missing sardonic ring, while she was touring during 1979. I had misstated the date as being September 24, 1981 which is when Patsy Kelly died.

          • Dear Alan,
            I’ve followed this case pretty close and have read almost everything I could find on it. The sardonyx ring is a fact that has been seldom mentioned but looking very closely at the timing of its resurfacing during 1979 and Pat DiCicco’s death almost exactly coinciding with that event I think that says a lot! The ring meant everything to Thelma and even though she divorced Pat she had continued to wear it. And of course. It vanished the night she died back in 1935.


          • Do you know if anyone at Ida Lupino’s party that evening recalled seeing her wearing the ring, Todd? Obviously, if they saw it on her finger that evening and it was not found on her body that would be significant.

          • Alan,
            As to the sardonyx ring it was well known that Thelma wore the ring daily and also was noted in Andy Edmonds book as to the situation where it disappeared the night Thelma died. Furthermore, it is my understanding that when her estate was settled the ring was the only item missing from her inventory of jewelry.

          • Intriguing. Of course, there could be half a dozen explanations for it disappearing that night or next morning. Her boyfriend may have come down to the garage and stole it. Any one of the cops could have done so the next morning during that hour or so when they locked the media outside the garage. Her killer (or killers) may have taken it and later sold it. DiCicco may have purchased it later from a third party, I suppose. Maybe it was stolen or sold prior to the settlement of her estate. I am only spit-balling here, of course, and probably way off the mark.

        • All jewelry is removed at the time of postmortem examination. Since there was little chain of evidence or personal belongings back then it could have been given to or taken by nearly anyone. All DiCicco had to do to claim it was say it was a gift from himself to his former wife, no one would dispute that.

    • I think the bit about her sardonyx ring was in the Andie Edmonds book Hot Toddy, which is where I remember it, but Patsy wasn’t given the ring. Supposedly this guy showed it to her, but it was never explained as to the context.
      Pat DiCicco was no alter boy. He was very abusive, one of the many reasons his next wife Gloria Vanderbilt left him. I’m not 100% sure that he did it himself, but I wouldn’t be shocked at all if he played some sort of role in her death. He was at the Trocodero the night of Ida Lupino’s party. He came with Margaret Lindsey which Thelma was none to pleased about. So he definitely would’ve had a way of clocking when she left if he were to relay the message to the killer. I don’t know that he would’ve had enough time to do it himself though.
      This is one mystery that will ALWAYS have me voracious for new info !

  8. Well it is a mystery and now and then I get back to it..Wallace Beery was involved in the beathing of Ted Healy who founded (lack of better word) the Three Stooges but I still am looking at why Todd’s Mother at first said it was NOT SUICIDE but MURDER? who got to the mother???? Questions Questions……….

    • Unfortunately, Darline, the questions continue to outnumber the answers, and the passage of time, combined with the natural attrition of those connected with the case, all indicate that the truth will probably never emerge. Pity.

  9. Regarding her shoes, I’ve seen and read two different things:
    1. They were said to be completely UNSCUFFED and pristine (and so were her feet – didnt take remove the shoes to walk anywhere). The picture in question is a comparison of one of her clean soled shoes compared to one supposedly worn by an officer of similar build who.walked the stairs during the “investigation”…Which means after she was dropped off by her chauffeur she didn’t climb the steps to the top of the hill, and her shoes and/or her feet themselve were cleaned by the investigators during their hour inside the garage (if one were to go the clean up/cover up route), OR she was intercepted before she had much of a chance to go anywhere/intercepted after she DID walk up the stairs…Depending upon the events that followed her feet and/or shoes were either cleaned by Thelma, herself, or those who were in her company after any wrong doing.

    2. Again, her feet and shoes reported to be clean and UNSCUFFED paired with the picture in question – This time the pair as a whole are said to be Thelma’s. One shoe CLEARLY worn, scuffed, and soiled. The other, clean…As if cleaned at some point for some reason, never walked in again, leaving the other as it was. To me, its cleaned but clearly used as you can see scrape indentions in the sole from light scuffing..but still clean as if she didn’t use that leg at all. Either way, very stange. (Why only that one? Blood? Forgetfulness with so much going on after she was supposedly harmed? Did she step into dirt or something wet? If she did it, where was the dirty item she used to wipe it? Was that what is pictured next to her in the car?)

    I’m unsure of my personal beliefs regarding what actually happened as there’s so much info that can never be substantiated so I’m trying to view the situation as unbiased as possible…Nearly impossible lol!!! This whole case is difficult for so many reasons. So many paths that intersect – each affecting another resulting in an indecipherable and tangled mess, Many stood to benefit from her death – for a myriad of reasons, Corruption – by those trusted to uphold the law, Unscrupulous criminal activities – by the usual suspects, Affairs – jealousy, revenge, and damaged ego boil under the surface, Pure chance – simply being in the right or wrong place at the right or wrong time, Time itself – details and events forgotten, omitted entirely, or misinterpreted/eventual deaths of everyone involved/inability to clarify conflicting info and reports/the cremation of Thelma her alleged injuries now impossible to prove/impossible to verify deathbed confessions that further scramble the situation. Sooooo many forces at play which result in a colluded mess of possibilities. Every single innocuous move made by Themla herself, as well as those (directly or indirectly) close to the situation, during those last 2 days, has an infinite number of variables bouncing around and off of each other – every single combination affecting the trajectory and chain of events that ultimately lead to the same conclusion: The death of Thelma Todd.

    The following is all pure, rambling speculation – My thoughts free flowing and only slightly organized – Based upon the bits of info I have gathered here and there in a short time frame. That being said, bear with me…

    It is possible that she was intercepted before or after walking the steps to the garage and that she got into the vehicle willingly (if not, force was to be used…either way, she’s getting in??) – someone she knew and “trusted” – completely oblivious to their ulterior motives. Themla gets in, easily pliable, following the embarrassment and upset of viewing her Ex and his odd choice of dinner date (Lindsay – Who was an open lesbian in Hollywood and Thelma’s friend) at the same party…Not to mention the resulting squabble between the two in full view of those attending. Was her Ex’s companion that night a wild coincidence?? Or a possible strategic move?? This blow to her ego increasing the chance of guiding Thelma willingly in the direction needed – Into the car and arms of….??? (I suspect Lucky in this scenario, assuming any of this actually happened) The possibility being that her ex (Pat), an associate of Lucky (supposedly), also stood to benefit from her silence and/or death…and was willing to indirectly or directly play a part? (also possible Pat had absolutely nothing to do with the unknkown events that led to her death) Thelma’s silence could possibly allow Pat and Co. to escape the possible “domino effect” that could arise should “Lucky” be imprisoned and/or Thelma be called in to testify as she was too close to that circle of activity in multiple ways (maybe only a warning was to be beaten into her and her death unintentional?). If a group of associates were doing time, the rest who avoided prosecution were free to carry on operations as dictated by those behind bars – The leader, the gang itself, and the power or influence it has over a terriotry remains completely intact …Not at all uncommon. It’s possible that no legal movement, at the time, was even being made in Lucky’s direction but for how long?? Could be that Thelma was seen as a catalyst to a legal situation arising or was viewed as a current informant or possible future informant? Lucky’s train of thought being: She’s sick and tired of the pressure to involve her beloved Cafe in gangster affairs and she fears it to be an eventual outcome by force, so she spills her guts? Maybe her stubborn nature and refusal to bend to Lucky’s will (a man not used to being told “no”) regarding the cafe paints her as a possible loose end??

    Sure, the profits from gambling in the cafe would be small potatoes in comparison to other things he was involved in…but it only takes one person flapping their gums to the wrong company to bring everything to a screeching halt…and she would be the perfect person to do so. Paranoia is a hard thing to dismiss when you’ve been doing wrong and doing it for so long! Every criminal knows their days are numbered, so maybe it was determined she had to be silenced before such events began to unfold in the first place (Again, through a beaten and battered warning of silence – death unintentional OR flat out premeditated murder). Not too much of a stretch as both men were not above murder as means to an end. Possible, that the rest of that early morning was spent in the company of Lucky, as well as the rest of the day on Sunday…Busy taking care of buisness (We’ll be in the car running errands. Don’t have any time to take you back to your apartment until later. You look fine! No one will see you! She at least washes her feet??), maybe mentioning a fake get together later in the evening attaching a big name which keeps her in good spirits (The excited phone call supposedly placed – a light “meal” of peas and carrots to keep from bloating in anticipation of the event??), the trusted company she kept that day playing it cool and calm as those last hours passed, knowing what was to happen later – not arousing her suspicions of danger. Eventually the situation, little by little, as time passed becoming painfully clear.

    Seems entirely plausible to me…Wouldd explain why she was still in Saturday’s clothing. If she was with a person who intended to do harm they would certainly want her relaxed as they kept her in their company – Not frantic and pleading, attempting to escape or alerting someone..Also not wanting to be seen picking her up or looking for her later in case she could not be found. The ability to maintain the veil of deception and an unshakeable poker face being an important asset to one capable of orchestrating such events A gangster…A criminal. Could have been anyone but “Lucky” seems to be a fair candidate here. Especially so, since he flew out Monday before she was found, never to return (wonder if that ticket was purchased on the fly that same morning or in advance?). I doubt his whereabouts on Saturday/Sunday were ever questioned due to fear or a payoff. Totally possible nothing of the sort happened….Totally possible it did…Totally possible her death was a pure accident and caused only by misfortune…Maybe Roland did do it….Maybe she was placed in the car or was in the car all on her own, fell asleep, and the door was shut – her being alive but damanged, alive but just asleep, or already dead?? So many things could have transpired here…but for now…I think I’m inclined to believe foul play with a side of fear mongering and a dash of corruption to be involved. Occam’s razor does not apply to such situations.

    While I’m thinking about it…what was on the menu the night of the party?! I’ve not seen that mentioned anywhere…if she ate that night at the gathering it would certainly? be gone from her stomach if killed in the early hours of Monday morning…but it’s contents still there if killed early Sunday…Which leads me to believe she was alive on Sunday, ate peas and carrots at some point..maybe had a few drinks too, while being denied the chance to go home and change clothes under whatever guise, and met her fate Monday.

    • Thank you, Aricka, for that most comprehensive assessment of Thelma’s death. Clearly, you have investigated her demise thoroughly and are an expert on the subject. Equally clearly, finding a solution to the case after all these years is seemingly an impossible task. Like you, I lean towards foul play, but a detailed appraisal of what happened would require accepting data that is far from reliable at this late stage. I also think the menu at that party is a crucial piece of evidence but it has never come to light as far as I am aware. Thanks again for a wonderfully detailed assessment.

    • It’s nice to hear from someone with an open mind Aricka. If you are speaking of the photo showing the soles of Thelma’s shoes worn on that fateful night, actually I could only locate one such photo, the left shoe appears more worn and scuffed than the right shoe, in this case that is an illusion created by the flashbulb and the unequal plane of one shoe to the other. In all, the walking trek from the restaurant to the Posetano Rd. home is virtually 2-1/2 short city blocks, a distance that any inebriated, freezing cold, hopped up on meth, angry, and in trouble for coming home late kind of person with heart trouble could muster in about 5 minutes. If I want to be sensationalistic to the point of ridiculousness, my father had as good a chance at killing her as anyone suspected, he was 23 years old, 6’4″, was born, raised and lived 3-3/4 miles away from the death scene, was distantly acquainted with Stan Laurel and was movie star good looking. My thoughts are there was never a good enough reason for anyone to intentionally kill her. People talk tough and she may have crossed a few boundaries but she was actually very well liked no matter what we read. Nice to hear your take on this, thanks.

  10. I would love to know some specific details to back up the statements that she had a broken nose and was beaten. I’ve read that nowhere. Seems people make things up for the sake of an article. Typical.

    • Thelma Todd’s death has always been shrouded in mystery, mainly because of the conflicting reports and the notorious reputation of certain law enforcement officers (and the DA). Some reports say she had a broken nose, some don’t. I hope you are not implying that I make things up ‘for the sake of an article’. As for this being ‘typical’, I suggest you have no idea WHATSOEVER of what is ‘typical’ of me or my methods. Like most historians I sift whatever data I can find and attempt to reach an honest conclusion from the information available. Mine is a FREE site, so if you find my articles so annoying I suggest you visit some other FREE site and avail them of your opinions.

    • Thank you, Ray. I shall take a look at it. I must say that I am completely divided on what I think might have happened. Police corruption and that of the notorious DA make me question their assessments of the scene. And then there is her boyfriend’s deathbed confession…

  11. Her injuries are consistent with a beating. There is no overkill, but a definite working over. That would suggest a thuggish man, rather than a lover going in for overkill due to the relationship with the victim.

    The carbon monoxide poisoning caused her to clench her fists, so she was beaten unconscious, taken alive but out of it, left in the car with the engine running and shut into the garage. She was moved from passenger side to driver side before her colored maid found her.

    There is evidence all the men around her including her crooked bookkeeper and her some time lover the failed director Roland West were involved with the hollywood gangsters aka The Mickey Mouse Mafia. Killing women like Todd could easily be an enforcement issue arising from her continually challenging the skimming from her cafe books which had reached the level where she was going broke despite earning 2000 a week plus the cafe proceeds. This excessive skimming was a trademark of the Mickey Mouse Mafia who were short sighted and greedy. They still are.

    None of the people who lived with her and around her other than he mother and maid had any real love for her, they were parasites. As such they may well have been in on it to the extent that knowing the mafia thugs were going to take her out, and simply let it happen or did minor clean up for it as ordered.

    As for the DA and the police, then and now they are notoriously corrupt but never more so than 1930s to 1950s. Rampart Division probably sets the gold standard for evil cops but the Todd case drips with incompetence, corruption and evil as well.

    • Fascinating. Many thanks for that extra information. Clearly, you have researched her death extensively. I greatly appreciate you taking the time to comment and to cast even more suspicion on the circumstances of her death. Most illuminating.

  12. Great great post!
    Junie, it’s a complicated living arrangement that Thelma and Roland had. They lived in apartment above the cafe, separated by a sliding door. That’s the hat trick of how they were able to live together without “living together”, a mortal sin in Hollywood. The garage where Thelma was found belonged to Roland West’s estranged wife. As strange as it sounds, that’s where she parked her car. Her maid would walk all the way over there and bring the car down to the cafe for Thelma to use.
    Regarding the shoes, there’s a photo of the soles of her shoes and they’re pretty scuffed up. I think I have it saved on my phone.
    I took a bunch of pics up there about a year ago and it’s not until you’re actually physically there that the absurdity of it all sets in. The garage is around 1000ft from the stairs she would’ve taken from her apartment. That’s a lot of walking around just to retrieve a car to warm up.
    I’m really glad you posted this! Thelma has almost become an unknown. Posts like this fuel interest in a great comedienne and also brings the case to fresh eyes!

    • Thank you, Marisa. And thank you for that extra information you imparted. I envy you being able to visit the location. Fremantle, Western Australia (where I live) is a long way from everywhere.

  13. I think that Bugsy Siegel killed her.I have a copy,of a letter sent to the L.A.Chief of Police.They sent a copy to the Minneapolis Police, because the murder that happened in Minneapolis,the week before,was tied to a local gangster.The person,who sent it,said the hit,was paid for by Jack Devenport,who worked for Kid Cann.The man who wrote this,was in the Twin Cities,the week before Thelma died.His name was Busgy Siegel.

    • I sent you mt idea of who killed Thelma.I have the police records of the three murdered journalists,because one of the murderers,murdered my uncle in 1946.His name was Kid Cann.My uncle was hung.I went to the police records,to check on the 3 hits.That’s why I copies these records.All were unsolved.Two were from 1935.The police never knew why they received the letter,from the L.A. Police.I’m a researcher.I still have all these records.The one thing about the Todd murder,was how she managed to get up to the garage.If she took the stairs,her shoes should of had some wear.They looked like new.I have studied the case for many years.With my 1935 police records,that letter from the L.A. Police has always bothered me. Thanks,Bob Patrin

    • One thing that is undisputed is that there was a lot of corruption in high places during the movie industry’s so-called ‘Golden Days’, involving law enforcement and the D.A.’s office over a few decades, so anything could (and often was) covered up or swept under the carpet as big money changed hands. Hollywood still has many secrets.

  14. The death cert says she died in a garage at 17531 Posetano Rd which was the home of Roland West. Thelma passed out and was prolly locked in the garage by West. This address is a ways from the apt above the Cafe at 17575 PCH or Roosevely Hwy as it was known then. perhaps she went up the steps got in her car and drove to West’s home south of the Cafe.

    • My personal opinion is that she probably died accidentally, Junie. The only cause for doubting that scenario revolves around the level of corruption in the police force and district attorney’s office in those days. There was so much covering up, altering of evidence, adjustments of crime scenes and bribing of witnesses and officials, perpetrated by the studio heads every time a ‘situation’ arose, one wonders if tampering may have taken place. We will never know now.

    • I really don’t know what to believe about Todd’s death. If we believe the police who attended, it was an accident. Trouble is, the police there were known to be thoroughly corrupt (as was the DA Buron Fitts), so who knows if they interfered at the scene, especially since several writers claim they closed the garage to the press for around an hour while they rummaged about in there.

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