Intruder kills former actress, August 28, 1958
| She is one of those cold cases that leave all kinds of unanswered questions even when the killer is finally caught, convicted and sent to prison. Nothing about it passes the sniff test. |
We know her name was Helene Funk Jerome, born in New York on March 12, 1908, which makes her 50 at the time of the killing. She was living in a rear apartment at the Las Palmas Hotel, 1738 N. Las Palmas. That's the one used in "Pretty Woman."
She was supposedly a retired actress, but her credentials are rather vague. The Times said she was a graduate of either the Royal Dramatic Academy or the Royal Dramatic Society in London, so I'm guessing it was the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts, which has no record of her -- at least online.
Most of her career was spent on the stage in China, The Times said. She never made any movies and shouldn't be confused with Helene Jerome Eddy, who died in 1990.
About 1943, Helene married Edwin Jerome, an actor who had a long career on Broadway before coming to Hollywood, where he appeared in such roles as a butler in "Gigi" and a doctor in "The Three Faces of Eve." They were estranged, he said, but remained friendly. He lived about 2 miles away at 1710 N. Harvard.
It's unclear whether Edwin called the hotel or the hotel switchboard operator called him, but either way, he became concerned when the operator said Helene's phone had been off the hook for a long time. He told police he went to the apartment to investigate and found Helene's nude body. The screen had been torn from a window near the door and detectives inferred that someone had broken in. The autopsy found that she had been strangled.
Edwin told police that he had been there late Tuesday, the night before the killing, and had answered the phone because she was asleep. Edwin said the caller was a man, but didn't get his name.
A few days later, police arrested Edgar Glenn McAdoo, 25, because he closely resembled the police sketch of a man seen with Helene in a bar a few hours before she was killed. McAdoo, who was working as a carhop after arriving from Lubbock, Texas, two months earlier, admitted being in a bar with Helene and said he escorted her back to the apartment but went home to 6674 Yucca St.
Investigators searched Helene's apartment for fingerprints to see if any matched McAdoo and he was given an extensive polygraph exam. However, prosecutors refused to file charges against him. He was released, charged with outstanding traffic warrants and freed on bail.
Next, based on an informant's report, police arrested Miller F. Dowdy, 42, who operated an all-night newsstand at Las Palmas and Hollywood Boulevard. Although the informant said Dowdy had been with Helene on the evening before the killing, Dowdy said he was working all night, although he admitted going on a date with her about three weeks earlier.
Dowdy was released a few days later for lack of evidence and police arrested Jordan Holt, 32, who was captured on a hotel roof and admitted being with Helene on the night of the killing, The Times said. The paper never reported what became of Holt, although he was apparently released.
In September 1960, police found another suspect, Henry Adolph Busch, 29, who admitted strangling three Hollywood women, including his foster mother's sister. He was questioned about Helene's killing, but apparently nothing came of it.
Finally, in November 1962, a 26-year-old shipping clerk from La Puente, Michael John Donahue, walked into the Portland, Ore., police station and confessed to killing Helene. He said he left Los Angeles a week earlier to get away but decided to confess to clear his conscience. Donahue said he followed Helene and a young man (presumably McAdoo) home from a Hollywood bar, then broke in once the man left. They argued and he killed her, he said.
Donahue pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and in April 1963 was sentenced to five years to life in prison.
This is only chronology I can come up with for Helene's killing and it doesn't fit together terribly well: Edwin is at Helene's apartment. It's late and she's asleep. The phone rings and Edwin answers, then he leaves. For the rest of it to work, Helene would have to get up, go to the bar and meet McAdoo, come home with him, and then be killed by Donahue. And Holt is supposed to fit in there someplace.
This lady seems to have been hanging around with an awful lot of low-life men who were much younger; two of them were half her age. And then throw in the guy working at the all-night newsstand; not exactly prime date material. The Times doesn't say anything about what she did for a living. I wonder what was really going on.
Helene was buried at Forest Lawn Memorial-Park. In addition to Edwin, she was survived by sisters Josephine Laroza and Frieda Theis and brothers John and Bernard Funk.
Edwin died a little over a year after the killing, having moved to Altadena. He "reportedly never recovered from the shock of the unsolved murder of his wife," The Times said.
Public records are inconclusive on confessed killer Michael John Donahue. A man by that name died in Long Beach in 1999, but it's unclear if this is the same man.
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