Executive's Killing Reveals Double Life
July 9, 2009 | 8:00 am
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Seco Street, Pasadena, in the vicinity of the killing, via Google maps' street view.
George T. Judd lived a model life as far as anyone could tell. He was a respected financial executive, and he and his wife, Margaret, were often listed in The Times' society columns. Judd belonged to the Kiwanis, was active in the Republican Party, supported the Pasadena Playhouse and attended All Saints Episcopal Church. He and his wife raised a son and a daughter in a home on Lagunita Road in an upscale Pasadena neighborhood.
When he was killed in 1948 at the age of 55, Judd was vice president of West Coast Bond and Mortgage Co. and living alone at 840 Seco Street, a new, 2,200-square-foot home near the Rose Bowl. His wife, Margaret, had died in 1945 and another life, one he had been leading all along in great secrecy, took over.
We don't know for sure that Judd was gay, although it would explain what happened to him. The Times never addressed the question directly, but left the strong implication that he was. One story said he "had no particular women friends" since his wife's death and quoted Pasadena homicide Detective Lt. Cecil H. Burlingame as saying: "We are not looking for a woman in the case."
What we do know is that Judd had a history of being beaten and robbed by men he picked up hitchhiking or in bars, and eventually one of them killed him.
The first incident reported in The Times occurred in San Francisco 20 years earlier. As he recovered at University of California Hospital, Judd told police he picked up a stranger who offered him a "headache tablet." The pill made him sick and the stranger beat him and took his car, which police recovered outside the city. In reporting the attack, The Times noted that Judd had gone to a Mill Valley ranch the previous summer after resigning from his job at a Pasadena bank due to health problems.
Nothing appeared in the paper for two decades, but homicide detectives learned that he had been beaten by two hitchhikers about 1936 during a trip to San Francisco.
The beatings and robberies became more frequent in the year before his death. On Aug. 30, 1947, Judd met two men in a bar and had them drive him home. He told police that one of the men, named Tex, threatened him with a knife and when he ran for help, the men stole his car, which police found wrecked. He also told police he suspected the men of burglarizing his house.
Although he never reported anything to authorities, friends told homicide investigators that in the six months before he was killed, Judd had been beaten and robbed several times, with his attackers usually taking his wristwatch.
Two days before his death, Judd contacted a neighbor who was a building contractor to see about getting a shower head replaced. He explained that he let three men spend the night at his house and one of them had broken the fixture.
His daughter found him Jan. 29, 1948. She came over in the morning, looked through a window, saw him in bed and assumed he was sleeping. She returned in the afternoon, went in and found him dead. She contacted one of her father's business associates, who called the police.
Although Judd was strangled and stabbed in the neck, and a bloody fork and a carving knife had been left in the kitchen sink, the daughter assumed Judd died of natural causes, "pulled a sheet over her father's body and 'tidied up a bit' while waiting for the doctor," The Times said.
Homicide investigators soon focused on the gritty bars around Hill and 3rd streets in downtown Los Angeles because Judd "often visited resorts below his social status," The Times said.
Judd's home was thoroughly checked for fingerprints that might have survived his daughter's cleaning and his friends were fingerprinted to eliminate their prints from the killer's.
In October 1948, police arrested a suspect at 6th and Hill streets: a 19-year-old drifter from Yakima, Wash., named Edgar Eugene Bentley. An off-duty detective recognized Bentley from a photo released by Pasadena police based on leads from the downtown bars Judd patronized. A crime scene investigator matched Bentley to fingerprints found on the refrigerator in Judd's home and on a bottle of soda water.
According to police, Bentley said: "I met Mr. Judd at the tavern and we went to his home at 840 Seco Drive, Pasadena. We had several drinks. Mr. Judd made a sudden lunge at my throat -- and from then on I can't remember.... I sort of blacked out."
Bentley also told police: "I must have done it -- there was nobody else there but me ..."
Under questioning, Bentley said he hitchhiked out of Los Angeles the next day. He pawned Judd's wristwatch in New Orleans, then sold the ticket for $5. Within a few days, police traced the watch to a shop whose owner "forgot" to report it.
On Jan. 14, 1949, Bentley pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and was sentenced to five years to life at San Quentin. In 1958, he and two companions escaped from a remote prison honor camp at High Rock in Humboldt County. The men held up a bar in Redding, Calif., took $250 and forced 11 people into a washroom. Bentley was captured during a police chase after the men ran a Highway Patrol roadblock in a stolen 1956 Mercury.
In 1969, Bentley escaped from the Miramonte Conservation Camp, a minimum security facility east of Fresno, and was captured several hours later. Washington death records list an Edgar E. Bentley who died July 11, 1995, at the age of 65.
Judd was survived by his children, mother, sister and half brother. He was cremated at Mountain View Mausoleum in Altadena after funeral services at All Saints.
Note: Thanks to Dick Morris for help in research with this post.