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A Road Map to L.A. Murders: Book Points to Scene of Infamous Crimes

November 02, 1986|DAVID JOHNSTON | Times Staff Writer

Marvin J. Wolf and Katherine Mader hope a lot of people want to know where the Black Dahlia's body was found.

And where Hillside Stranglers Angelo Buono and Kenneth Bianchi lived and killed, where John Belushi struck out on a speedball, and where "the most dangerous man in America," Benjamin (Bugsy) Siegel, got a taste of the kind of services offered by his partners in Murder Inc.

The locations of these and 35 other of the most notorious crimes in the city's history are recounted in their book, "Fallen Angels: Chronicles of L.A. Crime and Mystery" (Facts on File Publications; $17.95).

To help pinpoint the sites, the authors have included Thomas Brothers map coordinates, directions from major intersections or freeway ramps and street numbers so the morbidly curious can see where each Angel (and quite a few devils) fell.

But their little ghouls' look at L.A. is more than a guidebook with directions to the scenes of murder most foul since 1847. Each chapter also recounts the history of the most bizarre and notorious crimes committed here since American law was first applied 139 years ago.

Fast-Talking Author

"I hope about 35,000 people want to know where Bugsy Siegel bought it because I didn't do all this work for the advance we got from the publisher," said Wolf, a fast-talking free-lance writer of unbounded optimism.

Mader, a deputy district attorney in Van Nuys, hopes to sell enough books to do a sequel because she spent hours sifting through old court records, news clips and lawyers' personal files and has another two dozen infamous crimes whose history and locations she wants to see in print.

Wolf, a founder and past president of the 400-member Independent Writers of Southern California, initially wanted to write a book on the Hillside Strangler case. He sought out Mader, who had formerly been a private attorney and, with Gerald Chaleff, had defended Angelo Buono.

Tired of criminal defense work and seeking more time to care for her family, Mader was looking for a new challenge. She said a book about crime intrigued her, recalling the time in junior high school when her teacher assigned students to interview someone in their neighborhood. Mader strolled down the street to a Brentwood ice cream parlor to question its owner, mobster Mickey Cohen, and, she recalled, they had a lively conversation.

Complement Each Other

Wolf and Mader hit it off well, too--so well that when they talk they often finish each other's sentences.

Mader told Wolf that people she met wanted to hear all about the jury's trips to Buono's house and other sites associated with the 10 murders.

"The Strangler Tour," Wolf called it.

" . . . We got to talking about how there must be lots of people interested in this . . .," Mader said.

"We started talking about the people who stand on street corners selling maps to the homes of the stars . . . ," Wolf interjected.

"But," Mader said, "we didn't want to sell maps. . . ."

"So then we thought," Wolf said, "we'd do a quick book for the Olympics, do 100 crimes with two or three paragraphs on each and a list of characters and a map.

"For the map we wanted to mark each location with a logo of a chalk drawing, the kind the police do around a body--with a halo over it" denoting the City of Angels.

"Kathy then would give me armloads of files--everything she could find on the case--and I'd take the files to bed with me and I'd get so engrossed I'd read until 2 in the morning and wake up with files all over me and I'd get up--no breakfast, unshaven--and start writing. And I realized she had gotten so much good stuff I couldn't do them in two or three paragraphs each."

Mader said that except for those retrieved from court records or private collections, the pair had no police files. And for some crimes that proved a major problem.

"The news clippings were pretty accurate," Wolf said, although competing papers sometimes gave different locations for crimes during the first day or two of coverage. But many news reports gave crimes without addresses.

One of these was the lurid 1947 Black Dahlia murder.

"The Black Dahlia's still an active police file," Wolf said. (Whoever cut Elizabeth Short in two pieces in January 1947 has never been arrested--one of nearly 5,000 unsolved murders in Los Angeles police files.)

"The location where the Black Dahlia's body was found was nowhere in the news accounts and we couldn't find it in the court records. I was about to give up, but then I went to a police person I know," Mader said.

Voice on Answering Machine

Then, she said, she came home one night, ready to give up on the Black Dahlia case, when "I turned my telephone answering machine on and I hear this (police person's) voice saying 'the location where the Black Dahlia's body was found is. . . .' "

"Now it's a housing tract near Fox Hills Mall," Wolf added.

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