March 17, 2006, Times-Call, Serial Killer Suspected in 1954 Death, by Pierrette J. Shields

LONGMONT – Christened "The Lonely Hearts Killer" by newspapers in the late 1950s, long-dead serial murderer Harvey Glatman is now suspected of claiming the life of a woman whose identity and killer have remained a Boulder County mystery for nearly 52 years.

A local group's continued interest in solving the 1954 Jane Doe case has pointed to Glatman as a suspect, a theory that investigators have embraced.

"I am cautiously optimistic," Boulder County Detective Steve Ainsworth said of the likelihood that Glatman committed the crime.

In August 2005, a participant on a forum on the Web site BoulderJaneDoe.com [since replace by this website], run by local author and historian Silvia Pettem, offered Glatman as a possible suspect after learning of his Denver connections in a book on serial killers, Pettem said. From there, Pettem began researching Glatman's life and his criminal history. She unearthed a Boulder arrest and eventually collected hundreds of pages of original investigative material from cases in California.

Pettem was instrumental in reviving the Doe case by pushing the Boulder County Sheriff's Office to exhume and arrange for the facial reconstruction of Jane Doe, a girl of "about 20," according to her headstone, whose partially decomposed was found in April 1954 along a Boulder Creek embankment.

Pettem shared her research with Ainsworth, who said that research, along with his own, points to the possibility that Glatman murdered the young woman and abandoned her body in Boulder Canyon.

"Looking into him and doing some further investigation, it's looking more and more like he could be the killer," Ainsworth said.

If investigators determine that Glatman killed Doe, it would show that he was an active murderer two to three years before his confirmed killings began in 1957, altering his criminal legacy.

Glatman was executed in September 1959 in California after he was convicted of binding, raping, photographing and murdering three women in 1957 and 1958, according to the CourtTV Crime Library's biography of Glatman.

As a teenager in Denver, Glatman committed several home invasions, during which he tied up women and groped them. For those crimes, the 17-year-old was sent to a Colorado prison.

When Glatman was released after eight months, his mother took him to New York, where he was swiftly arrested again for assaulting women on the streets. At a reformatory, his psychological evaluation noted "sexually perverted impulses as the basis of his criminality," his biography notes.

After the reformatory, Glatman spent about three years in New York's Sing Sing prison and was released to his mother's care in Denver, where he remained until his 1956 move to Los Angeles, according to the Crime Library.

"Between '45 and '57 we really don't know really what he was doing, Ainsworth said. [Note: Glatman was in prison from 1946 to 1951.]

Colorado may have been his hunting grounds.

Ainsworth noted Glatman was arrested in Boulder in 1945 for taking a young woman into the mountains, molesting her and then releasing her.

"All it says on his rap sheet from the FBI (of the Boulder arrest) is 'girl trouble,' " Ainsworth said, adding that the Boulder County District Attorney's Office dismissed the related charges at the time to allow Glatman to pursue psychological treatment.

After moving to Los Angeles, Glatman began approaching model agencies to hire women to pose in bondage-themed photographs based on the popular pulp crime magazine covers at the time. He met two of his victims, Judith Ann Dull and Ruth Mercado through the agencies, the Crime Library reports, and another victim, Shirley Ann Bridgeford, through a Lonely Hearts club, which earned him his nickname. With all three women, he bound them with ropes, photographed them and killed them.

Police arrested Glatman while he was trying to abduct a fourth woman, who was trying to escape from his car when an officer happened along. He reportedly confessed to the three murders.

Ainsworth said investigators asked him about his activities in Colorado, and he said that women in Colorado should be alive unless they were hit by a car.

The detective said getting hit by a car is one likely scenario in Doe's death. She was found battered, with injuries to her left side.

Ainsworth said Doe's DNA profile has been forward to the FBI, which is expected to compare it to its missing person database for possible matches.

Ainsworth is also trying to get more information on the car that Glatman drove while he lived in Colorado.

Pettem said "America's Most Wanted" has a piece pending on the Doe case, which hasn't yet been scheduled to air.

Pierrette J. Shields can be reached at 303-684-5273, or by e-mail at pshields@times-call.com.