Harvey Murray Glatman (October 10, 1927 – September 18, 1959) was an American serial killer active during the late 1950’s.
Born in the Bronx and raised in Colorado, Glatman exhibited antisocial behavior and sadomasochistic sexual tendencies from an early age.
He was an amateur burglar and sex offender as a teenager, breaking into women’s apartments so he could tie them up, molest them and take pictures as souvenirs. He was caught in one such act in 1945 and charged with attempted burglary. Less than a month later, while still out on bail awaiting trial, he kidnapped another woman and molested her before letting her go. She went to the police, and Glatman went to prison for eight months.
Once out of prison, Glatman moved to Albany, New York, where he was eventually arrested in 1947 for a series of muggings. He was given a 5–10 year prison sentence in Sing Sing Correctional Facility, where prison psychiatrists diagnosed him as a psychopath. He was nevertheless a model prisoner and was granted an early release in 1956.
Glatman moved to Los Angeles, California in 1957 and started trolling around modelling agencies looking for women to satisfy his violent sexual urges. He would contact them with offers of work for pulp fiction magazines, take them back to his apartment, tie them up and rape them, taking pictures all the while. He would then strangle them and bury them in a nearby desert plot.
Glatman is also a suspect in the slaying of “Boulder Jane Doe”, a victim whose corpse was discovered by hikers near Boulder, Colorado in 1954. Her identity remained a mystery for 55 years. In October 2009, the Sheriff’s Office was notified by Dr. Terry Melton, of Mitotyping Technologies in State College, Pennsylvania, that her lab had made a match between “Jane Doe’s” DNA profile and that of a woman who thought the unidentified murder victim might be her long-lost sister. The positive identification of “Boulder Jane Doe” was an 18 year old woman from Phoenix, Arizona, named Dorothy Gay Howard.
Glatman was in Colorado at the time and was driving a 1951 Dodge Coronet. The body had damage that was consistent of being hit with the same car.
He was arrested in 1958, caught in the act of kidnapping what would have been his fourth known victim, and confessed to the other three murders. He was found guilty of first degree murder and executed in the gas chamber of San Quentin State Prison on September 18, 1959.
Harvey Glatman was a random/want-ad killer. As a child he enjoyed bondage, and would often hang himself in his attic and just before blacking out, he would have an orgasm. Doctor’s ensured Glatman’s parents that it was just a phase that he would grow out of.
In 1945, he tried to make a girl undress by threatening her with a cap gun. He was picked up by police, but immediately fled to New York after being released on bail. He was imprisoned for Robbery while there. When released in 1951, he was still recieving psychiatric treatment. He eventually settled in Los Angeles and opened a small TV repairshop. He was pretty much a recluse, avoiding social contact with the opposite sex for six years.
In late July 1957, Glatman made a house call to the home of nineteen year old Judy Dull, a model. He persuaded Judy to accept a modeling assignment, for fifty dollars. On August 1, Judy arrived at Glatman’s home ready to model for the cover of a magazine. At gunpoint, Glatman raped Dull several times, then drove 125 miles east to Indio, where he photographed the woman in her underwear. He later strangled her with a rope and buried her in a shallow grave.
Detectives finding remains of the victims
There was only one person who felt sorry for the man whom the newspapers were calling “The Lonely Hearts Killer”. That was his mother, Ophelia. At 69 years old, the aged lady ventured to California to visit her son. Allowed to see him on November 12, she soon emerged from his cell dabbing her cheeks, saddened but acceptant, for she had seen a tragedy coming for decades.
When surrounded by the press, she inadvertantly gave the papers probably the most accurate observation of Harvey Glatman to date: “He is not a vicious man – he is sick.” Journalists devoured that new adaptation and spat out the anecdote in full human interest drama, the sacrificing mother stage front.
That brought hope for attorney Willard Whittinghill, who had been charged to represent Harvey. His strategy became the only viable one open to him to save his client from the gas chamber” to present Harvey as insane. This would mean that the defendant would have to undergo psychiatric examination by the county psychiatrist C. E. Lengyel. Harvey’s attitude was careless – he wanted to die – but Whittinghill convinced him to endure the test. A mistake. What doubt there had been about the soundness of the culprit’s mind collapsed under Lengyel’s diagnosis.
In summary to the report that the doctor filed on Friday, December 12, it read:
“This individual shows no evidence of a psychosis. He knows right from wrong, the nature and quality of his acts, and he can keep from doing wrong if he so desires.”
In the meantime, Don Keller had been preparing for the upcoming San Diego grand jury hearing by accruing a host of witnesses to testify against Harvey in his alleged murders of the two victims slain in San Diego County, Ruth Mercado and Shirley Bridgeford. Lending the most credibility were those relatives of Miss Bridgeford who had gathered at her house the evening Harvey came to pick up his date. They had fingered him and they had testified how she had left that night with him, a healthy young girl and loving mother of two – never to be seen alive again.
The grand jury returned two counts of murder in the first degree.
“Harvey Glatman’s final day in court began bright and early on Monday, December 15, 1985, in Department 4 of Superior Court,” reports Rope author Michael Newton. “The proceeding was not a trial, per se. He had already filed a guilty plea…but California law requires a separate penalty phase in such cases before sentence is passed. The options, simply stated, were death or life imprisonment…”
Presiding was William T. Low, a stickler for the judicial word.
Witnesses for the prosecution were some repeats from the earlier grand jury hearing, but also many new ones, officials and laypersons alike, including Lorraine Vigil, the only survivor of Harvey’s designs. Lawmen spoke about their finding of the bones, remnants of the women left abandoned in the desert; they explained how they caught Harvey in the act of trying to drag Vigil into the car to make her victim number four, and they described the nature of the photographs found in Harvey’s toolbox.
As a climax, the prosecution then played Harvey Glatman’s taped confession, which in the silence of the courtroom sent chills through the assemblage. Several women crossed themselves and wept. Men stared into the void, but their mind’s eyes trying to form some of the hell that Harvey painted.
As the session ended, Judge Low asked defense counsel Whittinghill if he had anything to add. Whittinghill answered with a simple, nearly inaudible “No, Your Honor.”
Nodding, expecting that reply, the presider sat back in his chair. With the look of disbelief, he turned to the defendant. Said Lowe: “I sat here and listened to those recordings, the manner in which these women were killed…I never heard anything like it and I hope I never hear anything like it again. The torment, the suffering these women must have endured during the night and in the desert…it must have been horrible.”
He cleared his throat, fought back a lump that had formed there, and resumed.
“At this time I, having found the defendant guilty of first-degree murder, I will impose the death penalty on him. I think that is the only proper judgment that should be pronounced in this particular case…Mr. Glatman…may God have mercy on your soul.”
The condemned killer was transferred to Death Row at San Quentin Prison as Prisoner Number A-50239. The space he was given, in a cell apart from the rest of the inmate population, would be shared in later years by Charles Manson and Richard “The Night Stalker” Ramirez. Life there must have been unbearable for Harvey Murray Glatman: no outlet for his fantasies. No twine, not even his precious camera, snap snap [whirr].
But, he wouldn’t have to endure the suffocation of his new abode for very long. His execution was set early for September 18, 1959, at which time he was led into San Quentin’s infamous “green room” to inhale cyanide.
The procedure, which began at 10 a.m., took twelve minutes in all. Much less than the length of time it took for him to march his victims through their separate agonies. The chamber door was locked at 10:01; he was strapped in place by 10:02; the sodium cyanide pellets dropped a minute later and, within seconds, they dissolved to emanate forth fumes across and up his nostrils; doctors beyond the viewing glass rated his pulse at 200, but by 10:05 it had plunged to 60; he gasped at 10:06, drooled at 10:07, and his head dropped, bobbed, bobbed again, and twitched.
By 10:12 a.m., September 18, 1959, the lady killer expired.
It was a ghastly way to die.
A true punishment for Harvey Glatman who would have been much, much happier, maybe even ecstatic, had he been hung by rope.