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1959: Harvey Glatman, signature killer

September 18th, 2012 Headsman

On this date in 1959, serial sex killer Harvey Glatman was gassed in San Quentin.

The dweeby, jug-eared TV repairman manifested an early kinky streak when his parents discovered the rope burns he’d given himself practicing autoerotic asphyxiation.

In time, he would do it without that important prefix.

Paroled from Sing Sing for teenage molestation convictions, Glatman moved west — to Denver, and then to Los Angeles, spending several years in monklike isolation from the opposite sex.

“Then,” writes Carlton Smith in a book about the BTK killer, “one sweltering afternoon in July 1957, the dam broke.”*

Glatman began trolling the City of Angels’ famous seedy underbelly for young women to model for “detective magazines” shoots — an understood euphemism for snapping illicit bondage pics. This excellent cover not only enabled him to have his victims willingly put themselves at his mercy in private, it enabled him to take their pictures as trophies.

They were images of Glatman’s detailed methodology of murder, which showed a sequence of terror by re-creating the entire psychological arc of the crime. He first photographed each victim with a look of innocence on her face as if she were truly enjoying a modeling session. The next series represented a sadist’s view of a sexually terrorized victim with the impending horror of a slow and painful death etched across her face. The final frame depicted the victim’s position that Glatman himself had arranged after he strangled her.

-Robert Keppel, Signature Killers



Photos Glatman took of two of his victims, models Judy Ann Dull (top) and Ruth Mercado (bottom). Images via Murderpedia’s collection, at least one of which is very distinctly NSFW. Murderpedia also has, as per usual, a detailed writeup of the Glatman case.

Glatman killed two women this way and a third via a lonely-hearts club meeting,** while losing a few targets along the way who were put off by his aspect or wily enough to demand a male escort for the photography sessions.

He was only stopped in 1958 when a police officer chanced to encounter him while attempting the more daring enterprise of roadside kidnapping. The perp was only 30 years old at the time, a frightening mixture of predatory calculation and homicidal lust: if not for this fortuitous early detection, it’s not too hard to imagine 1957-58 Glatman standing at the outset of a serial rape-murder spree of Bundyesque dimensions.

Unlike that later conniving, spotlight-hogging monster, Glatman post-arrest retreated quickly back to reclusion. He made only a token effort to deny his crimes; as soon as detectives tricked him (by pretending they had it already) into coming clean about a hidden toolbox full of incriminating evidence, the confessions started gushing out of him — another dam burst. He was begging detectives for death well before trial and willingly pled guilty to speed his own steps to San Quentin’s gas chamber. It took less than a year, time Glatman mostly spent in self-imposed isolation from the society of the inmates and guards around him in prison.

“It’s better this way,” he once said near the end, of his imminent date with those noxious fumes. “I knew this is the way it would be.”

Glatman’s LAPD interrogator, legendary detective Pierce Brooks, would later serve as a consultant for the made-for-TV Dragnet 1966 movie. In that film, the serial kidnapper, bondage-photographer, and murderer of young models, “Don Negler”, is conned by police into revealing the location of his incriminating toolbox — just like Glatman was.

The full film is available on YouTube; the interrogation sequence begins about 1:23:56. It clinches with the nebbishy “Negler’s” pathetic self-explanation.

Negler: The reason I killed those girls is they asked me to. (pause) They did; all of ‘em.

Joe Friday: They asked you to.

Negler: Sure. They said they’d rather be dead than be with me.

* Glatman is also a suspect in a never-solved Colorado murder from 1954. So maybe that dam had a few leaks.

** The personal-ad gambit led the press to start nicknaming Glatman the “Lonely-Hearts Killer,” which appellation was of course already spoken for.

On this day..

Entry Filed under: 20th Century,California,Capital Punishment,Common Criminals,Crime,Death Penalty,Execution,Gassed,History,Murder,Rape,Serial Killers,Sex,USA,Volunteers

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5 thoughts on “1959: Harvey Glatman, signature killer”

  1. Raoul Duke says:

    The top photo is not Judith Dull.

    GEt your facts stright.

  2. Denise Gallegos says:

    Judy Dull is currently hunting a famous actor in Hollywood, he was in “Pretty Little liars” Jonathan Bennett.

  3. Richard Daugs says:

    I was a neighbor of Harvey’s in Denver, knew his mother and father, and was familiar with him when he became a neighborhood televison repairman

  4. I’m the author of “Someone’s Daughter: In Search of Justice for Jane Doe,” the book on “Boulder Jane Doe,” referred to above. For the Epilogue, i.e. final info on the identification of Jane Doe as Dorothy Gay Howard, please see http://www.silviapettem.com/JANE%20DOE%20articles/Epilogue.html I’m also considering writing more on Glatman and would love to hear from anyone who is interested. Thanks,

  5. Meaghan says:

    I followed the mystery of “Boulder Jane Doe” (the unsolved 1954 murder Glatman may have committed). A woman wrote a book about the case and her own efforts to get Boulder Jane Doe identified, and sent me a free copy. Two females who were featured on the Charley Project website were considered as possibilities. (One turned up in Australia, alive and well and in her eighties. The other, they found out, had left on her own, married, had kids and died of natural causes in the 2000s. I don’t think either of them would have been found were it not for the interest in them cause of the Boulder Jane Doe case.) Boulder Jane Doe was ultimately identified as Dorothy Gay Howard.

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