Death of Actress Thelma Todd - Murder or Suicide?

Dec 16, 2012 - by - 0 Comments

Todd

Thelma Todd

by Michael Thomas Barry

On December 15, 1935, comedic actress Thelma Todd is found dead. Todd was a popular actress of the late 1920s and early 1930s and was born in Lawrence, Massachusetts in 1905. Appearing in over 40 movies between 1926 and 1935, she is best remembered for her comedic roles in films such as Monkey Business and Horse Feathers.

In the 1930s, she opened a restaurant, Thelma Todd's Sidewalk Cafe, near Pacific Palisades and took up residence with her boyfriend director Roland West in a luxurious apartment above the restaurant. The café became a popular meeting and eating place for the famous and infamous. 

On the morning of December 15, 1935, Thelma Todd was found dead in her car inside the garage of the apartment above the cafe. The house was approximately a block from the topmost side of Todd's restaurant. Her death was determined to have been caused by carbon monoxide poisoning. It was well known that Todd had a wide circle of friends and associates as well as a busy social life; police investigations revealed that she had spent the last night of her life at the Trocadero, a popular Hollywood restaurant, at a party hosted by entertainer Stanley Lupino and his actress daughter, Ida. At the restaurant, she had had a brief but unpleasant exchange with her ex-husband, Pat DeCicco. However, her friends stated that she was in good spirits, and were aware of nothing unusual in her life that could suggest a reason for committing suicide. 

The detectives of the LAPD concluded at first that Todd's death was accidental, the result of her either warming up the car to drive it or using the heater to keep warm. Other evidence, however, pointed to foul play. The Grand Jury ruled her death as suicide. Since her body was cremated, a second, more thorough autopsy could not be carried out. It was believed that she was the target of extortion, but refused to pay. It is also possible that she was locked in the garage by her assailant after she started the car. Blood from a wound to her face was found on her dress, and this led some to believe that she was knocked unconscious and placed in the car to appear to appear a suicide. Todd's death certificate states her cause of death was accidental carbon monoxide poisoning but many questions remained unanswered. 

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