It was a cool, dewy morning that Monday out on “The Moors.” It was a lover's lane of sorts. A place where hills once stood overlooking Los Angeles, near Indianapolis Street and Grand View Avenue. Just as a young bulldozer operator was travelling near the site of a new housing project that morning, he stumbled upon the body of a woman.
The name of the victim was Mrs. Jeanne French. The details surrounding the events prior to her death remain a mystery to this day. Many claim to have tied her murder to the infamous Black Dahlia Murder of Elizabeth Short that took place just one month prior to Jeanne French’s death. As much as people like to speculate, there are NO TIES to Jeanne French’s murder and Elizabeth Short’s.
LET ME EXPLAIN-
When Jeanne French’s body was found, the media had made it there probably just as soon as the police did. Being that the local papers and reporters listened in on the same radio frequency as the police dispatch, the crime scene was not kept a secret for long. It was well known that the reporters took photos of the body and quickly tied this murder to the Dahlia case based on one thing, initials.
The body of Jeanne French was literally stomped on to death. She had been stomped in such a vicious manner that her ribs fractured and her liver among other internal organs had hemorrhaged so badly that she internally bled to death. She had also been knocked in the head with an object but that did not kill her. It was the stomping of her upper body that ultimately did poor Jeanne in.
On her naked and exposed body was written, “F--- YOU P.D.” and then “TEX” just below it. What many people think based on misguided information is that the body said “B.D.” as in BLACK DAHLIA, however the Coroner’s report even explained that the lipstick spelled out P.D. not B.D.
Let’s stop here and imagine we could go back in time, to the moments before she died. Let’s really think about this for a second. Here is Jeanne French, lying there probably dying a slow painful death. She was naked and exposed to the elements. Her murderer had stomped on her with his shoes, the same shoes that walked through the dirt, rocks and grassy areas to get her body there. Imagine now it is around 2-3 am and the morning dew was setting in all around. Imagine all the dirty foot prints left all over her body and then he decides to write on her body with her red lipstick.
It appears as if he wrote “P” (see mark 'A' on photo) and then attempted to write “D” (see mark 'B' on photo) but perhaps her skin was too slippery from the dirt, the morning dew and grass to accept the texture of the lipstick, so he moved over a space and now he finally completed the letter “D” (see mark 'C' on photo). That is why it looks like an extra loop in between the P and the D. If you look closely enough you will see that it really doesn’t look like a “B” at all, in fact the bottom part of the B would look significantly larger than the top. What do you think he is going to do, wipe it off and start writing all over? It’s not like he had a great margin for error…
Another conclusion is that the bottom part of the B is quite simply a muddy heel mark that curves perfectly and happened to have been on the right part of the skin that during the photograph taken appeared to show a B instead of a P. Nevertheless, the Coroner stated that the writing “in lipstick” was “F--- YOU P.D.” and “TEX.”
JEANNE FRENCH- THE WOMAN, THE WIFE, THE MOTHER
So who was this lady Jeanne French? She was a 45 year old woman who lived in Los Angeles. She had once been known as one of the first “flying nurses” during WWII, where she gained much recognition for her contributions to the country. She dabbled in acting, only nailing small roles in her younger years, using the stage name “Jeanne Axford Thomas.”
Jeanne had married young to a rich oil tycoon named David Yandell Wrather of Amarillo, Texas. In 1920, Jeanne gave birth to her first and only child, David Yandell Wrather Jr. By 1924, the marriage between French and Wrather had fell apart and records show that French gained full custody of the young boy who was only four years old at the time.
Between the years 1924-1938, while her son was a minor, it is unknown as to what she did for a living and how she supported her son. She was good friends with oil heiress Millicent Rogers, so it is logical to think she was in a socialite lifestyle during her young adult years. It is possible that she continued her small acting jobs or went to school to be a nurse, but I have not been able to locate any other information about this. I did find that by the time that WWII had broke out she was long gone serving her country all over the globe travelling with “The International Set.”
In 1945, French met serviceman Frank French, who was a veteran of two wars. They had only been married for two years before the marriage began to fall apart. French, probably being resentful for the fact her new husband couldn’t provide that lavish lifestyle she had been accustomed to, began drinking heavily to ease her pain. She became a mean drinker and would often take it out on her husband after she had a few drinks in her.
Frank French, on the other had was dealing with his own personal problems. Coming home from the war, the experiences he dealt with first hand at Pearl Harbor during the Japanese attack obviously had taken its toll on him mentally. In fact, he had agreed to a six month marital separation and that he would admit himself to a psychiatric ward of the V.A. Hospital just days before his wife was killed.
The day was February 9, 1947 and it was a Sunday evening. Just nine days prior French and her husband Frank had got into a bad argument where Frank ended up punching her in the face and giving her a black eye. French then had her husband arrested on domestic violence charges. Soon after that incident, Frank moved out to a small apartment in Santa Monica near his job while, French remained at their residence alone.
The night of Sunday, February 9th, Jeanne was seen visiting her estranged husband’s apartment at 1547 Stanford Avenue, Santa Monica around 11:45 pm. The couple argued outside the front porch for awhile before Jeanne was seen leaving without her husband. Her husband was questioned later where several articles in the paper say that he had been out drinking with her earlier in the evening, but then other statements say that he remained home for the evening and even had his landlady vouch for his alibi.
Jeanne then went out after visiting Frank and ended up at The Picadilly Drive-In at 3932 Sepulveda Avenue, in Los Angeles between 12:00 and 1:00 am. A carhop was stated later saying that he saw French eating with a mystery man, later leaving her car parked there. A janitor later claimed the car was still parked there well after 2 am. It is obvious to conclude that Jeanne then left in the car of her murderer, unknowingly of course.
WHO KILLED HER?
When you think of the classic whodunit tale you must first come up with a motive. In this instance, many would first think it had to be her husband, right? Wrong!!
Did he have a motive? Sure he did, but did he do it? I don’t think so.
From all the interviews it seems that Jeanne was more the violent type than Frank was. Yes, he “allegedly” beat her up nine days before she died, but do we know what Jeanne did leading up to it? Even Detective Gene Bechtel said after questioning Frank, that he could see Frank couldn’t have done it, “His story stands up.” There was no evidence pointing to him anyways.
The footprint of the killer was significantly smaller than Frank’s shoe size and he wasn’t getting anything out of her dying anyways. Yes, Jeanne’s death cancelled their court appointment that morning for the domestic violence charges he was being charged with along with an impending divorce. But one thing many do not mention was that Frank had already applied for admission to the psycho-neurotic ward of the V.A. Hospital to help him cope with all the issues he had experienced during the war just to show Jeanne was trying to get better. You see, he wanted to get better and see if it helped matters.
From the articles and interviews, Jeanne was not exactly the perfect person either. She was a drinker, and mean one, too. Her own son David Yandell Wrather Jr. made remarks to that effect when his step father was quoted saying, “She was mean when she had been drinking.”
MORE TO THE STORY-
Well, to go further into the story we then have to dig a little deeper. Remember Jeanne’s body also had the name “TEX” written on the left side of her waist in red lipstick?
Why doesn’t anyone ever bring this up? Simple, no one has ever figured it out.
TEX is obviously standing for Texas. Jeanne was from Texas originally, and her first husband was from Texas as well. After her marriage to David Yandell Wrather was over, she ended up a single mother with custody of their son, David Y. Wrather Jr.
So what became of her ex-husband? He remarried a lady named Lucille and records indicate that in 1932 they had a son, who they also named DAVID YANDELL WRATHER!
Back up a second, did you notice something?! Why on earth would a father name his second son, after the first son he had? That doesn’t make any sense to me. Does it make sense to you?
So he was married to Jeanne and had a son in 1920, who he named David Yandell Wrather. Then they divorce and Jeanne takes the boy. 1930, he remarries this time to a lady named Lucille and has a son in 1932 and names him David Yandell Wrather, too?! Too weird.
It almost seems as if this man was replacing the son that French took away. I did some records checking and I found the death information of David Wrather Sr. and his second wife. There are no records of their son on their graves or funeral notices, only the mention of a daughter they had, but no son. I find that quite strange, also. I am not saying this has anything to do with who killed Jeanne or that any of them did it, but I did have to state this because it just struck me as odd. Just an extra tidbit of trivia for you!
BACK TO THE STORY!
Could it have been possible that someone that Jeanne knew from Texas, even possibly a past relative or friend could have taken out revenge on her for something from the past? I think it is quite possible.
Her very own son David, when he was told the news that she had passed, was said to have collapsed from the emotional stress. He then told the police he wanted to speak to his step father alone without them listening, saying “He will tell me things that he won’t tell you.” Of course Captain Donahue declined his request.
As David Yandell Wrather Jr. came in to speak to his step-father he shouted, “Well, I have told them the truth.”
I don’t know about you but that sounds strange. Does that sound like something you are going to blurt out? Especially, the minute you walk into a room to speak to a person that is being held for questioning on the murder of your mom?
When Frank French replied “I swear to GOD I didn’t kill her,” then Wrather replied back, “You know I loved Mom very much.”
Now I don’t want to start blaming people and accusing them of anything, but I still find Wrather’s comments to be strange and out of place. (Again, I am not accusing anyone!)
Later on David Y. Wrather Jr. was interviewed for various newspapers saying, “She made friends easy, awful easy. She went out alone sometimes. She's gone now, and I'm sure she would want me to say the right thing. She made a lot of her own trouble. Her husband tolerated a lot from her. He was a tolerant man, a very tolerant man."
Was her son insinuating that his step-father did it? But then why didn’t the evidence point to Frank? Remember this, her own son said “She made a lot of her own trouble.” Could this mean he was insinuating that she often pissed people off? How many enemies then do you think Jeanne may have made?
Who then could have had such a resentment to Jeanne that he could have just lost it and murdered her? It was said that the murder of Jeanne French was a murder of hate. Whoever did this to her was very mad at her, to the point of insanity. I believe that whoever killed Jeanne had some connection to Texas and was mocking the police, as if they had some deep pockets and weren’t going to get caught.
I also find it interesting that there was a mystery man questioned later but all records remained sealed, so no one knows who it is. It was as if the whole thing was covered up due to deep pockets and people in high places. Smells like rich people with lots of money to me.
The murder of Jeanne French was an atrocity of mass proportions, there is no doubting that. The connection people claim it has to the Black Dahlia is a nonexistent one.
There have been people such as the likes of writer, Steve Hodel that claim his father Dr. Hodel was in fact the murderer of Jeanne French as well as all the other unsolved murders of women in Los Angeles during that time period. Despite the fact that the Modus Operandi in each murder is significantly different, except for the murder of Georgette Bauerdorf and Elizabeth Short, Steve Hodel still claims his father is the serial killer.
With ending, I have to say that Jeanne French’s murder was just a murder by someone who apparently knew her and had a strong hatred for her. Could it have been her son? No, I don't think so. But even if I did think so, I won't stoop to such lows as to accuse him of it.
I just found out that Jeanne French's son passed away this year, according to my research. I also find it in poor taste to accuse someone of murder (a) without evidence and (b) who doesn’t have the capability to defend himself. I do think that the killer of Jeanne French was someone who had been close to her at one point or another and more than likely had ties to Texas (given the TEX found on her body).
In the end, the answer to who killed Jeanne is inconsequential being that they are long dead by now and thus have to account for their sins with GOD on their own.
What I bring to this story is the truth. Jeanne French was a woman who had a story. She was a wife and a mother. She lived a short while in the social limelight and had her dreams crushed later as age took its toll on her. She became bitter and sad and went to alcohol for relief. Perhaps too many drinks that night led her to poor judgment and poor reflexes, which didn’t help her fight off her attacker.
Her body was then left to be humiliated out in the open, exposing her to the elements. The killer wanted to make a statement, he wanted to show her for who he thought she was…..obviously he hated her if he chose to stomp her to death. All the while her poor cold body lay there on the dirt and rocks and grass, slowly dying. Each breath growing shorter and shorter until no breath at all. Somehow her story became entangled with another high profile story that had a life of its own, leaving Jeanne's story to fade to black and be forgotten.
This story is to remember Jeanne French as an individual with a story of her own. Not to be a stapled attachment to the Black Dahlia Case, but to show that her murder was as significant as Elizabeth Short’s, just different. A woman was killed, a murder was committed and a mystery left unsolved.
J'aime Rubio 2011 (copyright)
The Pittsburgh Press- 2/11/1947
Tonawanda New York Paper- 2/11/1947
The Gazette- 2/12/1947
The Evening News- 2/11/1947
Reading Eagle- 2/11/1947