Friday, January 17, 2014

What Happened To Dorothy Waldrop?

If you have read my blogs about the murders of Vesta Belle Sapenter and Anna Corbin, then you know that the main suspect in both cases was Eugene Monroe. Monroe was a troubled young man, who seemed to have issues staying out of jail. He was described by those who had been around him, as a person with a terrible temper, "tortured eyes" and a scarred face. Out of the things he was arrested  and convicted of, I am afraid to think of the many other crimes, and possibly murders he may have committed that we don't know about.

The M.O. used in both Vesta Sapenter's murder and Anna Corbin's murder, was strangulation with a hemp cord. In Vesta Sapenter's case, she was also raped and her lower garments of clothing had been ripped off of her. With Anna Corbin, although she was not raped, her lower clothing had been messed with, which leads me to believe the murderer was going to attempt to rape her but didn't have time or was worried he would get caught so he stopped.

In Anna's case, she was bludgeoned very badly, something that might happen in a severe struggle or out of anger from the assailant. In both cases, I think the victims may have been attacked from behind. Sapenter was hanging curtains in her room when she was attacked, whereas Anna Corbin was arranging flowers in her office when she was attacked. Both were strangled with hemp cords, in the exact same way. One newspaper article even mentioned the fact the very knot used to strangle both victims was placed in the exact same spot, pulled tight behind the left ear.

Although the main suspect in both crimes was never convicted, there were more than enough people who believed he was responsible for both murders. Upon his release from Preston, which his original sentence there was for burglary charges, he went to Tulsa, Oklahoma into the care of his aunt. He was later arrested again in Tulsa, on indecent exposure and later robbery charges. While in jail, Monroe was caught passing a note to another inmate claiming he was the "hottest thing in town." He had also been bragging that he was a "sought after criminal" to another cellmate, when referring to a unsolved murder** he admitted to having committed.

**The murder he may have been bragging about could have been the death of a young pregnant wife, Dorothy Waldrop, but he also could have been bragging about the murder of Anna Corbin, the one he was acquitted for after three trials.

Who Was Dorothy Waldrop?

Dorothy Waldrop was a 22 year-old, former Dance Teacher at the Murray Dance Studio in St. Joseph, Oklahoma. She was also the pregnant wife of Robert Waldrop, a taxi cab driver in Tulsa, Oklahoma.  On the evening of Dorothy's murder, her husband said goodbye to her around 8:15 p.m. when he left for work. Upon arriving home at 1 a.m., Robert discovered the front door wide open and his wife missing. One of their neighbors was later questioned and she remembered hearing a scream around midnight, but it was quick and she didn't know what to think about it so she didn't bother to wake her husband and went back to bed.

Young boys discovered her body June 24th, 1951 on a grassy knoll just outside the apartment building where Dorothy lived with her husband. She had been strangled with a dirty handkerchief and raped post mortem. The partial lower section of the venetian blinds from the Waldrop's apartment was later found in a clump of weeds outside the apartments, near where Dorothy's body was found. According to the authorities, they found Eugene Monroe's fingerprints on the blinds.

Two boys came forward and stated that the night Dorothy was murdered, they saw a man driving a car with California plates around the apartment building and the same vicinity where they later found her body.  Although the police questioned many suspects, including a four-time convicted rapist who had been in the area, all evidence was pointing to Monroe.

When Police Chief Fred Graves finally brought charges on him, they grilled Monroe for 11 hours. Eugene eventually admitted that he did kill Dorothy, and later on he added that he had help from a friend Odell McDaniel; some newspapers say his name was Eugene McDaniel. When he went in for arraignment, Monroe's public defender entered a not guilty plea, despite the fact the police had a written and signed statement from Monroe confessing to the murder. Monroe was faced with yet another murder trial, this time the odds didn't look good.

When it came time for his preliminary hearing, the prosecution had 13 witnesses, which included two African-American witnesses (Edgar Rouseau, a newspaper editor; and Jim Cooley, the Police Department Janitor) who testified that Monroe bragged to them about killing Dorothy. The defense had no witnesses to call.

There was an interesting twist thrown into the mix, when Defense Attorney Amos T. Hall questioned the Police Chief on the stand about Harold Beddoe, M.D., who had seen Monroe during his interrogation. Attorney Hall insinuated that he believed Monroe had been hypnotized into confessing. The Police Chief stated he knew nothing of the sort, and that he wasn't in the room during the time the doctor was seeing Monroe. Later the doctor testified on the condition of Dorothy's body from the murder. According to people in the courtroom when the Dr. Beddoe mentioned how Dorothy was murdered, Monroe "bent his head, covered his face with his left hand, wept, shoulders shaking heavily," and refused to look at Robert Waldrop's face when he testified.

The murder trial against Eugene Monroe began on January 21, 1952.  By April of that same year he had been convicted of the murder of Dorothy Waldrop and  sentenced to life in prison, after County Attorney Lewis Bicking joined defense counsel requested to spare Monroe from the electric chair. District Judge Eben L. Taylor imposed the life sentence for Monroe, sparing the death penalty. He was also given a 35-year sentence for armed robbery of a Oklahoma City Theater in a separate trial and conviction.

By 1976, Monroe had sought parole but was denied by the board although they had recommended reducing his sentence on his previous armed robbery conviction.  By April 25, 1981 Monroe was paroled and he returned to Los Angeles for the remainder of his life. He remained on inactive parole for many years until the Department of Corrections in Oklahoma assigned someone to look for him, being that he had been "missing" from their system. The officer assigned to track Monroe realized his age, being that he was born in 1931 and checked the Social Security Death Index. Sure enough, Eugene Monroe had died on October 3, 2007.  (To read more about Eugene Monroe's life and criminal background, please check out "Was Eugene Monroe a Serial Killer?")

In ending, with Monroe dead and gone we may never know the exact details of the murders of Vesta Sapenter, Anna Corbin or Dorothy Waldrop. In all three cases, only in Dorothy's case was Monroe actually convicted, leaving us to never have full closure for the first two murders. We must never forget those four innocent victims, if  also counting the unborn child, and I often wonder in the back of my mind if they were really the only victims? Could there have been others? It is a very sad thought that there could be more stories like this that we will never have the answers to.

Rest in peace Vesta, Anna and Dorothy (and her baby too).---

Dorothy Helen Camerer Waldrop is buried at Oak Hill Cemetery in Bates County Missouri.  (Section B; Plot 44) -- 

Visit her Find-A-Grave Memorial  

Photo Credit: Cameron Herrell


(Copyright 1/17/2014- J'aime Rubio)
Republished on 3/28/2018  - 

Several archived newspapers and information sourced from book,
"Behind The Walls"- J'aime Rubio
Oklahoma Department of Corrections

Additional sources:
Hutchinson News (8/4/1951, 6/26/1951)
Ada News Weekly (8/2/1951)
Daily Mail (6/26/1951)
Fresno Bee (4/24/1952,1/9/1952)
Lawton Constitution (1/19/1976)

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Who Was Vesta Belle Sapenter?

Vesta Sapenter
Not too many people know the story of Vesta Sapenter, but sadly her story is not a good one. On July 18, 1947, her body was discovered in her bedroom. She had been strangled with a hemp cord and raped.  In my book, "Behind The Walls" I discuss the murder of Vesta Sapenter, along with two other murders of a similar nature allegedly committed by the same person of interest, Eugene Monroe.

To start off, Vesta was a 17 year-old, African-American honor student at Jefferson High School in South Central Los Angeles. On the afternoon of July 18, 1947, her 14 year-old brother Carlisle came home from playing with friends at the park only to find the body of his sister in her room upstairs. According to Carlisle, he had arrived home at 5320 Holmes Avenue, to find Eugene Monroe. At the time Monroe was was using his step-father's last name, Jefferson. Monroe seemed to be delivering furniture to the house, and asked Carlisle if he could use the restroom. Carlisle agreed, and Monroe headed upstairs.  When he came back he had asked if he knew where his sister was, and he replied, "she's upstairs."

After not seeing Vesta for awhile, Carlisle became suspicious and decided to go upstairs to check on her.  Monroe followed Carlisle upstairs to "check" on Vesta, when he realized the door to his sister's room was locked. Carlisle broke down the door, only to find the lifeless, half-dressed body of his sister. She had been hanging curtains in her room when the murderer came in and attacked her, more than likely from behind.

Immediately, Eugene was taken in for questioning but the police couldn't hold him.  One of Vesta's friends, 16 year-old Benjamin Allen was also questioned and released. He was the only other person to see Vesta on the day she died, when he walked her home.

The detective on the case, R.R. Coppage claimed that he was certain that Eugene (Jefferson) Monroe was their guy, but because of no witnesses and lack of evidence they had to release him.

"I am certain this boy did the job, but we were just never able to prove it. He was the only one in the house at the time and had ample time to commit the act."-- Detective R.R. Coppage's statement.

The Los Angeles newspaper headlines at the time barely even mentioned this heinous crime, giving Vesta's story only two paragraphs in the paper. During a time when many murders in Los Angeles to young women was rampant and making daily headlines, especially since the Black Dahlia case, which had only occurred six months prior to this. Sadly there was no more mention of it.  Vesta Belle Sapenter, died on July 18, 1947, and the main suspect of her murder got away with it. But this would not be the first nor the last time that Eugene Monroe would make headlines for being a suspect in a similar murder.

In fact, in 1950 he was arrested and tried three times for the murder of Anna Corbin, the head housekeeper at the Preston School of Industry, after being sent there on separate criminal convictions. After three trials, the first two ending in a hung jury and the last an acquittal, Monroe was again a free man. For someone to be a suspect in two very similar cases, it seemed that he was getting away with murder, but it wouldn't last for long though.

UPDATE: On September 25, 2017, I had the pleasure of speaking to Vesta Sapenter's sister. She is a very kind and gracious lady, who helped me confirm all my suspicions about Eugene Monroe.  Our conversation was very emotionally moving for me, hearing her recollection of the time period when her sister passed away, and what she remembered about Monroe. Although it was deeply saddening to hear first hand how devastating this loss was to her family, at the same time I feel maybe we both found a sense of closure on this subject.

For one, I was able to share with her that Monroe died in 2007, thus he can no longer harm another human being on this earth, which I think was a bit reassuring. On my end, Vesta's sister confirmed that her family still believes that Monroe killed Vesta. Her own father sensed that something was not right with Monroe and he told her brother not to associate with him or his friends, and not to let him in the house (which unfortunately he disobeyed.)  

Many times parents can sense things even when no one else does, which is all the more heartbreaking in this case.  Eugene Monroe not only took the lives of four individuals (Vesta, Anna, Dorothy and her unborn child) but he also devastated three families and countless friends. He took so much, and I often wonder, what else may he have got away with? 

To Read More About Eugene Monroe: "Was Eugene Monroe a Serial Killer?"

For more details of this story and Anna Corbin's story please check out my book, "Behind The Walls" 

(Copyright, 1/16/2014- J'aime Rubio) Republished 3/28/2018

J'aime Rubio -

Archived Newspapers
Photo of Vesta from Pittsburgh Courier (8/2/1947)
"Behind The Walls"-by J'aime Rubio
And a big thank you to Larry Harnisch of the 1947project
for the additional information you provided me about Vesta!