Friday, July 08, 2005

Slain Woman's Stripped Body Found in Gutter

July 8, 1947
Lincoln Heights

It was 1:00 am when the divorce papers came, informing Antonio Mondragon, sheet metal worker of 1925 ½ Gates Street that his four-year marriage to Rosenda, 20, was ending. Of course, it was no surprise—she’d moved out of the house she shared with Antonio and her sister, Mrs. Trinidad Vigil, two months previously, and was living at 826 S. Crocker Street.

So the papers were served, and then about an hour later Rosenda herself appeared—drunk, said Antonio. They argued, and she left. Antonio followed, and saw his wife get into a car.

Or did she? William Moore, market clerk, says a woman matching Rosenda’s description called a cab from his store (location: N. Main and Mission Road) around 2:15am, telling the dispatcher she wanted a ride to San Pedro and 9th Street (a block from her home). But a car came by before the cab did, and the lady thumbed a ride with a husky blondish fellow in a dark coupe.

Flash forward a couple of hours to the early dawn, when mail clerk Newton Josha finds a gruesome package in a gutter on Elmyra Street near North Main: Rosenda Mondragon’s naked corpse, a silk stocking tightly tied around her throat. No signs of sexual attack. The likelihood that she had been killed elsewhere and pushed from a moving car.

Officers promptly gave Antonio a lie detector test, found his story at odds with his nosy neighbors, and booked him on suspicion of murder at University Division Jail.

Was it a husband scorned? The Black Dahlia’s killer, making a more northerly assault? Or an entirely new threat to the women of Los Angeles, striking near the city’s heart with a still-warm victim dumped by the train yards just up the road from the halls of commerce and of law? And how drunk did one have to be to thumb a ride, with Liz Short's killer still on the loose? Drunk enough so it didn't hurt to die?

We can only hope so.


notarysojack said...


Victim Strangled With Stocking;
Mate Quizzed About Quarrel

Here’s a perfect illustration of the difference between The Times and the Examiner, which has a completely different version of Antonio Mondragon’s actions on the night of the murder:

According to the Examiner, Mondragon told detectives he was awakened after midnight and served with divorce papers. He and his wife, Rosenda, who was drunk, argued until she left at 2:30 a.m.

Mondragon says he dressed and followed her with the intention of driving her to her room at 836 S. Crocker. Before he could reach her, a car stopped and she got in, he says.

But according to the Examiner (and contradicting The Times), Mondragon said he drove to Rosenda’s apartment and waited for her. According to Rosenda’s sister, Mondragon didn’t return until early morning.

In addition to reporting that she hadn’t been raped, the Examiner noted that she still had a religious medal around her neck, and was still wearing a gold ring. Taken together, these might diminish sex and robbery as motives, although I’m not sure her purse was found. No wonder the police arrested Mondragon and gave him a polygraph exam.

While both papers reported the discovery of her clothes, the Examiner again provided more details: They were found at Avenue 26 and Griffin, north of a midway point on Main between Lincoln Park (where she was picked up) and Elmyra (where the body was found).

It’s further interesting to note that Lincoln Park was the site of the Dec. 10, 1946, Red Hibiscus Murder of Naomi Tullis Cook, who was beaten to death with a 5-inch bolt. The four teenagers accused of killing her were released Feb. 18, 1947. It would be interesting to know what they were up to on the night in question.

Finally, let’s take a look at the victim. She was 21, according to her death records, born in New Mexico and had been married four years, which means she was 17 at the time of the wedding while Mondragon was 22. According to the California Death Index, Rosenda Josephine Mondragon (nee Martinez) didn’t have a Social Security number, so she apparently wasn’t working. Given the fact that she was married so young, I would suspect there were children, but none are listed in the California Birth Index.

So what exactly was Rosenda Mondragon up to at 1 a.m., dead drunk and roaming around Lincoln Park alone? It would be nice to have more details, like what became of her sister, husband and brother-in-law. But there’s not much more information easily available.

I think if there’s any pattern, it’s that drunk women wandering Los Angeles late at night were taking a huge risk, whether it was Laura Trelstad, Rosenda Mondragon (who were both on foot) or Geneva Ellroy. And you know what? They still are.

Kim said...

Michelle, our information comes from historic Los Angeles newspaper records, which you can consult on microfilm at most libraries. Good luck with your own research. -Kim, 1947project

Kim said...

I'm glad Larry was able to help you with information about your great-grandmother.

Vlad Tepes said...

Well, I've played a game heavily based on these murders called LA Noire. It is possible it could very well be the BD killer, did the LAPD sentence someone with the murder of Rosenda?

(If booking Antonio mean that they sentenced him?)

A husky blonde fellow...most likely everyone in these cases are dead (from old age or otherwise), but I can only keep on pondering and researching...

Kim said...

Rosenda Mondragon's murder remains unsolved.

Booking and sentencing are typically many months, or even years, apart in the legal system, and many people booked (arrested and entered into the police record system) are subsequently released without criminal charges.

You might enjoy our contributor Nathan Marsak's blog posts about being one of the first people to play L.A. Noire. The first post is here: