The Badge

True and Terrifying Crime Stories That Could Not Be Presented on TV, from the Creator and Star of Dragnet


By Jack Webb

Introduction by James Ellroy

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“This is the city, Los Angeles, California. I work here, I carry a badge. The story you are about to see is true…”

Before Charlie’s Angels, Miami Vice, or NYPD Blue, there was Dragnet. From 1951 to 1959, Jack Webb starred as Sergeant Joe Friday in the most successful police drama in television history. Webb (“Just the facts, ma’am”) was also the creator of Dragnet, and what made the show so revolutionary was its documentary-style format and the fact that each episode was “ripped” from the files of the LAPD.

But 1950s television censors deemed many of the stories in the LAPD’s files too violent or sensational for the airwaves. The Badge is Webb’s collection of stories that could not be presented on TV: untold, behind-the-scenes accounts of the Black Dahlia murder, the Brenda Allen confessions, Stephen Nash’s “thrill murders,” and Donald Bashor’s “sleeping lady murders,” to name just a few. Case by case, The Badge takes readers on a spine chilling police tour through the dark, shadowy world of Los Angeles crime.

“Some books influence a writer. Books rarely shape a writer’s curiosity whole. I’m anomalous that way. I got lucky at the get-go. It was one-stop imaginative shopping. I found all my stuff in one book.” — James Ellroy on The Badge






Foreword 5

The Question 6

II 17

III 18

IV 25

The Policeman 27

II 29

III 32

IV 35

V 40

VI 41

VII 44

The Sergeant 48

I 48

II 52

III 54

IV 59

V 62

The Lieutenant 69

II 79

III 82

The Captain 87

II 92

III 97

IV 101

The Inspector 107

II 114

III 118

The Deputy Chief 124

II 125

III 130

IV 135

V 140

The Chief 143

II 155

The Commission 162

The Answer 176

Appendices 177





Illustrations 186






By now, it’s no secret.

I have been involved in a documentary radio and television detective series for some eleven years now. A feature-length motion picture was made. It played throughout the world. The television episodes...nearly 300...have been translated into German, French, Spanish, Japanese. The half-hour films are currently being run off in England, Canada, Australia, Latin America, Africa. And youngsters in Dallas race Joe Friday’s car and carry a replica of his badge.

And now a book.

When we were first devising the radio show, from which the television program was derived, I shook hands with research for the first time. Many long hours were spent in squadrooms, squad cars, drinking the one a.m. cup of coffee with working detectives. I learned my first police rule: the solution of a crime is the work of many hands and many minds.

And so this book. It, too, represents the work of many. When you ask a huge, metropolitan police department to unbutton its vest, lean back, and sit there while you pore over its personal do you say thanks?

You don’t try.

Instead, you set it all down...the victories...the defeats...the torments...the intimacies.

And you fervently hope that the end result brings a grin or a tear...not a blush.



North Hollywood, California


The Question

The way it is with so many women who live alone, life had held back on Karil Graham. She was likable and attractive, still a year on the sunny side of forty, sandy-haired, blue-eyed, trim-figured. But there was no husband—a marriage hadn’t worked out—no children, no other man in her lonely life.

Karil bravely hid the hurt and filled the emptiness as best she could. Every day she went to work, on time, to her job as receptionist at a downtown Los Angeles art school. Nights, in her quiet apartment, she listened to music and dabbled in painting. She was just a dilettante, she knew resignedly, but records and easel were gracious cover-ups for emptiness.

Sometimes Karil counseled students who attended the art school. Often they were male students, and she took them to her heart in a mothering, protective way. She saw for them something more meaningful and zestful in life, the something that had somehow passed her by.

That year spring came very early, even for Los Angeles; in the third week of February, there was already a sparkle in the air, a premature stirring in all the backyard gardens around town. For women like Karil living alone, it was a bitter-sweet time. She decided to kill the loneliness, at least for a night, by inviting some of the art students to dinner at her new apartment in Westlake.

About ten minutes from downtown Los Angeles, awkwardly straddling a man-made lake, Westlake is the kind of neighborhood that attracts the Karils of the West Coast. Not proud, not shabby, once fashionable, now a little shiny at the elbows, the district includes older homes inhabited by retired couples, apartments, rooming houses.

The younger people who live there, mostly single or divorced, share the camaraderie of transience; and casual neighborliness abounds. They are gregarious, they like to party, and as a rule they are harmless. There isn’t a soul in the house they don’t trust. They live out of each other’s coffee pots and share each other’s lives. Sometimes, when they get home to their one room, they are high and careless, and the door is left unlocked.

Karil’s apartment-warming went off beautifully. The dinner was good, the conversation about art stimulating, the night warm. About 10 p.m., Karil and a guest put on swim suits and went for a plunge in the big, new pool located in the patio. They splashed about noisily, and in fifteen minutes Eleanor Lipson, who managed the apartments with her husband, rather sharply reminded the new tenant that swimming wasn’t allowed after 9 p.m.

Karil and her friend went back to the apartment and changed, and the party went on till about 12:30 a.m.

When her guests had left, Karil washed the dishes and tidied up her little place. She made up the studio couch for sleeping, and, though she usually didn’t work Saturdays, set the alarm for 7 a.m. This Saturday, she had to be up early to help register a new class of students at the art school.

Then she slipped into a pink nightgown and went to her door and made sure that it was shut tight. The latch was broken, and she couldn’t lock it. It really didn’t matter much because the locksmith was coming up in a day or two to fix it.


Four hours later, most of Westlake was sleeping. The street lights were still on, and even the birds in MacArthur Park hadn’t yet sensed the dawn. Occasionally, an auto streaked along Wilshire Boulevard, and the morning papers were being dropped at the street corners for the newsboys.

But one resident of Westlake, a blond young man with the body of a Greek discus thrower, was abroad. By day, he led the prosaic life of an eight-to-five laborer who mixed paint. Nights, he felt, he really lived; dangerously, excitingly, romantically, you might say. He was a burglar who preyed on women, the younger and the lonelier the better.

Once there had been trouble, bad trouble; and he knew it must not happen again. So he memorized the patchy streets of Westlake, the turnings of the halls in rooming houses and apartment buildings. He watched at the bars and eavesdropped along the lovers’ paths in MacArthur Park, marking the women who were high or indiscreet. They often forgot to lock their doors, often were too sodden to hear him when he came calling.

In one hand, he carried a flashlight, and in the other, a lead pipe. If the unexpected developed, he would rely first on his personal appeal to discourage an outcry. But he knew he wasn’t irresistible, and so he carried the pipe, too. What had happened before, the bad trouble, mustn’t happen again.

So far, he hadn’t needed to use the lead pipe.

As Karil slept out the last hour of her life, the burglar slipped silently into the backyard of one of the large, old houses not far away. From casing the neighborhood, he knew the back door should open. Confidently, he turned the knob. The door opened.

Inside, he moved quietly to the apartment where three pretty nurses were sleeping off the fun and excitement of an earlier party. He found three purses containing $90. The nurses never stirred. He didn’t have to swing the pipe. Outside, he dropped the emptied purses on the porch and drifted up the street to the new apartment building.

First, he checked the mailboxes, looking for the “Miss” or “Mrs.” that would identify the spinster, widow, or divorcée, the lonely woman he could charm or threaten if he had to. On the first floor, he tried two or three doors. All were locked. He tiptoed up to the second floor.

At his touch, the first door swung back. It was Karil’s apartment.

Warily, he probed the darkness with his flashlight, then slipped in. Suddenly, the light picked out a woman’s body on the couch. He could see that she was pretty, and he held the beam on her longer than was necessary. Pretty women made him feel warm and gentle.

Maybe it was the light or his heavy breathing. Karil stirred, and there was a click as he snapped off the flashlight. Then she awoke. For a moment, she listened. The room seemed black and empty. Then she must have heard the breathing. She gasped.

Who’s there?

He froze, hand tightening around the pipe. Karil met the frightening silence boldly, too boldly. She snapped on the lamp beside her couch. Her drowsy blue eyes blinked, then widened, and her hand flew to her mouth. As she started to move, he moved faster.

Once before, five years ago, another woman in another apartment had called out, “Who’s there!” Then she had screamed, and he had run too late. Other tenants in the building had caught him, and he had lost four good, young years of life in San Quentin and Chino, first for burglary and later for escape.

Now he was on parole, and he wouldn’t, couldn’t go back! As he moved, he swung the iron bar. Not hard, just enough to scare her into silence. But she screamed, and at the sound, loud and eerie, panic seized him.

He swung again, harder. He brought the iron pipe down once more, and then again. At last, she was still and quiet.

He switched off the lamp, and stood trembling in the restful darkness for a few seconds. Then he walked out to the balcony and listened.

One flight above, though he didn’t know it, a woman also was listening. Something had wakened her, but now all was quiet. She glanced at her clock, quarter past five, and went back to sleep.

The burglar returned to Karil’s apartment. His flashlight picked up the bloodied form on the couch, and he didn’t like to think that maybe it was watching him. He walked closer and wrapped Karil’s nightgown around the crushed head, and the pink color deepened into a dirty maroon.

As he did so, her blood saturated the tip of his jacket.

Now his nerve came back, and methodically he ransacked the small apartment. From Karil’s large straw purse lying on a chair, he extracted $25. Not much. There had to be more around someplace. He shoved the bills into his pocket and threw the purse on the floor. He poked through the bureau and the closet and even pried apart the pictures on the wall.

There had to be more! But there wasn’t. He had killed for two sawbucks and a fin, and it hardly seemed worth it. He walked out, leaving a brief, blood-smudged trail from his soiled shoes and jacket.


At the art school that morning, they were tolerantly good-natured about it when Karil failed to show. Nobody called the apartment house. And there, Eleanor Lipson, the manager, prided herself on being the kind of apartment keeper who minds her own business and lets the tenants mind theirs.

During the afternoon, she brought a prospective tenant to the second floor to show an apartment. Passing Karil’s room, she noticed the door was ajar; and, through the thin opening, she caught a glimpse of Karil’s bare legs, warmly pink and glistening in a shaft of sunlight. Of course, a tenant should at least close the door while she takes a Saturday afternoon nap, but it was nothing to rouse her and make a scene about.

And so, because employer and house manager practiced the estimable virtue of tolerance, murder did not out till evening, and murderer picked up a lead of exactly thirteen hours and eighteen minutes over the police. In that time, he could have fled more than halfway across the country.

It was Mrs. Lipson’s husband, James, who finally found the body. A breeze had come down out of the hills from the northwest, blowing Karil’s door almost wide open. Lipson glanced in and, being a male nurse at the County Jail, knew exactly what to do. He picked up a phone and dialed Madison 4-5211.

Sergeant Jack McCreadie, working the night watch at the Homicide Division, handled the call. He entered it in the record at 6:33 p.m.


His viciousness spent, Karil’s murderer had left her apartment in numbed despair, his gloved hand still clutching the piece of pipe. He got into his car parked in a nearby alley and drove to his hotel. He showered and changed into fresh clothes, from the skin out.

Then he made a tidy bundle of his bloodied clothes and shoes, the pipe and the flashlight. He couldn’t sleep, and anyhow he didn’t dare keep the evidence in his room. He went back to his car and drove—anywhere, everywhere— all day long. Toward sunset, he found himself in Santa Monica.

Parking near the beach, he waited for nightfall, the time when he thought and operated best. The hour dragged, and the bundle on the seat beside him made him so nervous he was afraid he might panic again. He had to wait for full darkness.

Finally, the bundle under his arm, he moved onto a fun pier alive with Saturday night celebrants and quietly picked his way through the roisterers to the far end. With a quick, sidelong glance to make sure no one was watching, he hurled the bundle into the Pacific and turned back.

Midway down the pier, he suddenly felt hungry. He clambered onto a lunch counter stool and ordered a hamburger and coffee. He ate heartily. He had gotten rid of the only evidence that tied him to Karil. He was free! It was 9 p.m. when Sergeant McCreadie alerted Homicide, everything rolled to Karil’s deathbed. There were mobile units of investigators, criminalists, photographers and latent fingerprint specialists. Big brass rolled, too, because there was going to be hell to pay about this one.

In the past twelve weeks, there had been thirty burglaries in the Westlake area. Not one place had been forcibly entered—not a screen cut, a door forced, or a lock broken— and most of the victims had been lonely, defenseless women, whom the police are supposed to protect.

Now “the open door burglar” had turned killer; and the newspapers were going to demand somebody’s head— preferably, the burglar’s, but if not that of the Los Angeles Police Department. Every LAPD man in the little apartment knew that and knew the odds, too.

Of some 27,000 burglaries yearly (not including those from autos), there are about 6,230 burglary arrests. So the odds on any given job were more than four to one against the cop. And the nearest thing to a witness, the woman on the floor above, told LAPD their man had a thirteen hour and eighteen minute lead on them.

Nevertheless, they ransacked the apartment more painstakingly than the killer.

A full Crime Lab crew pored over the scene of violence, but all they came up with were worthless smudges and the bloodied trail that led no farther than the baseboards. Not a heelprint or footprint that could be recognized.

From kitchen to balcony, the print men dusted in vain. Graphite and aluminum—nothing showed through. Obviously, the killer had worn gloves.

The criminalists looked, despairingly, for any shred of physical evidence down to a thread, button, cigarette butt. There was nothing. All they could do was run tests of Karil’s blood and record it so that if a suspect were bagged, matching tests could be made on his clothing.

Finally, the detectives, the scientists, the “hard facts” men went away, knowing precisely what they had known before they rolled: A woman had been murdered.

Even LAPD’s statistics unit with its long, electronic memory couldn’t help this time. Here the modus operandi used by known criminals and that occurring frequently in unsolved crimes is separately filed and indexed. You just run thousands of perforated cards through the electronic sorting machine, and sometimes the machine, fishing through arrest and prison records, past crimes, addresses, associates, habits, and physical descriptions down to a limp, “remembers” a priceless clue to the wanted man’s identity.

Now they asked the brain, through cards, what it could remember about (a) a burglar (b) who preyed on women and (c) who used the open door as his modus operandi. The machine tried hard, but it proved no better than an ordinary human brain. It couldn’t remember anything.


On Sunday, the day after Karil’s body was found, while LAPD was counting its frustrations, the killer added to their difficulties, though mercifully they didn’t know it at the time. He quietly checked out of his hotel in Westlake and fled to South Pasadena.

At a sedate frame house there, he quickly won the heart of the kindly old lady who had advertised in the Sunday papers for a roomer. He was so young, only twenty-seven, and so handsome, blond, brown-eyed, a strapping 185 pounds, and almost six feet in height. And he seemed so lonely, too, needing a grandmother’s care. Innocently, she took in the lodger.

“Just tell enough, not too much, and make it sound like there isn’t any more,” the old cons had advised him in the prison yard at San Quentin. He told her truthfully that his name was Donald Keith Bashor. He touched her with the story of his broken home life as a child in Glendale and reassured her with his description of his sister and brother, nice, well-established people.

Donald, as she was immediately calling him, went out and got a $50-a-week job mixing paint. On most nights, he stayed home with her. When she found he was courting a girl on the other nights, she teased him about it. Yes, Donald said, he hoped to get married in the spring. Why wait, she asked, and Donald just smiled bashfully.

That was the part he didn’t tell; about his burglary conviction and still live parole and his hideout from a murder rap. And, naturally, the old lady couldn’t have a suspicion in the world about her adopted “grandson.” Didn’t he stay home weekends, helping her around the yard? Didn’t he carry the shopping bundles home for her? Wasn’t he as good a grandson as any lonely old woman could want?


Back in Los Angeles, the case stood still; the photographic glossies of the ugly crime, the records of interrogations and scientific tests just gathered dust. The police knew only that the “open door burglar” had escaped them; where he had gone, whether he would come back, they had no idea. He might be dead, in prison, or might even have gone straight.

For ten months, Bashor lived the quiet, irksome life of the good, and then, in the December following Karil’s February killing, he struck again. At first, he concentrated his attentions in the San Gabriel Valley close to his room at the old lady’s house. This is to the northeast of Los Angeles, and LAPD didn’t know for several months that their man had come out of hibernation.

But one night in Alhambra, Bashor had a nasty turn. As he was shaking down an apartment, he found a police badge and a blunt-nosed, .38-calibre Detectives Special in its spring holster, both lying on a table. At first, like any cop-hating criminal, he was delighted at the opportunity to steal police equipment and make the sleeping officer look foolish.

But almost immediately afterwards, fondling the trophies in his car, he had a sobering second thought. Suppose the cop had awakened, as Karil had? He wouldn’t have been a lead-pipe cinch like a woman. Suppose, in this strange territory, he blundered again into the wrong flat? He couldn’t, wouldn’t go back to prison!

The more he thought of it, the more Bashor decided the only safe place for him to operate was back in Westlake, his own backyard. He knew the locations of the streets and alleys; he knew the careless habits of many of its residents. Best of all, he knew he could take care of the unexpected— the occasional lone woman who might wake up. The next week, which was in the March following his December eruption, he was prowling the familiar rooming houses and small-apartment buildings.


By latter April, the complaints from Westlake filled an embarrassingly bulgy folder in LAPD’s Burglary Division. When Bashor worked, he hit two or three places in a night. As the reports multiplied, there could be no doubt about it. The “open door burglar” had returned.

Quietly, a rolling stakeout was established. The number of police cars assigned to the area was doubled, and they were ordered to keep moving in a constant, criss-cross patrol which sieved Westlake. Even the innocent-looking panel truck used by LAPD for motion picture sleuthing roamed the neighborhood.

Each night, the truck was parked on a different street and from within two officers kept a weary watch through peepholes. But the prowler slipped through the rubber-tire net night after night; and by May, the continuing epidemic had Westlake terrorized.

Women demanded that the police “do something,” and LAPD couldn’t tell them how hard it was working without also taking the fugitive into their confidence.

From the new reports, another modus operandi check was run on the burglaries, and LAPD implored the electronic brain to think. Think. THINK. Yet Sergeant Joe Oakes of the Burglary Division, checking the results, could make only one unhappy deduction.

“We may have another murder on our hands if we don’t get him,” he told fellow officers.

Yet all LAPD could do was to increase the patrol. Some four thousand police man hours had been pitted against the will-o’-the-wisp burglar, and they hadn’t been enough. All LAPD could do was to spend more man hours—and wait.


Now it was a night in May, a pleasant night very much like the premature spring Karil Graham had enjoyed so briefly in February of the year before. Bashor was on the prowl again, this time in the western end of Westlake where it merges into the Wilshire district. A neat five-room bungalow, the kind a lone woman might occupy, caught his eye.

Inside, Mrs. Laura Lindsay, sixty-two, a brown-haired divorcee, was sleeping. Having for thirty years been a topflight legal secretary in Los Angeles, Mrs. Lindsay was a prudent woman. Before going to bed, she had, she was sure, locked all the doors and windows; but anyone could have made the same mistake of oversight that she did. Only tonight, Bashor was quietly circling the darkened house, ready to profit by it.

Finding all the doors and windows secured, he was about to go away because he never could get up the nerve to force an entry. Then he spotted the outside woodbox which connected with the living room by an opening four feet wide and three feet high. Usually, the lid was locked, but this was Bashor’s lucky night. He crawled through the opening and into the house.

Women, he knew, think in their peculiar way that it is safer to keep valuables nearby as they sleep. He made straight for the bedroom and hunted for Mrs. Lindsay’s purse. Maybe he was clumsy in his over-confidence, or maybe in the fifteen months since Karil, it was just the law of averages working against him. Mrs. Lindsay awoke.

This time, for Bashor, there was no momentary freezing. As she started to rise, he was on her with a ball-peen hammer. It was a sickening, faster replay of Karil’s murder. The woman fell back, and tried to rise. He smashed her head, savagely, again and again.

Then he stepped back, panting, and rested for a moment. For a second perhaps, Karil’s younger death mask flashed before his eyes. He took a pillow case and Mrs. Lindsay’s dressing gown and wrapped them around the head as he had shrouded Karil’s head with her pink nightgown.

For some unaccountable reason, he picked up the body, carried it to a couch nearby and laid it there, the face down and hidden from his sight. He hurried from the house.


On Sale
May 5, 2005
Page Count
348 pages
Da Capo Press

Jack Webb

About the Author

Jack Webb began in film, but it was Dragnet that brought him popular and critical acclaim. After Dragnet, Webb returned to feature films both as a director and as an actor, and for a time was head of Warner Television. Upon his death in 1982 he was buried with full honors by the LAPD, including a seventeen-gun salute.

James Ellroy is the bestselling author of L.A. Confidential, The Black Dahlia, and My Dark Places, among others.

Learn more about this author