1800 Paseo Rancho Castilla LA 90032

Buy Tickets

The Blonde Rattlesnake, The Black Dahlia & The Future of Forensic Science

The Los Angeles Visionaries Association, Esotouric and Dr. Jay Vargas invite you to the Cal State Los Angeles teaching crime lab for an afternoon’s inquiry into the history and practice of forensic science in Southern California, in support of new research coming out of the Criminalistics Department.

Come spend an afternoon exploring the history of true crime investigations in Southern California, and the 21st century possibilities for new innovations in forensic science. Our special guests are true crime author Julia Bricklin and Dr. David Raymond.

Program #1: “Blonde Rattlesnake: Burmah Adams, Tom White, and the 1933 Crime Spree that Terrorized Los Angeles” with author Julia Bricklin

Asked how she came to write “Blonde Rattlesnake,” Julia Bricklin explains, “I stumbled upon the story of Burmah Adams White while looking for a photograph. I was editing for a history journal, and thought since I was creating a cover for a fall issue that I should look for an ‘old-timey’ image of a school marm, complete with horned-rim glasses and stern look. I typed ‘school teacher’ and old date parameters into the Los Angeles Public Library photo archives. What popped up was image after image of Burmah and other people related to her case — the L.A. Examiner had scores of them complete with ‘shooting of beloved Third Street school teacher’ in the captions. When I saw the big, forlorn eyes of the arrested, nineteen-year-old woman staring back at me, I knew I had to dig deeper.

“After a whirlwind courtship, Burmah Adams—a hairdresser from Santa Ana trying to make her way in the world during the height of the Great Depression—married a felon named Tom White. The pair robbed scores of people and businesses around the LA basin, striking fear into the hearts of Angelenos and mocking the LAPD, who kept hearing reports of a blonde laughing at their victims. The worst of her crimes was her assistance to Tom in the shooting of a popular elementary school teacher, Cora Withington, and a former publisher, Crombie Allen, who was teaching Withington how to drive his new car. Withington and Allen were stopped at a light when a car, driven by platinum blonde Burmah, pulled up alongside them; Tom jumped out of the vehicle brandishing a pistol. He pointed the weapon at Withington’s head and allegedly said, ‘Shell out, sweetheart!’ As Withington and Allen were handing over their valuables, Tom got impatient and shot the teacher in the head. The bullet tore through Miss Withington’s left eye and came out near the right one, passing through the other side of her head and ripping a hole in Allen’s neck.

“The pair was cornered some days later at their downtown apartment. Tom chose to shoot at police officers, earning himself two bullets to the heart. Burmah’s trial in the fall of 1933 was a sensation, trumped up by authorities eager to make an example of her. Chief of LAPD, James ’Two Gun’ Davis, Judge Fletcher Bowron, and District Attorney Buron Fitts all had their eyes on either keeping their jobs or getting promotions to loftier ones. And the fact that she was young, female, pretty and seemingly had no reason to commit these crimes made Burmah a magnet for radio programs and newspaper columnists.

“My fascination with Burmah White and her story lies in the fact that she was a resumé builder for many politicians and law enforcement in Los Angeles trying to show they were as tough on crime and youthful crime and female crime as Chicago and New York. My book spends a lot of time and effort trying to figure out why a young woman such as Burmah could so easily fall into this life of crime: was it abuse? Drugs and alcohol? A desire for the finer things in life? All of the above? But I also wished to pose the question: can we learn something from the way she was ramrodded through the legal and penal system? And, are there any parallels to the way criminals are ‘played up’ in the media and the courtroom today?”

Copies of Blonde Rattlesnake: Burmah Adams, Tom White, and the 1933 Crime Spree that Terrorized Los Angeles will be available for purchase and signing by the author.

Program #2: Dr. David Raymond Presents on The Black Dahlia Case, Automotive Pet Safety & The Role of Engineers in the future of Crime Scene Investigation

Dr. David Raymond, a biomechanical engineer, has been involved in the field of impact and injury tolerance for 21 years. He has applied this biomechanical knowledge in the field of forensics for the past 17 years. Through his experience as a forensic consultant, investigating human injury causation, he has gained insight into the needs of current criminal investigative practices.

During this presentation, Dr. Raymond will provide his insight and opinions regarding the potential role of the engineer in the crime lab of the future and the potential benefits of expanding the scientific backgrounds of current crime lab personnel. He will provide real-world case examples of where an engineer’s expertise would potentially aide in various types of investigations.

Dr. Raymond has previously conducted cadaveric research and published on the biomechanics of head and facial trauma. He regularly assesses forensic cases involving head and facial injuries. Part of his presentation will include a discussion with Esotouric’s Kim Cooper about the head and facial trauma documented in the case of Elizabeth Short, the victim of the still unsolved 1947 “Black Dahlia” murder in Los Angeles. Dr. Raymond will discuss the biomechanics of various types of head and facial trauma and will provide his insights into the possible mechanisms of injury associated with documented head trauma to Ms. Short.

Dr. Raymond will also discuss his recent research collaboration with the automotive pet safety industry. He will discuss the current state of regulation and consumer oversight on pet safety restraint systems, demonstrate the performance of many brands of pet safety restraints in high-speed crashes, and discuss current efforts aimed towards developing the first canine crash test dummy. If you regularly drive with a pet, you won’t want to miss this presentation.