Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

LA Forensics: Mysterious Confession

The First Murder


Petrie Crime Scene
Petrie Crime Scene
LOS ANGELES, Dec. 26, 1972 —

Harbor Division detectives found Lois Petrie's body draped sideways across the bed in her tiny bungalow apartment. A blanket partially covered her. Beneath the blanket, the 43-year-old was naked except for one leg of her Capri pants and a pair of panties, both hooked around her left calf. Her legs dangled from the edge of the mattress far enough that her feet touched the floor. She was cold to the touch, a sure sign she had been dead for at least several hours.

Detective Richard Bengtson
Detective Richard Bengtson
"It didn't appear that anybody had broken into the house," says Detective Richard Bengtson of the LAPD Cold Case Homicide Unit. "There was no forced entry. There was a small hint of blood on one of the pillows, but other than that, there was no blunt force trauma to the victim. She wasn't cut up, she wasn't bleeding anywhere."

It was obvious that sex had been involved, but it was unclear to the detectives if it had been consensual or not.

"She was nude," Detective Bengtson says. "Some of the clothes were turned inside out. Some of the clothes were still inside other ones, like a shirt inside of a jacket. So, at that point, the investigators aren't going to know immediately whether this was a rape or a consensual sexual act. Maybe this started off as a consensual sex act, but maybe it finished in a different way that resulted in the death of the victim." 




* LA Forensics: Season 2, episode 9: Mysterious Confession
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