Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

The Murder of Howard Appledorf

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Investigators researching the backgrounds of both the victim and suspects in the case uncovered the histories of, respectively, a successful man vigilantly guarding a sexual secret and three deeply troubled youths.

Dr. Appledorf had gained fame as a nutritionist by claiming that there was nothing wrong with so-called "junk food." The Boston Globe quoted him as writing, "Fast foods, in general, are excellent sources of protein, most vitamins and most minerals." Appledorf went on talk shows, gave interviews to tabloids, and did consulting work for fast food franchises like McDonald's and Kentucky Fried Chicken.

Bob Bates, professor emeritus in the University of Florida's Food Science and Nutrition Department
Bob Bates, professor emeritus in the University of Florida's Food Science and Nutrition Department

According to Bob Bates, professor emeritus in the University of Florida's Food Science and Nutrition Department, "Howie was very much oriented toward the practical, and he got into a lot of controversy because he indicated you could get a balanced meal from fast foods."

University of Florida logo
University of Florida logo

However, Dr. Appledorf was no "junk" professor. McCall reported that he had a Ph.D. from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), had co-authored two books and received numerous professional honors. Nutrition Today noted, "Appledorf achieved distinction with his research on vitamin metabolism and its relation to endocrine function."

Bates, who had been a classmate of Appledorf's at MIT, had been instrumental in bringing Appledorf to the University of Florida. Bates was on the faculty of the University of Florida while Appledorf was doing post-doctorate research at the University of California at Berkley. "We were trying to get a nutrition program going and I identified Howie as the person to get," Bates recalled. "He took the offer and hit the ground running. When he came here, he was a junior member but he took over a course called Man's Food and was very energetic. In his first quarter he had fifteen students. In the second it was up to thirty. The students in his courses went up practically geometrically until he was in the biggest auditorium on campus."

Carleton Auditorium
Carleton Auditorium

"He communicated and taught at the same time he entertained," Bates observes. The combination of authoritative lecturing leavened with humor was probably key to Dr. Appledorf's teaching success. As a visiting lecturer for an Introductory Nutrition class at Chapman College (now Chapman University) in Orange County, Calif., Dr. Appledorf demonstrated his wry sense of humor: "Someone will come to me and say, 'I can't understand why I'm fat. I eat like a bird,'" the nutritionist said, imitating a plaintive moan. "I tell them to keep a written record of everything they eat and find out that they do eat like a birda buzzard."

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