The Los Angeles Times from Los Angeles, California on April 28, 1985 · 78
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The Los Angeles Times from Los Angeles, California · 78

Los Angeles, California
Issue Date:
Sunday, April 28, 1985
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Cos Angeles Slimes Mother's Long Fight to Prove Son Did Not Kill Himself 1 2 Part I ISunday, April 28, 1985 J By LAURIE BECKLUND, Times LOS ANGELES It was a classic suicide. A prominent Hancock Park surgeon, trapped in an unhappy marriage, drove his Cadillac into his garage on Saturday afternoon, Feb. 23, 1974, and sat reading Time magazine until the exhaust fumes finally overcame him. That was the story that seemed to be told by the circumstances of Dr. Theodore Loseff's death. The police, the coroner and virtually everyone else declared it suicide. Everyone, that is, except his mother, Zelda Loseff . Almost from the beginning, Zelda Loseff did not believe that her firstborn would take, by his own hand, the life she had given him 41 years before. She began to suspect that her son had been murdered, and suspicious in particular that her son's wife, who is now dead, had killed him. Today, a little more than 11 years later, the Loseff case has become a classic of another sort: the story of a little old lady whose determinationsome say obsession is at least as compelling as the evidence she turned up. Zelda Loseff began her investigation a few months after her son's death. In the intervening years she has interviewed more than 100 potential witnesses and written dozens of letters. She has hired six private investigators, five attorneys, four forensic pathologists and a handwriting expert. So far, her investigation has cost her more than $100,000, she said. "I became a Grandma Moses in the art of murder investigation," said Loseff, now 74, in an interview. "I now know the who, how, what, when and where of my son's murder. And that is a terribly inhuman burden to bear. I want to know, will there ever be a light at the end of this black tunnel? Will my son's murderers ever be brought to trial?" The answer, at the moment, is no. "It does not appear that we can consider filing a case at this time," said Stephen Kay, a deputy district attorney who supervises the criminal complaints division of the Los Angeles district attorney's office. "The principal person Mrs. Loseff suspects of the murder is dead, and there appears to be no evidence establishing the guilt of any other party beyond a reasonable doubt. Mrs. Loseff seems like a very nice, sincere person. I hope that if anything ever happened to me, my mother would be equally energetic. But, at least at this point, the police have closed the case, and there's nothing we can do." So the answer is no. But Zelda Loseff is not accustomed to taking no for an answer. It was 10 o'clock that Saturday night when Zelda (as authorities have come to call her) learned that her son was dead. Her only other child, a daughter, knocked on her apartment door, and said, "Mother, Ted died." A few hours earlier, the daughter explained, he had taken his own life. Ted had been a brilliant child. Zelda had raised him and his sister by herself after her husband died of cancer. College-educated and interested in business, Zelda had supported the family by establishing a successful encyclopedia franchise in the Midwest. The son had grown up to be a doctor, like his father. The father had died at 37. And now, the son was dead at 41. "It was like a bomb had exploded in my life," Zelda recalled. "I kept asking, 'Why would he kill him- John Murray K0VIKG VIOLATIONS (pq-13) Sho Kotugi NIKE DEATHS OF THE KIJUA(R) Louis Malla's ALAMO BAY (R) Bali foreiirotnmi 277 FLETCHER PARKWAY 440 0306 I lllimllli..!.;:..ii!!lH!l!!lll I U WF IllifctdnJ tA mm aiC am b d 1 I , I M li:KH:i.liH;t : TKE BREAKFAST CLUB (R, BESKRATELY THE SOKE TKIXS (pq-13) SEEKM mu (pQ.13) I America's 1 Nard John Murray FRATERKITY VACATION R) K0VIKS VIOLATIONS (pg-m) I ShoKoaugi t Burt Reynolds NINE BEATHS E 5"W(R) OFTKEKHUA(R) : . Ill 1 1 III ! Ill I ! T T ft ! T T I T T T T T T T T T T T I I ! I T T T T T T TT? Staff Writer " Zelda Loseff self? Why?'" For information on her son's death, Zelda turned first to his widow, Wilda. The couple had been married just 27 months. They had lived high and well, but their marriage was tormented, Zelda learned after Ted's death. Ted had privately complained that Wilda had had frequent affairs and drank heavily. They had contemplated divorce. After the death, Zelda said, Wilda was little given to mourning. She neglected for months to put a headstone on her husband's grave. She became hostile toward Zelda, refusing to discuss Ted. Desperate to learn more about her son's death, Zelda finally made an appointment with the Los Angeles Police Department detective who had handled Ted's case. It was Aug. 9, 1974. She remembers the date it was her 64th birthday. More significantly, it marked the beginning of her investigation. The detective, though kind, refused to give her the police report because she was not "next of kin." She had a similar experience with the Los Angeles County coroner-medical examiner even though, she later learned, the coroner's report was public. "I gave birth to Ted, raised him and educated him, but I was not next of kin," she said. "I was just a mother." In 1977, three years after Ted Loseff's death, a private investigator Zelda had hired obtained the coroner's and police reports. Their contents provided a shock. The police investigation was cursory. Because the death seemed so obviously a suicide, few questions had been asked. The coroner's report was even briefer. No autopsy had been done. No blood had been taken to confirm that her son had died of carbon monoxide poisoning. Some of Zelda's sorrow turned to anger. "I went through living hell just because nobody took two teaspoons of blood!" she said later. "I had been taught to be a lady and not raise my voice, but I should have Your Neighborhood Movie Store THROUGHOUT SAN DIEGO COUNTY COY ) 1'IA Y!STA been screaming bloody murder all along." The reports provided fuel for her investigation: names of possible witnesses, bits of forensic detail. She began to reconstruct Ted's last day. He got a haircut that morning, returned home to eat two roast beef sandwiches, watched sports on TV, and spoke with a friend by phone. His wife returned about 2:30 p.m. They argued. She ran out and spent the afternoon at the maid's house, saying she was afraid to go back. Finally, after dark, she called police to meet her at the house and escort her inside. After police found the house empty, Wilda suggested they look in the garage. The suggestion seemed "strange," one policeman would say later. But they looked anyway. They found Ted's body in his car. Wilda told police that Ted had a history of suicide attempts. What appeared to be a suicide note scribbled on a cardboard shirt collar insert was found on an upstairs dresser: "Wilda All I ever asked was one moment's compassiorrand understanding. I love you. T." The suicide theory seemed to hold. Yet, some details seemed wrong to the mother. Ted Loseff didn't drink beer or smoke. Yet beer cans and cigarette packages brands Zelda later learned were favored by certain of Wilda's friends were found in the kitchen. Ted was a fashionable dresser, yet he was found wearing a pair of old summer slacks and his best dress shirt with French cuffs. The clothes the maid had seen him wearing that morning were never found. For adults only over the age of eighteen. HEALTH SCREENINGS INCLUDE: A aa mm San Diego County. Area Agency on Aging I Q Ted had worn glasses since age 3. How, Zelda wondered, could he have been reading that magazine that police found in his lap? Zelda located two people who were at the Loseffs' home the night 4I became a Grandma Moses in the art of murder investigation. I now know the who, how, what, when and where of my son's murder. And that is a terribly inhuman burden to bear.' Zelda Loseff his body was found. One was Edward Jay, a Long Beach artist and close friend of both Wilda and Ted. The other was the maid, Bea Burrows, at whose home Wilda had spent the afternoon, and who was MIRROR W&Ll with BEVELED Edge Strips INCLUDES m 2 MIRROR PANELS 42"x96" 1st Quality W Mirror 3 Overlaid Beveled Strips Expert Measurements in your Home All Cutting to Size and Installation included Superior Mirror & Shower Door Company Division of Mirror and Shower Door Co. 9 f(nnr(l Take TRI-CITY HOSPITAL 4002 Vista Way, Oceanside mm Saturday, May 4 10 a.m. to 3 p.m HeightWeight Pulmonary Function Hearing Visual Acuity Glaucoma Skin Oral Cancer At selected locations Let's All Feel Great! Call the Red Cross at 757-5403 for more information THE-miaicoT j LIFE" i KCST-TkSAN DIEGO the last person known to have seen Ted alive. Jay described some things Wilda had done that he had found puzzling. Wilda had run up with Ted's glasses as they were taking the body out of the garage, he recalled, and asked him to put them on Ted's face. Shortly before his death, she had abruptly decided she did not want a divorce, but would not say INSTALLED COMPLETE TAX Up to 8'x8 Wall -A $600.00 Value Similar savings on other sizes. No other discounts apply. Contractors Lie. 389566 2452 5th AVENUE, SAN DIEGO 234-4533 American Red Cross WmSk Mis FREE You're Invited To Advantage of "Feeliri Good W Presented by: 95T Blood Pressure Anemia Nutrition Counseling and Referral Post Health Fair Follow-up Optional Blood Chemistry the , good earth. (rtouront ond batoaj why. Moreover, he believed the "suicide note" was an old note from Ted that Wilda had shown him months before. "I ,began to realize all this in retrospect," Jay told The Times this week. "I'd have to be an awful idiot'to think it wasn't murder." Burrows, the maid, told Zelda that she believed it was murder from the beginning. "That man didn't commit suicide, and I said so that night," Burrows said in an interview. "Someone did it for him." Burrows had worked for 17 years at a hospital and had cleaned up after patients who had died. She was puzzled that there was no fecal matter or urine in" Loseff's clothing, which is common after death, and that his coloration seemed unlike that of other carbon monoxide victims she had seen. Please see MOTHER, Page 14 jfci J' y " ' - Test ($10.00 lab fee) (Minimum fasting 4-6 hours) i::FCaMATi::iSTATi::i

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