Who Killed Leila Adele Welsh?

The Intrigue of Unsolved Mysteries

One morning while waiting for an appointment, I became engrossed in a long article about an unsolved murder in Kansas City, Missouri. Years passed and I still wanted to know more about the victim and details. One afternoon, I stumbled on a blog detailing facts about a "Dorothy" Welsh which happened to be the same person I had been searching, but the first name was incorrect. There was some speculation as to the possibility that Dorothy had been murdered by the same person involved with the murder of Elizabeth Short, otherwise known as the Black Dahlia. I became even more intrigued.

Readers like myself are drawn to stories about unsolved mysteries. Leila Adele Welsh was a 24-year-old beautiful woman who was viciously murdered to the point of overkill. After all the years between her death and a reporter's article, and my living and an appointment leading me to her story, I have been passionately researching and writing about this very cold case. I hope to have the book completed in 2016.

Leila's killer allegedly entered through an open and screenless window on the northeast corner of her bedroom some time between 1:00 a.m. and 3:00 a.m.
Leila's killer allegedly entered through an open and screenless window on the northeast corner of her bedroom some time between 1:00 a.m. and 3:00 a.m.

Information to Provide to a Cold Case Division If You Are Needing Help in Researching a Cold Case

  • Provide a full name of the victim including all known names;
  • Provide the date of the victim's death;
  • Provide the address where the death occurred;
  • Provide information that describes how the victim was killed;
  • Provide any personal information such as the victims date of birth, Social Security Number, or death certificate;
  • Provide any information such as the name of any investigator you're aware of who has worked your cold case;
  • Provide information relating to any communication you have already had with any law enforcement office;
  • Lastly, make sure you provide your contact information, and how you are related to the victim, if at all.

74 Years Earlier

It’s 1941. Worldly news dominates of the war in Europe and before the year is over, Pearl Harbor is attacked and the decision of the United States to remain neutral changes with the declaration of war on Japan. Franklin D. Roosevelt, as President of the United States, signs the GI Bill of Rights. The pleas for arms by Winston Churchill of England are delivered and towards the end of the year, Hitler would take complete command over the German Army.

Prior to the United States’ declaration of war, however, life is happening in the states. Under the artful direction of Orson Welles, “Citizen Kane” is released, as well as the popular children’s animated presentation of “Dumbo.” Movie drive-ins are becoming popular and music composer, Glenn Miller, records “Chattanooga Choo Choo.” The Academy Awards copyrights the Oscar statuette and NBC Channel 3 starts broadcasting out of Philadelphia. From the sports scene, the PGA establishes the Golf Hall of Fame, Joe DiMaggio is on a hitting streak, tennis player, Bobby Riggs, turns pro, and the Chicago Bears win the NFL Championship.

It is an era when new houses can be purchased for under $5,000 and the cost of gasoline is around 12 cents a gallon. The average annual income was $1,750 and the average cost for a new car was $850. Although television sets were on the market, a lot of them were not selling in 1941.

In Kansas City, the Supreme Court hands down its judgment to Thomas J. Pendergast and his “associates” in a case that was heard in the Western District of Missouri. Pendergast was described as a political “boss” with dictatorial powers. Other cities have also had their experiences with such “bosses,” but a massive clean up process in Kansas City had been undertaken from the top to the bottom of its corruption.

On positive news, the Jacob L. Loose Memorial Park was presented with a bronze statue by Mrs. Loose in honor of her late husband. The main entrance to this beautiful park is located at 51st Street and Wornall Road in Kansas City.

In March 1941, less than 15 minutes away from Loose Park, stands a house on Rockhill Road in which a killer viciously took the life of young Leila Adele Welsh. Everyone who read the newspapers learned of this horrendous crime across the country.

After 74 years, Leila’s case remains unsolved.

Fig. 1 Old photo of Leila Welsh in the "St. Petersburg Times" published March 12, 1941 (Associated Press) - three days after the murder.
Fig. 1 Old photo of Leila Welsh in the "St. Petersburg Times" published March 12, 1941 (Associated Press) - three days after the murder.

The Black Dahlia In Hollywood Forum

The first incident of learning there were discussions about Leila Adele's murder on the internet was through a search for "Welsh." On The Black Dahlia in Hollywood Forum, viewers will learn that "Dorothy" Welsh is really "Leila" Welsh. There was mention of "Claude" which was also a name that Leila's brother, George W. Welsh, Jr., had been referenced in other articles. Her brother is an important figure because he was accused, arrested and acquitted of her murder.

The interest and intrigue in the forum rested details of similarities of the murders of Leila Adele Welsh (Fig. 1) and Elizabeth Short. Newspapers across the country had covered both these murders that occurred six years apart. Allegedly, a Claude Welsh was in California at the time Short was murdered, but it was unknown if he and Short had ever met.

Also interesting is a fact that a suspect in Short's case, Carl Balsiger, was stationed in California at Camp Cooke at the same time (February 1943) during Short's employ there at its commissary. Further, Balsiger apparently attended school in Kansas City with Leila Welsh. The method of operation in both murders contained distinct similarities. In two separate incidents, Balsiger had been involved in giving women "vicious beatings." He and Welsh were two of the original 25 suspects in the Short murder investigation. It was never proven, though, that Welsh ever knew Short.

Leila's Personal Life

Leila was born in 1917 to George Winston Welsh Sr. and Marie Fleming Welsh. She came from a prominent family with a strong academic background rooted in Kentucky. She was also a beauty contest runner up in 1937 at the University of Missouri in Kansas City (UMKC f/k/a UKC).

Initially, Leila attended a woman's college where her grandmother, Leila McKee Welsh, had served as its president. Then she attended UKC. After graduating in 1938, she went to teach in Knoxville, Illinois. She returned to Kansas City in the fall of 1940 at her mother's request and lived with her mother and brother (Fig. 4). Her mother may have requested her return home due to the fact her father's illness was declining--once a practicing attorney, he was stricken with an illness that caused paralysis.

In the early morning hours of March 9, 1941, after being out on a date with Richard Funk whom she had been dating for five years (according to the Racine Journal Times, a Wisconsin newspaper article dated March 10, 1941), Leila was viciously and brutally murdered.

Leila and Richard attended the police circus event and then stopped to have a drink at Hotel Phillips. When Richard brought her home, she spoke briefly with her mother. After that, her mother heard a thud in the middle of the night, but thought her son had fallen off the sofa he was sleeping on. Everything appeared fine, so she returned to bed.

Later during the investigation, a sorority sister from college who had been interviewed stated that Leila had mentioned a man in Knoxville who wanted to marry her which Leila didn't know how to handle. There was no mention of his name, so it does not appear he was a suspect.

Leila’s Paternal Grandfather & Successful Real Estate Businessman, James B. Welsh

Leila's paternal grandfather, James B. Welsh,1 was born in Danville, Kentucky on March 15, 1852. After Mr. Welsh graduated from college, he was involved in a mercantile business for some 10 years in Danville. Welsh moved to Kansas City in 1882 and by 1886, he became involved with real estate. He and E.R. Crutcher formed a partnership that would handle a lot of business transactions in the city. Welsh became the President of the James B. Welsh Realty and Loan Company and from 1897 through 1899, their business grew with additions of other business they purchased. Mr. Welsh married Mary McKee and they had two sons, McKee Welsh and George Winston Welsh. After Mary died, he wed her sister, Leila McKee, in 1878 (both women were daughters of Professor James Lapsley McKee). Mr. McKee was the Vice President of Centre College, the same college George Welsh Sr. had attended.

Fig. 2 Leila S. McKee (paternal grandmother to Leila Adele Welsh)
Fig. 2 Leila S. McKee (paternal grandmother to Leila Adele Welsh)

Leila's Paternal Grandmother, Leila S. McKee

Leila’s paternal grandmother, Leila S. McKee (Fig. 2), was born in 1858 in Kentucky. Her father, Professor James Lapsley McKee had served as Vice-President of Centre College in Danville, Kentucky. Leila’s grandmother had attended and graduated from the Western Female Seminary, and later served as its principal and president. McKee Hall, a dorm, was named in her honor. She left in 1904 and married James B. Welsh who became a real estate mogul in Kansas City, Missouri. Leila’s grandmother passed away in 1938.2

Fig. 3 Leila Adele Welsh was born in 1917.  She was murdered on March 9, 1941 at her home on Rockhill Road in Kansas City, Missouri.
Fig. 3 Leila Adele Welsh was born in 1917. She was murdered on March 9, 1941 at her home on Rockhill Road in Kansas City, Missouri.
Fig. 4 George Winston Welsh, Jr.
Fig. 4 George Winston Welsh, Jr.

Books Containing Information About This Crime

The Murder

On March 9 after Leila had returned home from a date at approximately 1:30 a.m., it is believed the killer entered the bedroom through an open window. Her mother and brother were asleep at the time although later, her mother would state she had heard a thumping sound during the night, but assumed it was her son.

Leila’s body was found the next day late in the morning by her mother who was wanting to wake her daughter up for church or for breakfast (it has been reported both ways). Before the killer had left, a dining room chair had been lodged against the bedroom door so it wouldn't be easy for her mother to quickly get into the room. It's more than amazing that her mother didn't have a stroke or heart attack upon discovering her daughter's condition.

The details were very gruesome. She had been struck in the head by a 4.5 pound chisel hammer and her throat was so deeply cut, she was nearly decapitated. A piece of flesh had been removed from her right upper thigh. She was not sexually assaulted; she was just outright brutally murdered with what appeared to be hate. A hammer was left at the scene at the foot of her bed on a rug. A knife was found right outside the window protruding from the ground. About 100 yards from the house, bloodied cotton gloves were found, and her piece of flesh was found in a neighbor's backyard.

Leila’s brother was ultimately arrested based on circumstantial evidence alone. Since the family were heirs to the grandfather’s real estate fortune, the police believed money was the motive. Allegedly, too, an owner of a second hand store claimed to have sold the knife to George. Nearly four days prior the incident, a hardware store owner claimed to have sold the gloves to George. Prosecutors also presented evidence from her diary indicating the last entry in which the words, "broke up," had been written and they claimed it was George's handwriting.

According to The Kansas City Star published May 22, 1942, "So savage a crime at so fine an address shook the city, as did the indictment against brother George." The story was national news. On April 19, 1943, The Evening Independent out of St. Petersburg, Florida published an article by the Associated Press indicating Leila's brother had been acquitted of her murder. The Associated Press reported her mother had testified on her brother's behalf before an all male jury. The article also reported a comment from a draft board official who said Welsh (then 29) would receive his army induction on May 14.

The house located at the top right with the grey roof is the location of Leila's murder.  The house located at 6109 Rockhill Road was built in 1924.
The house located at the top right with the grey roof is the location of Leila's murder. The house located at 6109 Rockhill Road was built in 1924.

Books by Ann Rule

Perspective

This is a cold case where even if there were a previously unknown witness, the likelihood of this person being alive now is very slim. Family members are also deceased. This case cannot be considered solved because justice has not been served for the victim.

With all the detectives working Leila’s case, including the real die hard ones wanting an answer and not just any answer to satisfy a “capture,” they all had their own perspectives on any trace evidence or facts presented.

The physical evidence that was dramatic and too easily found excluding a piece of flesh invited speculation as to whether the pieces of evidence were actually involved with the crime. The trace evidence included a footprint and fingerprint, the latter of which may have had nothing to do with the crime. The fingerprint in question belonged to the suspect, George W. Welsh Jr., who was also Leila’s brother, living in the same household as the victim and their mother, Marie Welsh. The footprint, however, was determined to belong to someone who had small feet.

Depending on the case, since some opinions carry that a victim and a killer probably were acquainted or knew each other well, then to ponder that someone showed up at Leila’s open and screenless window for an invitation to sneak in becomes a plausible possibility.

Shop owners who allegedly sold a hammer and knife which were found at the crime scene had seemed to have issues with their memory recall. There is, though, only a short window of opportunity after a crime has been committed to acquire fresh doubtless information from witnesses that will hold up in a courtroom of criminal law. How could doubt be raised, though, when the evidence was questioned?

I don’t know how many cases the police department had to juggle at the time of this crime, but I am aware this incident made headline news across the country leading anyone researching this case to believe it was the most horrifying occurrence that undoubtedly affected the surrounding community of the Welsh’s house. The main media source at the time was the newspaper and the radio. An immediate arrest was needed to bring a sense of safety and comfort into the neighborhood and city and the element of fear could be removed once “the killer” was behind bars.

For months, I wondered what made this case go cold outside of no motive. I knew all the information gathered in newspaper archives would not be all the information there was to scrutinize. For example, was there a supplemental report? Were the crime scene photos still accessible? A crime scene diagram was published in the local newspaper.

Importantly, due to confidentiality, how was I to gain access to investigative notes. I knew I had to have information and documentation in order to write a complete story on this case—as complete as it could be. Being organized wasn’t an issue—it was having the opportunity to collect information that could be organized, and then to document every detail even to a point where I was becoming redundant. Redundancy can be fixed.

© 2012 Cathy

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Comments 28 comments

stephandrekar 22 months ago

Hi Philip. I think if you saw a stranger looking at the house that night from across the street, he was most likely the killer. But therefore it is extremely unlikely the brother would wait across the street since he lived there. It was most definitely a stranger, either someone who knew her or a stranger who had followed Leila home that night with boyfriend Richard Funk. A psychopath.


ytsenoh profile image

ytsenoh 3 years ago from Louisiana, Idaho, Kauai, Nebraska, South Dakota, Missouri Author

Thank you very much. I have been writing a book on this story. You are welcome to email me through the link on this site.


Auletes profile image

Auletes 3 years ago from Roeland Park, Kansas

I enjoyed this article about the Leila Welsh murder. I recently purchased a vintage postcard of the University of Kansas City and the message on the back mentioned the case. I had never heard of it but I was able to find out quite a bit. I got several folks at work interested in the case and we have been talking about how this would make a great book. Just the story of the trial of George Welsh in and of itself could be a book. I have been able to find some information that you would probably be interested in. I would be happy to share it with you.


ytsenoh profile image

ytsenoh 4 years ago from Louisiana, Idaho, Kauai, Nebraska, South Dakota, Missouri Author

Travelman, thanks very much for your sharing. Cold cases are interesting and full of intrigue. It's like putting a puzzle together. Thanks much for stopping by and leaving a comment. It's appreciated. Follow your passion as a writer.


travel_man1971 profile image

travel_man1971 4 years ago from Bicol, Philippines

Here in the Philippines, there are lots of unsolved cases. I am trying to write the gist of the unsolved case of mass murder, where one county was burned down. Only one child survived. The local police declared a news blackout since the landowner was a US citizen, but Filipino-born .

I was a budding radio reporter then. But when I ask for a news scoop from my news director, he said that I should avoid interfering on the horrifying event. Let the authorities investigate, not me, he added.

But my mind can't stop remembering the event that occurred in the early 90s. I tried re-telling it here @ HP through my hub: The Escape from Kadlagan.


philip moody 43 4 years ago

No I have relatives still living in the area but myself moved away over 30 years ago.


philip moody 4 years ago

I was sixteen years old and was working for Rockhill Drugs owned by Bernie Margoles just around the corner from the Welsh house. My job was delivering shoelaces to booze for 10cents an hour plus a malt and sandwich. I was working the night Leila welsh was murdered. It was after dark when I had a delivery that took me past the welsh house,interestingly a man stood diagonally across the street and seemed to be waiting for someone; my feeling was that it was just not normal, I was not concerned just had an odd feeling.The intrigue is an hour later this man was still there and I had the oddest feeling what is this man doing? The next day was a Sunday I think and I had another delivery past the home again and I saw all the police cars and asked the bystanders what had happened. It was then I was told of the murder.One of the cars parked in front had me lead my curiosity to look inside and what I saw is still embedded in my mind 71 years later it was the flesh I later learned was from the victim. THis story is true and I wish that the murderer would to this day be identified. I to tis day think it was perhaps the brother.


ytsenoh profile image

ytsenoh 4 years ago from Louisiana, Idaho, Kauai, Nebraska, South Dakota, Missouri Author

sg, thanks for coming by and leaving your comment. That's a very sad event you share also. Unsolved crimes are interesting in that they incite intrigue and the desire to see them solved.


sgbrown profile image

sgbrown 4 years ago from Southern Oklahoma

Very interesting hub. I love unsolved mystery stories. About 20 years ago, a woman I worked with was found brutally beaten and stabbed to death in her home. She was in her 60's and had divorced from a terrible marriage and years of abuse. Everyone felt like it was the ex-husband who either did it himself or possibly hired some one to kill her, but it was never proven. No one was ever even arrested for her murder. This is a very good hub, voted up and interesting.


ytsenoh profile image

ytsenoh 4 years ago from Louisiana, Idaho, Kauai, Nebraska, South Dakota, Missouri Author

Shiela, thanks very much for stopping by! I'm glad you enjoyed this read. I appreciate your comment. The whole story is full of intrigue.


sheilanewton profile image

sheilanewton 4 years ago from North Shields, UK

Such an intriquing Hub. I think you've got to be right about it being a 'Black Dahlia' murder. How dreadful it must be to have a loved one murdered and not have the perpetrator brought to justice. I know it's some sort of rough justice - but at least it's something to those left behind, wondering about the how's and the why's.

I loved every word. You have a great journalistic style of writing that is so engaging.


ytsenoh profile image

ytsenoh 4 years ago from Louisiana, Idaho, Kauai, Nebraska, South Dakota, Missouri Author

shining, thanks very much for your interest and comment. I think unsolved mysteries of this type of subject carry a lot of intrigue. The research fuels the intrigue. And the fact you want answers. This was a terrible event that was so brutal in all respects. Thanks for stopping by.


shiningirisheyes profile image

shiningirisheyes 4 years ago from Upstate, New York

I am always intrigued by unsolved and brutal crimes as is my sister. I am fascinated by human nature although I abhore violence. This is a truly fascinating read and I thank you for directing me to the next "topic" that my sister and I will be delving into. Another unsolved crime that continues to hold my interest are the Keddie murders, occurring on April 12th, 1981 in the small California town of Keddie. A young mother, her two children and a 17 year old family friend were violently murdered.

It has to be one hell of a "goosebump" moment when you where contacted by Richard Funk's nephew. AMAZING!!


ytsenoh profile image

ytsenoh 4 years ago from Louisiana, Idaho, Kauai, Nebraska, South Dakota, Missouri Author

Thanks very much. It is a very interesting story and sad it's still unsolved. I plan to continue the research this summer. Have a great week!


happyexplorer profile image

happyexplorer 4 years ago from Mostly USA, sometimes elsewhere

What a fascinating story! Thanks for all the detailed information. Very interesting!!


ytsenoh profile image

ytsenoh 4 years ago from Louisiana, Idaho, Kauai, Nebraska, South Dakota, Missouri Author

NiaLee, thanks very much for stopping by and your comment. This mystery remains very interesting to me. And, I'm not finished researching it so stay tuned. Best regards.


NiaLee profile image

NiaLee 4 years ago from BIG APPLE

Wouah interesting hub, this is a real mystery but I just feel like Claude did it and got away with it because of his stays and fortune, parents sometimes prefer to lose on child instead of two...especially a male heir...

At that time, people could have so many social reasons to be frustrated and take it out on who they could. They should have made it a point to solve that kind of crime because that kind of person would do worst if they get away with that... probably in different places to stay careful. But really, I feel Claude strongly is the murderer. How is it that nobody heard nothing? How is it that Claude didn't hear nothing??? really sad for such a young promising life.

Though I realize what a blessing it is not to be rich materialistically sometimes!


nonrent 4 years ago

I know Tom Leathers wrote about this story in his paper that he had. I think it was called the Squire. He is deceased and I don't think the mag is published anymore.

I spent along time in the public library Heritage room some year ago and am not sure I have any of that still. But I will look. I have a beautiful 8x10 glossy picture of her. Every time my dad would see that picture he would tear up. I will find that and somehow get it copied.


ytsenoh profile image

ytsenoh 4 years ago from Louisiana, Idaho, Kauai, Nebraska, South Dakota, Missouri Author

nonrent, I would be interested in any information you have. There are over 150 documents available to search through at a local resource. The fact that Leila was an heiress to her uncle's real estate fortune at that time, and their family's genealogy history is very interesting. There have been a few local published articles relating to this subject in "The Pitch" and the KC Star/Times, the latter during the 1940s.


nonrent 4 years ago

I googled Leila Welsh, which I have done numerous times. But this is the first article online I have seen. I did a lot of research on this case a while back. Seems there was quite a bit of politics between two different investigative units. KC detectives vs Jackson County. My uncle soon after joined the war effort and was killed flying a B-24 bomber over Germany. I believe she is buried in Carrollton Mo.


ytsenoh profile image

ytsenoh 4 years ago from Louisiana, Idaho, Kauai, Nebraska, South Dakota, Missouri Author

wow. I have been intrigued with this story for a long time. There is a lot of information at the local library too. I did a lot of online research. how did you find this hub article? thanks for leaving a comment. I knew little of your uncle.


nonrent 4 years ago

Finally someone has taken notice of this story. My uncle was Richard Funk who had dated her the prior evening. We still have a beautiful picture of Leila. Needless to say we have always had an interest in this case. How did you find out so much info on her? My parents were convinced that it was her brother all along. Very good job.


ytsenoh profile image

ytsenoh 4 years ago from Louisiana, Idaho, Kauai, Nebraska, South Dakota, Missouri Author

stessily, thanks very much for your comment.


stessily 4 years ago

ytsenoh, Unsolved mysteries abound, making me wonder where the answers are. The more time passes, the harder it is to solve them. And yet they're intriguing. Perhaps remembrance is a form of justice for the victim.

Thank you for sharing.


ytsenoh profile image

ytsenoh 4 years ago from Louisiana, Idaho, Kauai, Nebraska, South Dakota, Missouri Author

Thanks much for your visit. I love to read about unsolved crimes, that "who dunnit?" just poses a lot of intrigue for me. There are over 150 documents at a local library concerning the story I wrote about that I'm waiting to fetch my eyes upon. The Black Dahlia story is very interesting.


Lady_Tenaz 4 years ago

Very interesting...I am a sort of Black Dahlia fanatic. I have written several articles about her on my blog www.dreamingcasuallypoetry.blogspot.com I have never heard about this woman before but it is quite a story. I have also researched Jeanne French's murder who many assume she was killed by the Black Dahlia's killer however it isn't the case. Many murders back in those days had articles claiming possibly the killer who killed Elizabeth Short killed them but it was all media frenzy. The M.O. differs from the B.D. case but perhaps the person who killed Leila wanted to be a copy-cat sort. Many details of Short's death were left out of the media for many many years...so there would be no way to completely copy cat her murder unless the person was the killer. Making it impossible for a copy cat to do it exactly as the original. I enjoyed your story. I write mostly all investigative stories about unsolved crimes on my blog..its nice for a change to read one from another writer. WELL DONE! :-)


ytsenoh profile image

ytsenoh 4 years ago from Louisiana, Idaho, Kauai, Nebraska, South Dakota, Missouri Author

Thanks very much, wordlover. I thought the same thing earlier, that this would make a good screenplay. Thanks for stopping by. Happy writing!


awordlover profile image

awordlover 4 years ago

What an interesting mystery! As much as I hate to say I enjoyed reading your hub because it deals with a brutal murder, I did enjoy it. By human nature, people still want to read about murder mysteries and other crimes. It is very interesting that there are similarities to the Black Dahlia, Elizabeth Short. I have not heard about Leila Welsh before and wow, this would make a great book for you to publish, maybe even a screenplay. Voted up, and interesting.

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