Who Killed Leila Adele Welsh?
The Intrigue of Unsolved Mysteries
Years ago, I became engrossed in a long article about an unsolved murder in Kansas City, Missouri, and years would pass before I learned more about the victim and the details surrounding the crime. 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 in the blog was incorrect. There was some speculation as to the possibility that Dorothy had been murdered by the same person who killed Elizabeth Short (otherwise known as the Black Dahlia). I became even more intrigued. As the blog continued, I was convinced the crime involving Dorothy Welsh was actually the one about Leila Welsh.
Readers like myself are drawn to stories about unsolved mysteries. The victim I began to research was Leila Adele Welsh. Leila 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, I have been passionately researching and writing about this very cold case. I hope to have the book completed in 2018.
- Maureen Walsh: 10 Grisly Unsolved Murders (PHOTOS)
And as if the more than half a million real-life murders a year around the globe (some 17,000 in 2010 in the United States alone) somehow constituted a lack of violent death, fiction novels add a never-ending supply of made-up stories of murder
77 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 would change 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 was an era when new houses could be purchased for under $5,000 and the cost of gasoline was 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 sold in 1941.
In Kansas City, the Supreme Court hands down its judgment to Thomas J. Pendergast and his “associates.” 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 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 and continues to be a place of beauty to visit.
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 77 years, Leila’s case remains unsolved.
The Black Dahlia In Hollywood Forum
My first learning there were discussions about Leila's murder on the internet was through a search for "Welsh" which was discovered on The Black Dahlia in Hollywood Forum. Here, viewers will learn that "Dorothy" Welsh is really "Leila" Welsh. There was also 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, George W. Welsh, Jr. (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 ("Dick") 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 a police circus fundraising 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. Mrs. Welsh got up and looked in the living room and 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.
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
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.
Books Containing Information About This Crime
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.
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