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Four Dead In Cecil Hotel Rooms

by William Beel
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Following three decades of building, the Cecil Hotel finally opened in downtown Los Angeles in 1926. Designed as a ‘middle class’ hotel to rest the mind of tourists and business travelers, the hotel featured an opulent marble lobby, ornate stained-glass windows, elaborate potted palm trees, and a contemporary alabaster statue. Architecturally, this hotel was very innovative – it had both a traditional and modern look to it. As a result, many of the designs featured at the time are still used today. The hotel also had a swimming pool, a cafe, and indoor and outdoor tennis courts. While this establishment did not have any staying amenities of a classier kind, it did feature a grand lobby and beautiful interiors.

In decades past, the Cecil Hotel was one of the many hotels that operated out of the Grand Trunk road area, serving the area between Hollywood and downtown Los Angeles. It is likely that this building was one of the first hotels to use a heated indoor pool (which is a rarity today). Many Los Angeles historians believe that this addition was an attempt to beat back the Great Depression due to the fact that many people had to travel long distances to work (and stay in hotels). Others think that it was simply a way to add luxury and elegance to a relatively modest hotel. Whatever the reason, it was a huge hit with the passing years.

Over the years, the Cecil Hotel has hosted many celebrities, dignitaries, and famous writers/speakers. Some notable guests have included actor John Cleese, composer Henry Lewis Galton, and author George Plimpton. It was also the birthplace of rockabilly music when the likes of Elvis and Dylan stayed here. Today, many of the familiar names of rock and roll are still in residence at the Cecil. A few ghosts and poltergeists do spend their time haunting the historic stone floor of the hotel, however.

The Cecil is also the former home of the infamous Bonnie and Clyde. The notorious “Clyde” gang was convicted of murdering an entire family, and the hotel was even mentioned in the movie Goodfellas. The Clyde lived in this particular hotel for about a year between 1969 and 1970. The Clyde spent most of their time here, apparently taking showers, and using the toilet on the second floor. Unfortunately, authorities found a blood trail leading back to the kitchen from the bathroom on the second floor, leading to the murder of the entire family.

Another guest who frequented Cecil was writer/actor Richard Belkin, who is best known for his TV roles. He stayed here between November and December of 1970 and died from a drug overdose. His death is now considered a suicide, although friends and family maintain that Belkin did not take his own life. An argument with a pool boy led to Richard’s death, as well, which left the actor devastated.

The third guest to die in the Cecil was Jonestown resident Rosemary Barber, who was a secretary to singer Diana Ross. While she was supposed to be home from work, her body was discovered by authorities near the swimming pool entrance. Her death is ruled a drowning, and it is believed that her death was caused by someone involved with the heroin epidemic that was prevalent at the time. The deaths of three other women who were considered to be very popular in the downtown Los Angeles area were linked to the same scene of overdoses, deaths which seemed to be happening more frequently in the area.

The fourth woman to take her own life while staying at the Cecil was a Canadian college student, who was visiting from Vancouver. This young woman drowned in a swimming pool while visiting Canada. The circumstances of her death are still unclear, and her case will most likely never be solved. It is still considered a suspicious death, and her death was listed as drowning, even though there were no signs of drugs or alcohol in her system.

The last of these female guests to die in the Cecil Hotel was twenty-one-year-old Jasmine Chavez. She was found dead in her bathtub, her throat had been cut, and her body was floating in a pool of blood. Jasmine’s husband, along with a friend who was with her, was later arrested on suspicion of murder, after police discovered a note in the bathroom in which Chavez apparently tried to convince her husband that she had gone out of town the day before. No drugs or alcohol were found in the apartment, and despite the fact that no note was recovered, suspicion immediately pointed towards the three tourists as the victims.

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