The Case of the Bride in the Bath

August 25, 1947
Los Angeles

Police are investigating the strange death of Mrs. Susanne Smith Castillo, 23-year-old bride of Dr. Manuel De J. Castillo, who operates “medical clinics” at his home at 480 West Vernon Ave. and at 1250 West Santa Barbara Ave. Mrs. Castillo, a native of Charlottesville, VA and widow of a wealthy New York patent attorney, was discovered dead in a half-filled bath at the Vernon Ave. address by Jesus M. Castillo, her brother-in-law and a technician at the clinic. There were bruises on her head and a laceration near her temple. An autopsy is pending

Published by

Kim Cooper

Kim Cooper is the creator of 1947project, the crime-a-day time travel blog that spawned Esotouric’s popular crime bus tours, including The Real Black Dahlia. She is the author of The Kept Girl, the acclaimed historical mystery starring the young Raymond Chandler and the real-life Philip Marlowe, and of The Raymond Chandler Map of Los Angeles. With husband Richard Schave, Kim curates the Salons and forensic science seminars of LAVA- The Los Angeles Visionaries Association. When the third generation Angeleno isn’t combing old newspapers for forgotten scandals, she is a passionate advocate for historic preservation of signage, vernacular architecture and writer’s homes. Kim was for many years the editrix of Scram, a journal of unpopular culture. Her books include Fall in Love For Life, Bubblegum Music is the Naked Truth, Lost in the Grooves and an oral history of Neutral Milk Hotel.

2 thoughts on “The Case of the Bride in the Bath”

  1. I really hope you do get a chance to check the other papers. The brief story in the Times certainly makes Susanne’s death sound suspicious. Thanks as always for your insightful follow-ups!
  2. A doctor and a mysterious death—of course, Dr. Manuel de J. Castillo came under suspicion, although I suspect it was only briefly—in the Black Dahlia case.

    The Times never followed up on Susanne Castillo’s death, either on the autopsy or the inquest. But Dr. Castillo turned up in the news several times in the 1950s and ’60s.

    A 1940 graduate of the National Autonomous University of Honduras, Castillo got his California medical license in 1944. In 1955, he bought a 1,500-acre ranch near Bishop.

    Two years later, he was named in a bizarre paternity suit against Vernon Simpson, a car salesman accused of fathering a baby girl. Simpson countercharged that Castillo and Edith Mitchell, the manager of Castillo’s clinic at 1750 W. Santa Barbara (the 1947 story had the wrong address), conspired to name him as the father to force him to leave California or “to suppress certain knowledgeâ€Â he had of their activities.

    Simpson charged that Castillo and Mitchell used artificial insemination to entrap him into marriage, saying that while he had been intimate with Mitchell, the relationship ended 11 months before the child was born.

    Mitchell denied any conspiracy, saying she met Simpson while shopping for a car and accepted his offer of marriage although he was not yet divorced from a previous wife. Simpson finally admitted being the girl’s father and agreed to $75 a month child support.

    Castillo next appeared in The Times in 1961, when he sued the estate of Charles Lee Powell, whom you may recall built the Broadway Tunnel. Castillo said he treated Powell hundreds of times, but only on a few occasions in his office. Castillo said he once examined Powell in an unlighted fuse room under a stairway.

    Although he sought $87,450 for treating Powell 563 times, Castillo was awarded $5,000 after the defense said that he had only treated Powell once, 36 hours before his death.

    His license expired in 1988. He died in 1995.

    If I get a chance, I’ll stop by the Los Angeles Public Library microfilm room and see what appeared in the Examiner, Herald-Express and Daily News about the death of his wife. It’s an odd one.

Leave a Reply