Murder, He Wrote

December 7, 2009

Today, over on the main Classic TV History website, I have published a feature story entitled Murder, He Wrote.  If the names mentioned therein are unfamiliar, the story may read like an outline of a fictional crime show, an episode of Dragnet or Cold Case or, yes, even Murder, She Wrote.  But the people in this story are real, and the events that it records actually happened.

More than three years have passed between the day when I first heard a rumor about the TV writer who killed his wife back in the sixties.  I did not know the man’s name, or any other information about him, apart from a few details of the crime (some of which turned out to be inaccurate).  But immediately I realized this story fell so squarely into my area of study that I had to report it.  Many times during those three years, I thought I knew the whole story.  And each time, just as I was about to close the file, I learned some new fact that added another tragic, touching, or bizarre layer to it.  Finally, it’s time to turn the tale of Leonard Heideman (or, as he came to be better known, Laurence Heath) over to my readers.

True crime is a new area of reporting for me, and a sobering one.  The violent act committed by Leonard Heideman in the early morning hours of February 23, 1963, continues to reverberate in the lives of his family and friends nearly fifty years later.  Some of those family members and friends were courageous enough to discuss this difficult subject with me.  I hope that I have done justice to them and to all the other parties involved in this story.

As always, I welcome readers to offer their reactions in the comments area below.

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8 Responses to “Murder, He Wrote”

  1. JW Says:

    At the risk of log-rolling a little bit, it’s a fantastic piece (you did all the work, though I appreciate the thanks). Outstanding investigative reporting, and a thorough examination of his career as well – balanced I feel, thoughtful…a truly unique, utterly unbelievable story. The fact that it hasn’t been examined before is baffling. But, now it has!

  2. Gary Says:

    Stephen: Fascinating story– with minute detail. Makes you wonder about all those names you see in TV credits.

  3. burlivespipe Says:

    It was both an easy and an uncomfortable read – through much of the story I was astonished that this man was able to function/live with himself after the murder, and then in the end I could empathize with his struggles. You captured the complexities of it well.

  4. Norman L. Weiss Says:

    I had been surfing the web for a classmate I last remember seeing in 1942 or 1943, Leonard Heiderman who was a very excellent student.

    First we attended together Townsend Harris High School in Manhatten until it was closed in July 1942, by actions of then Mayor LaGurdia, and then, I along with about thirty others sturdents transfered to attend the Bronx High School of Science, which I graduated in 1944 and then attended CCNY. Your story of Leonard indicated he went on to NYU and then Yale, but I had lost track of him in 1943.

    The story you present about his life in part provided me with a tale of great success as a writer, which I fully expected from what I recalled about his ability in classes. The tragic portion comes as a complete surprise!

    I would appreciate your confirming his attendance at the High Schools I mentioned above.

    Thank you

    • Stephen Bowie Says:

      Norman, thanks for writing this. I actually have no information as to what high schools Heideman went to, although I strongly suspect we’re talking about the same person. Do you recognize him from the photos?

      • Norman L. Weiss Says:

        The pictures do look somewhat like the student I remember.

        Do try to pin down more of his schooling as it really was a most special high school, which produced many who succceeded in the Movie and TV business, like Sam Jaffe and Edward G. Robinson, and music creators, Richard Rogers, Frank Loeser, Yip Harburg, Ira Gershwin, etc. etc.

        Norman L. Weiss normanlee1@bellsouth.net

  5. Keith Bevan Says:

    I just read your article, Profile of Laurence Heath, and I was blown away by it. A fascinating story and good writing. I don’t read a lot of blogs, but I enjoy reading Classic TV History.

  6. Julia Gillin Says:

    Dear Stephen,

    My father and mother bought the house at 5060 Shirley Ave. in Tarzana, CA in 1964 0r 1965. I was just born Nov. of 1963. My parents had mentioned this story to me: about how when they bought the house AS-IS the “Killer” had chewed along the window sills and there were stabs from a knife in the kitchen cabinets. Apparently the neighbors were afraid to meet my parents but curiosity got the best of them and they would come over and ask to see the house along with questions of why my parents would even by the house. I am 48 yrs old. Both of my parents are still alive and know that I am researching this murder. I want to interview them, but wondered if you had questions or wanted to interview them? My Sisters and I were there with a maid from El Salvador during the 1972 Sylmar Earthquake: My parents were traveling Europe at the time. weird things happened in that house, but I was never afraid. I drove past the house today. Apparently the owners think the room that was our bedroom is haunted.

    I have lots of photos of us there. My Father added a large den to the house. but I played mostly in the long hallway of bedrooms where I had an imaginary friend. Now I am a little intrigued!

    Do you have more photos of the crime scene or know how I can obtain them?

    Anyhow, I am thankful for the in-depth story you have on your site. I feel my past memories all coming back to me.

    Sincerely,
    J.


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