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The death of a physician is ruled a suicide until …

Ted was found dead, an apparent suicide

Ted was found dead, an apparent suicide

The death of a physician is ruled a suicide until evidence uncovered in a new autopsy reveals that he was murdered.

On February 23, 1974, police were called to the Los Angeles home of Dr. Ted Loseff. The call was made by his wife, Wilda, who told officers that her husband was armed.  When the police arrived, Wilda was outside the house with the housekeeper, and Edward Jay, a family friend.

Ted didn’t answer the door and there was no sign of him anywhere in the house. Finally, in the garage, officers found Ted’s body in his car. The engine was running and a hose connected to the tailpipe had been fed into the car’s interior through a window.

To authorities at the scene, the evidence of suicide was overwhelming and there was no further investigation. No fingerprints were taken, no autopsy was performed, and no questions were asked. Zel Loseff is Ted’s mother: 

“They found him in his car, in the garage. They said it had to be suicide. It wasn’t until a little later when things began to become so suspicious that I started to wonder about it. Of all people in the world, Ted was not one to take his life.”

Zel said that the discrepancies became clear to her in a dream:

“I saw a garage filled with lots and lots of boat equipment and cartons of boxes, and I realized I was at Ted’s garage. And I knew that to put his car there, he’d had to move things that were in that garage. Ted had back surgery. It was impossible for him to do that, physically. And then, I saw these great big double, old iron gates.”

Was the suicide note a fake?

Was the suicide note a fake?

In her dream, Zel remembered that the driveway gates were damaged and difficult to open. Because of that, Ted had always parked in front of the house.

To Zel, the implications of the dream were clear and disturbing. She believed the suicide had been staged and that her son had been murdered. But Zel’s suspicions alone were not enough to get the case reopened. She decided to track down her son’s former housekeeper. To protect her identity, we’ll call her Mary.

Based on Mary’s sworn testimony at a coroner’s inquest, she said that on the day Ted died, she arrived at his home around 10:00 A.M. Ted told her that he was divorcing his wife, Wilda, and that she wouldn’t be staying at the house anymore. But, according to Mary, around 2:00 P.M., Wilda showed up at the home. She parked her car and went right upstairs. A few minutes later, Mary heard screaming and yelling. Soon after, Ted dragged Wilda down the stairs. Wilda yelled to Mary that Ted had a gun, but Mary didn’t see one. In her sworn testimony, Mary stated: 

“And I said, ‘If you want me to continue to work with you, you’ll have to talk to my husband.’ So he paid me for my work, and I got in my car and I drove down the street, and there was Mrs. Loseff.  And then she asked me if she could go with me, and I said, ‘Well, yes,’ and then I drove home. She kept insisting that Dr. Loseff had a gun. So I called the police. They told me that they couldn’t go over there if I hadn’t seen a gun, and I hadn’t seen it.” 

After speaking with the police, Mary said that she tried to call Ted at least twenty times between three and eight P.M.  Every time, the line was busy.  At last, Mary got through, but no one answered. She decided to call the police again. Within the hour, police had found Ted’s body. They suspected that Ted had killed himself.  The discovery of a note in an upstairs bedroom bolstered their conclusion. However, to Mary, it was the first of several alarming discrepancies. During her testimony, she said: 

“I always thought that that note on the shirt cardboard was kind of strange because I had been ironing Dr. Loseff’s shirts for a long time, and I always used a hanger.  I never used a shirt cardboard.”

Was Ted actually murdered?

Was Ted actually murdered?

As she stared at Ted’s body, Mary said in her testimony that she realized something else was wrong:

“When I last saw him, he was wearing brown pants and kind of a mustard shirt. And now he had on gray pants and a dress shirt.  And the whole time that I worked there after Dr. Loseff died, I never once saw those brown pants and that mustard color shirt that he was wearing the last time I saw him.” 

The discrepancies became impossible to ignore. In the kitchen, Mary found several empty beer cans and four dirty glasses. Ted rarely drank. A week later, Mary found odd stains on a bedspread in the guestroom. Wilda told Mary that it was vomit from the dogs who had been sick the night before. However, Mary remembers the dogs being in a kennel at that time. Later, when she washed the bedspreads, the areas where the supposed dog vomit was had completely disintegrated. Ted’s mother, Zel, said she was convinced that a crime had occurred:

“After hearing the housekeeper’s many stories, I knew there was foul play and something terrible had happened to Ted, and that I had to find out what.” 

In 1978, four years after her son’s death, Zel finally won a legal battle to have Ted’s body exhumed for an autopsy. The pathologist found clear evidence that Ted had suffered a violent vomiting spell moments before his death. According to forensic pathologist Dr. Irving Root:

“There should have been vomitus on his clothing, his face, and perhaps on the inside of the car. Why wasn’t it there? This certainly strongly suggests to me that this vomiting occurred someplace other than in the car. And there were a number of other discrepancies that have never been explained, but that very strongly move away from the whole thought of suicide. This, until proven otherwise, is a homicide.”

Fueled by the autopsy results, Zel pieced together a theory explaining her son’s death. She believes it was premeditated murder and that Ted was assaulted soon after Wilda and the housekeeper left the house. She thinks that the people who killed Ted were close to Wilda because they knew that the back door would be open. The autopsy also indicated Ted had been involved in a struggle. Zel said that she believes he was overpowered by at least two men, who forced poison down his throat: 

“Ted was definitely fighting for his life, according to the doctors. Somebody took the phone off the hook after they made sure he was dead. Then they cleaned him up, and they put his gray dress shirt on him. Then they emptied out the garage to make room for the car. Then they had to open the gates to put his car into the garage, carry his dead body into the garage, close the door, and then go out and close the gates.  Then they went back into the house again, I think, and put the receiver back on the hook.” 

All afternoon, the housekeeper had been getting busy signals when she tried to call Ted.  Zel believes that hanging up the phone was a pre-arranged signal from the killers to Wilda that their job was done. 

Eight years after Ted’s death in March of 1982, the Los Angeles County coroner reopened the case. A witness told authorities that the so-called suicide note had indeed been written by Ted. But the witness also revealed that Ted wrote the message two years before his death after an argument with Wilda.

The coroner’s inquest ultimately ruled that Ted’s death was a homicide. But on May 1, 1983, before police could investigate, Ted’s wife Wilda died of a drug and alcohol overdose. Now, investigators are at a standstill on the case. Someone, they believe, may have gotten away with murder.