One day, the socialite just vanished.
After days of unanswered calls, Stella Hunter called the police to report her friend missing. When they arrived at the property, the door was locked and all the lights were on, but no one was home. Mimi Boomhower had vanished.
Born in 1901, Mimi Boomhower was a well-known socialite, who frequented Hollywood nightclubs and was seen at all the prestigious events throughout town.
48-year-old Mimi had inherited her late husband’s fortune and lived in their 10 room, Spanish style mansion in the middle of Bel-Air. A big game hunter, who took Mimi on safaris with him, Novice Boomhower was a linoleum magnate, who had died six years earlier.
Mimi appeared to be having financial issues and was beginning to sell her assets. Earlier in the year, she had taken out an equity loan to start a new business in manufacturing folding wooden furniture. The loan was for $5,000 (over $50,000 in 2020) but the new business never came to fruition. She had also begun to sell Novice’s hunting trophies and had recently pawned a $3,000 watch for just $100.
The house was worth $75,000 (nearly $800,000 in 2020), but she was looking to sell it at below market value at $65,000. However, Mimi still wore over $25,000 ($260,000 in 2020) worth of jewellery on a daily basis, so she still owned a substantial amount of assets.
On the sixth anniversary of Novice’s death, Mimi was due to have dinner with her friend, Stella Hunter. After her disappearance, Stella told police that Mimi had cancelled their plans, not citing a reason.
Mimi visited her business manager, Carl Manugh, in the afternoon and had told him of her evening plans, saying she was meeting a “gentleman” at her home. She told Carl she would call him around 8.30 pm, presumably to tell him about her meeting. Carl assumed it was potentially to do with selling her house.
Later that evening, Mimi received a phone call from a friend, where they discussed a social event they were planning to attend. The call ended around 8 pm.
Mimi never called her business manager at 8.30 pm as promised, and attempts to call her from thereafter went unanswered. A neighbour noticed that her lights had been on for days and tried to phone her. When that didn’t work, she went to the house and knocked on the door and even threw pebbles at the window to get Mimi’s attention but there was no response.
Stella Hunter and a friend contacted the police and went to the house to meet them there. The police found the front door locked and the lights still on. When they entered the property, they found a salad left out on the dining table and a dress laid out on Mimi’s bed. Her car was still in the garage and there was no sign of a robbery.
Friends thought she may have decided to go on a trip however this was abnormal behaviour for Mimi, as she had upcoming engagements that she would have cancelled if she couldn’t attend. Police contacted local taxi firms who confirmed that no cars had been sent to her house for a pickup. Her fridge was stocked and in the days after her disappearance, there were parcels delivered from previous purchases she had made. These didn’t seem like the actions of someone who was about to go away on holiday.
The police found a postcard in Mimi’s mailbox. The postcard was from Long Island and said:
“Olga gave me your news — Lillian”
Mimi had a sister called Olga, and when questioned, she didn’t know anyone called Lillian and didn’t know what the postcard was referring to.
The police spoke to the gardener, who told them that a week before Mimi’s disappearance, he saw a middle-aged man with white hair sitting in his car, in the neighbour’s driveway. He said the car was expensive and he appeared to be watching Mimi’s Bel-Air home. The police thought the man might have been a realtor, looking at the property with the intention to sell it, but the man never came forward in the investigation.
Still tracking her movements in the days before her disappearance, the police found out that Mimi went to see a furrier to buy coats. She told the clerk that she couldn’t place an order that day as she needed to speak to her husband first but quickly rectified her mistake, telling the furrier she meant her family. Mimi had three brothers and two sisters, who told police that she had never sought their approval for buying anything before.
Mimi’s purse was found in a phonebooth near a supermarket 4 miles away from her home, on Wilshire Boulevard. The purse still contained Mimi’s possessions, including her identification, some money, her keys, a bank card and makeup. On the side of the purse was a handwritten note saying;
“Police dept. We found this at beach Thursday night”
When the purse was examined, no traces of saltwater or sand were found on it, leading police to believe that the writer of the note knew more than they claimed.
Just 11 days after her disappearance, a Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge declared Mimi Boomhower dead. This meant that her attorney could access all her accounts and continue to pay her equity loan and administer her estate. He began to sell possessions to pay her outstanding debts. A few months later the same judge reversed his decision, stating he had made a mistake.
Suspects and motives
Tom E. Evans was seen at the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel in the company of Mimi Boomhower days before her disappearance. Evans was an employee of Tony “the hat” Cornero and used to host on one of Cornero’s floating casinos. He told police and reporters that he was often at the hotel bar and claimed that he didn’t know Mimi.
An article in The Mirror said;
“The police were discounting rumours that a scar faced gambler was angry at Mrs. Boomhower for not selling him the place for a gambling palace.”
Evans was also briefly questioned during the disappearance of Jean Spangler, who went missing a few months later in similar circumstances.
Many believe that Mimi may have had a gambling habit, which is why the money had run out so quickly and why she was now engulfed in financial problems. She may have got into debt with the wrong people.
Mimi had started to sell Novice’s trophy collection, thought to be worth around $300,000 (Almost $3million in 2020), yet she had sold it for a fraction of the value.
The remainder had been sold by Mimi’s attorney to cover ongoing bills and debt. The buyer of the elephant trophy found out later that the tusks had been replaced with plaster and the ivory had likely been sold off by Mimi before she had vanished.
A new husband
After the death of her husband, Mimi had dated some men but claimed none of them were serious relationships. Her friends said she never expressed an interest in getting married again, however the comment made at the furrier made investigators question whether she had. There are theories that Mimi had eloped with a new man and left her old life behind. She had many jewels on her to continue to have a lavish lifestyle for a while, but they would not sustain the level of comfort she was accustomed to.
Another reason for citing a husband at the furrier could have been because felt pressured into a decision by the store clerk and wanted to leave the shop politely. However, if she was in the financial situation she appeared to be in, it begs the question as to why she was buying new expensive clothing.
An alternative, more sinister theory is that Mimi was presenting herself as a woman with no money troubles, looking for a new love, who also had a source of income. If she had found herself a new, potentially rich, husband, she may have taken a share of his money if they had divorced. If he had found out that she wasn’t as wealthy as she claimed, he may have killed her, rather than share his money.
Police considered that she may have committed suicide over the grief of her husband’s death and financial issues, but they couldn’t find any proof to support this. Friends also told police that Mimi wasn’t depressed and was known for being the life of the party, and because of this, she was given the nickname the Merry Widow.
If she had killed herself, where was her body? Her car was still in the garage and none of the local taxi companies had sent a car to her house, so she didn’t drive herself to another spot to commit suicide.
It’s more likely that she was taken from her house by force, and quietly. The door was locked when the police arrived, and there was no report of a struggle in the house.
Mimi was trying to sell her house and had even put it on at lower-than-market value. The Boomhowers didn’t have any children, so when Novice died, Mimi was the only person occupying the large home.
The year earlier, real estate agent, Gladys Kern, had been showing a house in Los Feliz when she was stabbed and killed by a potential buyer. When she was found, two days later, her body was laid out on the kitchen floor and her diamond-encrusted watch was missing. The perpetrator was never caught and her case was even linked to the Black Dahlia murders because of the crime scene and specifics regarding her murder. The same could have happened to Mimi, according to Steve Hodel.
If she was showing her house to potential buyers, without a realtor present, the killer could have entered the house under the deception that he wanted to look at the property and had taken Mimi against her will. A similar technique was used in the Acid Bath Murders in England.
Mimi’s sister, Olga, believed that she may have been targeted because of her jewellery by a prospective home buyer, who took the opportunity to abduct her and kill her when he realised she was alone in the big house.
The newspapers wrote about Mimi’s disappearance, but no one ever came forward to confirm that they had visited her that night, so this person was likely involved.
Seven years after her disappearance, Mimi Boomhower was declared dead for good. What was left of her estate was divided up between her siblings. The value had reduced by a third by the time her debts and fees had been paid.
Mimi’s disappearance was never solved, and no body was ever found. Her story got less coverage than the vanishing of Jean Spangler or the murder of Elizabeth Short and perhaps this was why she was forgotten. Two years later, The Sunday Press wrote about Mimi in an anniversary article;
“Mimi Boomhower was a wealthy and vivacious widow without a care in the world… She was not quite tall enough and a little too stout to be considered beautiful…”
Mimi’s case is still open and for more information, you can visit the Doe Network.