RED TILE ROOFS
In this article we are interested in further refining our understanding of what it was that Heidstra heard and where the source of those sounds were.
RECAP: In a previous article (Heidstras Timeline) we had established that when Heidstra heard the sounds he described in court (Hey, Hey, Hey, etc.) he was standing in the alley behind 874 S. Bundy, the third house up from Dorothy on the east side of Bundy at 10:39 in the evening. We are confident of his location because: 1) in his courtroom testimony, he points to the parking pad behind that house on a courtroom exhibit of an aerial photograph while he is testifying, and 2) when he describes his experience on an E! program he is standing in that same place. Now, I have the additional indication that last week I was down in that neighborhood taking pictures, some of which illustrate this article, and when I was behind 874, there was a little black dog barking at me from the other side of the chain link gate (now an old and slow-moving little black dog, but still loud.) Heidstra said that he made his first observations from behind a yard where the little black dog lived. There is no doubt that Heidstra heard the sounds while he was on or near the parking pad at 874.
However, this makes a contradiction, because the crime occurred at 875 South Bundy (on the north side of the second lot up from Dorothy) and Heidstra was behind 874, the third house up. But, Heidstra also says that he was directly across from Nicoles font gate, and he heard the sounds from there directly in front of him. There is also a slight complication insofar as the alley and Bundy are not quite parallel, and Bundy is not exactly straight. We look a little deeper.
SITUATION ON BUNDY: I have shown other pictures of Bundy before, and the front of Nicoles condo has often been portrayed. But here, in Figure 1 [REDTILE1.JPG] I show an aspect you may not have seen before. This is of the west side of Bundy at and north of the condo. The benchmarks are the two palm tree trunks that reach up out of the top of the picture. The leftmost of those is the palm tree that was at the foot of Nicoles front walk. The right palm is in front of the building where Stein/Karpf lived in the back. Nicoles red-tile roofed condo can be seen above the foliage to the left of the left palm tree. Notice that not only does Nicoles condo have a red tile roof, but the Stein/Karpf building does, too, and so does the one to the north of that. There is a single family house south of Nicoles condo (on the corner of Bundy, and with a rental unit behind) and that also has a red tile roof. In all, the first four buildings north of Dorothy on the west side of Bundy have red tile roofs.
LOOKING FOR RED TILE ROOFS: In his testimony, Heidstra said that he was sure that from the place where he heard the Hey, hey, hey he was directly across from Nicoles condo because he could see the red tile roof of her condo (presumably when he was there in the daytime). I took my camera up in the alley where Heidstra had been to see what could be seen. Because the alley was 20 feet higher than the street of Bundy, I immediately realized that the best view of the west side of Bundy was had by getting as far on the east side of the alley as possible, and thereby minimizing the obscuring effect of walls and vegetation closer at hand. All of my observations (except as mentioned) are from the extreme east side of the alley.
First I stopped behind 878 S. Bundy and took the picture of Figure 2 [REDTILE2.JPG]. This is the second house from the corner and is directly across from Nicoles condo. There is a wooden fence here, with a house and tall trees beyond that. I could not honestly see anything in the distance that I could recognize as a building on the far side of Bundy red tile or other. Since the dominant obscuring objects are a house and a big old tree, the situation was probably the same in 1994, and this is not the place from which Heidstra saw red-tile roofs.
I moved north to 874, where Heidsta had been, and took the picture of Figure 3 [REDTILE3.JPG]. Here there is a chain link fence completely covered with ivy to obscure any view of the back yard of that house. Even if there was no ivy in 1994 (a doubtful premise, since the ivy is useful for privacy) there are big trees here and a house. Generally, there is no hint of any buildings across the street. However, by moving around and specifically searching, I was able to spot what I thought were a handful of red roof tiles through distant foliage just above the lowest part of the roofline of the house at hand. I have circled the area in blue, but it doesnt really show up in this picture. To see this, one does not look directly across Bundy, but somewhat north of that direction. (Also notice the Beware of the Dog sign on the gate; this refers to the little black dog, which barked furiously at me until I approached him to take his picture. Then he retreated; everybody in that neighborhood is camera-shy.) Considering that, as before, the obscuring objects are a house and a big tree, this is also probably not the place from which Heidstra saw a red-tile roof.
Finally, I moved another lot northward, and that took me to the east/west alley. I had the best view of all of the west side of Bundy from there, and by moving back up the alley (about ten feet east of the east edge of the north/south alley) I had an even better view. From there I took the picture of Figure 4 [REDTILE4.JPG] in which red tile roofs across Bundy are conspicuous, and to the south. The trouble is I was then so far north that if any part of that was Nicoles roof, it is impossible to say what part, and where in the alley is opposite it. Seeing a red tile roof is no guarantee that Heidstra was opposite Nicoles condo he could as well have been across from the buildings north of her. Furthermore, there is some doubt that he really did see red tile roofs from the actual place of his observation on the murder night, but rather was extrapolating that idea from observations he made nearby at the alley.
DIRECTLY ACROSS: The foregoing casts great doubt on the idea that directly across from Heidstra was Nicoles condo, but then we wonder exactly where directly across is from his position. First, return to the prosecution aerial view, Figure 5 [AERIAL04.JPG], which I myself at first misunderstood. Notice that directly across Bundy from 874 is a white faced two-story building with a red tile roof, and what appears to be a dark niche (ground to roof in height) in the front wall of that building. What we see there is an artifact of the Stein/Karpf complex, and it works this way
The Stein/Karpf building, 873 (etc.) S. Bundy is actually a complex to two buildings on two adjacent lots the two lots immediately north of Nicoles condo. These are organized front-to-back (rather than side-by-side as Nicoles building), and Stein/Karpf occupied the back unit overlooking the alley. I show the situation in Figure 6 [KARPF_01.JPG], taken from the east side of Bundy looking west at 873. Notice that this complex is composed of two buildings, the south building in which Stein/Karpf lived, and a north building. These are ten feet apart with a walkway between them, closed on the front by wrought iron gates between stucco walls. But connecting the two buildings above the second floor roof line is a decorative stucco arch with a red tile roof. Of course the arch and the northern exposure can create a shadow in the area below the arch (this picture was taken on an overcast day when there was not much shadow). It is that shadow which appears as a niche on the front of the building in Figure 5.
TWO KINDS OF PALM TREES: The palm trees in the Bundy parkway come in two kinds, short (about 40 feet) and tall (about 80 feet). The short kind are thick-trunked, stout, and rigid; the tall kind are spindly, have bends along the length, and sway easily. Figure 7 [KARPF_03.JPG] is a view from near the curve on Bundy looking back toward Nicoles condo. The left-most palm tree in the west parkway is the one out Nicoles front walk, and it is seen to be of the short kind. The next closer tree is in front of Karpfs building, and it is also a short kind. (The trunks of these first two trees are also seen in Figures 1 and 6.) The next palm tree going north is a tall thin one, its crown out of sight.
Now, compare this insight with the view of Figure 4, and you will better understand the red tile roofs visible from the alley. In that you see two short palm trees, and those are the one out Nicoles walk and the one in front of Karpfs building. Both of those are to the left -- south of the alley but from Figure 4 alone it is impossible to tell how far. But, return to Figure 3, the view from behind 874, and now notice that there is the top of a palm tree trunk and the crown, just partly visible through closer foliage. That is the palm tree in front of Karpfs building. If it were the palm tree in front of Nicoles walk, then Karpfs palm tree would be to the right of it, but that space is clear and there is no other short palm tree there. In fact, the next palm tree to the right can be seen and is a tall one; that must be the tree in front of the north building at Karpfs complex.
THE LONG VIEW: From the foregoing, it is clear that the place on Bundy that is opposite Heidstras listening post is not Nicoles condo, but the north side of the Stein/Karpf building. It only remains to determine the direction from which the sound came. Heidstra says from directly across from him. In what relative direction would that be, considering that he can not see anything on Bundy? Well, I would assume, you would assume, and probably Heidstra assumed that a direction that was parallel with the front face of the garage he was standing beside would point to directly across Bundy. (At this late date, and with much time to consider the question, I still have no better guide.)
We can resort to the satellite view of the neighborhood to help. In Figure 8 [BRENTW5.JPG] I show a blowup of the wider satellite picture in the article Satellite View. Notice that on the west side of Bundy the first four buildings have red-tile roofs (on the street, at least). The second of these is Nicoles condo and the third and fourth are the two buildings of the Stein/Karpf complex.
As closely as I could determine from visiting the place, the garage beside which Heidsta stood is square with the alleys near it both the north/south and the east/west alley. Because of the limited resolution of the picture we can just make out the garage, but we can not see exactly the direction of its walls. However, we can clearly see the direction of the east/west alley, and I have constructed the yellow arrow beginning at the parking pad beside the 874 garage, and pointing west in the same direction as the east/west alley. This yellow arrow then shows where would be directly across from where Heidsta was listening. It does not point to Nicoles front walk (50 feet to the south and indicated with a red arrow) but to the space between the Stein/Karpf building and the building to the north. In fact It points exactly at the wrought iron gate in the stucco wall there. Those, then, who believe that Heidstra actually did hear (as he claimed in testimony) a gate clang from directly across [from him on Bundy], must believe that what he heard was Karpfs gate slam shut.
Furthermore, notice in the aerial view (and also Figure 2) that there is thick and tall vegetation to the north side of Nicoles walk that would block any sound from 15 feet up at the gate. It is unlikely that even if Nicoles gate did slam, a person in Heidstras location would hear it. On the other hand, there is absolutely nothing on Bundy blocking the sound from Karpfs gate, and so it would have been relatively easy for Heidstra to hear that.
CONCLUSION: If Heidstra did hear a gate slam from directly across from him (as he says), it was Karpfs gate, not Nicoles.
(The place that Heidstra describes of the gate slam is Karpfs gate, not Nicoles)
Dick Wagner Van Nuys, CA (4/14/02) RED_TILE.doc