In 2011, Rockstar released the open world detective thriller LA Noire. While the game's initial reception was largely favorable, it took heavy criticism for the perceived lack of player agency and the quality of its interrogation mechanics and character mapping. Things like this might make it easy to forget that L.A. Noire did a lot of things right, and its vibrant recreation of 1940s Los Angeles was one of them.
5 Of The Most Chilling Crime Cases L.A. Noire Was Based On
Over time, L.A. Noire has proven to be a masterpiece of recreation, as one thing that the game certainly did well was honor its source material. From the meticulous depiction of 1940s Los Angeles to the detailed lives of its characters, it is clear that Rockstar and Team Bondi intended to create an intensely accurate world to complement L.A. Noire's story. That accuracy doesn't stop short of the game's cases—many aspects of the solvable cases were based on real life events.
Beware: Case ending spoilers ahead!
Case #1: The Red Lipstick Murder
Shortly after being promoted to the Homicide desk, protagonist Cole Phelps gets assigned to the murder of Celine Henry. Her body is naked, mutilated, and badly beaten. She's missing a ring (torn from her finger), has a footprint on her chest and some writing on her body done in lipstick.
One of the officers on the scene mentions to Cole that the characteristics of the murder line up with the M.O. of "The Werewolf". Sound familiar?
In real life: The Murder of Jeanne French
The Red Lipstick murder is based on the murder of Jeanne French, a 45-year-old army nurse that was found naked and stomped to death with the initials "B.D." written in lipstick on her body.
Occurring shortly after the murder of Elizabeth Short in 1947, there was great debate about whether or not this was the work of the Black Dahlia or simply a copy cat. Before the "Black Dahlia" name caught on, the killer was referred to as "The Werewolf", and Elizabeth Short's death was known as the "Werewolf Murder".
Case #2: The Silk Stocking Murder
The Silk Stocking Murder leads Cole Phelps and his partner to an alleyway near City Hall where they find a woman left naked, beaten, and strangled. Her name is Antonia Maldonado and the prime suspect is her husband.
In real life: The Murder of Rosenda Mondragon
In 1947, Rosenda Mondragon was found dead after being strangled by a stocking near the City Hall in Los Angeles. Like her doppelgänger in the game, Rosenda Mondragon was supposedly found with both her wedding ring and a religious pendant still around her neck, negating robbery as a motive and, by some accounts, the innocence of her husband.
Case #3: The White Shoe Slaying
In the game, our victim, Theresa Taraldson, is found tossed from a car, strangled, and beaten on a hill near an oil field. She's missing a shoe and all of her personal belongings are missing from the scene, but, extraordinarily, she still has her clothes on.
The usual chain of evidence puts the victim's husband in the line of sight but eventually we find out that Theresa Taraldson is just one piece of a longer chain for the in-game Black Dahlia Killer. This one has real-life roots as well.
In real life: Murder of Laura Trelstad
According to newspapers at the time, Laura Trelstad was found dead near the Signal Hill Oil Field in 1947. Her body appeared to have recently been thrown from the window of an automobile and, unlike the other bodies found that year, she was still clothed, wearing one open-toed white shoe, a black coat, and a cotton garrote around her neck. These characteristics come together for an almost one-to-one match with L.A. Noire's Theresa Taraldson.
Case #4: The Studio Secretary Murder
Toward the end of Cole's time on the homicide desk, another body turns up at a Railyard. In this case, theres another missing ring but the rest of her belongings are still there. She is also still partially clothed (seems like our in-game Black Dahlia murderer is evolving) but, like the others, she was still both beaten and strangled.
On the scene, there's a railroad worker that both confesses to stealing her money, taking her lipstick, and even kissing her. You don't want to believe that there's a real murder that this one could be based on, but there is...
In real life: Murder of Evelyn Winters
The Studio Secretary Murder is based on the murder of Evelyn Winters, a brilliant but alcoholic legal secretary at a studio who was killed in the exact same way as the secretary in the L.A. Noire case.
There are a two more notable tie-ins between this case and the game. One of the suspects in the game's version is also based on a real suspect in Evelyn's murder, James Tiernan, a bowling alley worker, who was eventually charged in the killing. There was also a real railroad worker that confessed to kissing her corpse.
Case #5: The Driver's Seat
Ending things on a lighter note, this Traffic desk case features a bloodied abandoned car at a railyard and some peculiar pieces of evidence. From the looks of it, a murder took place in the car and the body was taken away. However, it isn't long before a receipt for a live pig is found in the trunk and the pieces of the puzzle start to come together.
A witness (and friend of the "victim") reveals that the car belongs to a man named Adrian Black who simply wanted to get away from his wife, so he faked his own death and disappearance.
In real life: Disappearance of Eugene White
Much like our man in the game, Eugene White of Los Angeles left his coat and wallet in a bloodstained vehicle along with a gift for his wife. This lead the police to believe that he and been beaten, robbed, and thrown into a freight car (explaining his disappearance).
Eventually, a close friend made him call his wife because she was incredibly worried and everyone found out that he just wanted a change of scenery. The kicker? He slit one of his wrists to get the blood that was used to vandalize the car. This is one case where life certainly proved to be stranger than fiction.
Sadly, the real-life counterparts to these game cases (save for the last) all remain unsolved—including the murder of Elizabeth Short and the rest of the Black Dahlia cases. L.A. Noire's Cole Phelps, however, has a fairly creative approach to solving them. So if you're interested in at least solving them in spirit, the game may be worth a play for you.
Did you notice any other true crime references in L.A. Noire?