Gemma Taccogna: A Fred Sexton Survivor and Artist Extraordinaire
September 28, 2019
Los Angeles, California
Born May 10, 1923-Died May 8, 2007
“Spring Flowers” by Gemma
In the summer of 2003, just a few months after the publication of my first book, Black Dahlia Avenger: A Genius for Murder, I was invited to give an author book signing in Torrance, California.
As is common in all my presentation, after giving an overall brief summary of the roles of the two primary suspects, my father George Hodel and his accomplice, Fred Sexton, I concluded my talk and opened it up to an audience Q&A.
An unknown woman of forty-something raised her hand and upon calling on her she responded by saying, “I know you are telling the truth. Fred Sexton was my step-father and he molested me when I was a child and then left to Mexico.” (The audience immediately fell to a hushed silence and all I could say was, “could you please remain after the signing as I would like to talk to you.”
We talked that night and she identified herself to me as Gemma (named after her mother) a daughter from Gemma’s prior marriage and informed me she had two brothers, Juan and Zen. She provided me with contact information for her mother and I called that evening and a date and time was set for me to interview Gemma Taccogna Sexton at her apartment in Torrance.
SKH Gemma Taccogna Sexton Interview Notes/Info
Skh Note- Below are my original notes from 2003, however, I have redacted certain portions that relate and refer to yet undisclosed references which connect to additional criminal behavior and will be presented in a future publication “The Early Years.”
(June 17, 2003 interview Redondo Beach, present: Roberta McCreary, Gemma Taccogna’s daughter Gemma (48) and son Juan (50)
Gemma is Italian, age 80. Parents came through Ellis Island.
Met Fred Sexton when she was a single mother of three. Two sons and a daughter. (Juan, Gemma, and Zen) Lived in Mexico. Highly successful artist. Attended art school and lived in NY. Attended NYU. Originated the papier-mache process which made her a fortune.
Seduced by Sexton’s charms they married in the early 60s. Had a studio and large home in an expensive suburb of Mexico City. (St. Angel)
Relocated to Palos Verdes Peninsula, where they lived with Sexton. Fred then molested (oral sex) Gemma’s ten-year-old daughter. (Also named Gemma) The mother describes an incident where after discovering the molestation she took Fred’s gun while he was sleeping, put it to his head and pulled the trigger. But the gun would not fire, as it apparently was on safety, and she knew nothing about guns.
Fred fled the U.S. to Mexico, where he removed all the cash they had in joint Mexican savings accounts, which amounted to 1.5 million dollars.
Gemma divorced him in 1968 and made no attempt to report the sex crimes due to fear she would harm her and her children’s reputations.
Sexton remarried a teenage Mexican girl and lived in wealth and comfort in Mexico until dying in 1995. No, recontact by Gemma after the molestation.
During their marriage, Gemma would visit Gwain (Fred’s former wife) with Fred at the White Knoll residence. Gwain (now senile) has lived with “Raymond” who is 30 years her junior and has been with her since her divorce from Fred in the 60s.
(Note- During the interview I provided Gemma with the residence telephone for Gwain, which is still listed under “Fred Sexton”. She called and spoke briefly with Gwain verifying her senility and discovered that Raymond is still living at the house. Gemma will recontact Raymond and see if she can obtain any info or photos. Gwain has some of her artwork from the 60s, which Gemma would like to borrow for a show.)
Gemma aware of Fred’s darkness, but no specifics related to any crimes. She believes he was having affairs during their marriage, but no specific information. He beat Juan with a belt severely on several occasions.
Fred worked as an L.A. cab driver in his early years. Also worked for the film studios as a set-designer. Knew Huston and others. Believe that Fred went to Europe, possibly Paris sometime in the 1930s.
After Fred fled with the money, Gemma was eventually forced to sell her home in Palos Verdes and now lives in a small apartment, with little or no money.
Three photographs loaned to me, by Gemma. Two depicting Fred circa 1962, and one of Gemma during that time period.
END OF SKH 2003 Interview Notes
GEMMA- An Artist of International Reputation
Gemma posing with her large papier mache dolls
by Dona Z. Meilach (Crown Publishers NY 1978)
From interior of book photo by Dona and Mel Leilach
Gemma tiles artwork in Palos Verdes Estates, California
GEMMA/FRED SEXTON ARTWORK
During their time together in Mexico, Fred Sexton took advantage of Gemma’s already well established world-wide reputation and thriving business and added his own name to her techniques and designed some bracelets and other artworks. Consequently, some of the art pieces will be found to contain his name, and or both their names.
Over the past decade I have purchased several pieces. One is signed just by Fred Sexton and the other contains both their signatures. See photos below:
Sexton’s “Nube Blanca” (“White Cloud”)
Gemma Taccogna/Fred Sexton Chicken
Below is a link to an excellent Bio on Gemma
Mid2mod- a modern design blog- GEMMA TACCOGNA 10.7.2014
(This article also contains a link to her granddaughter, Elvie Elman’s documentary on Gemma.)
Views of Gemma/Sexton residence locals in San Angel, Mexico and Palos Verdes Estates, California
Palos Verdes Estates, California
SKH Note– Coincidentally, architect, Lloyd Wright (who designed and built the Sowden/Hodel residence in Hollywood) also in 1951, built the Wayfarers Chapel in Rancho Palos Verdes,(seen below) which would have been just a short distance from the home bought and lived in by Gemma and Fred Sexton a decade later. See article at below link.
I heard you on coast to coast last night. I was completely mesmerized. Didn’t even think about going back to sleep. Riveting. It was like a movie in my head that I was living. I wish I could afford your books, maybe I can find them in the library. I’ve already done a little bit of Internet research. Thank you for the great show. I think that was one of the best I have ever heard and coast to coast. Pretty much all I can think about today. Thank you, John Sahli
John S. Thanks John. Most of my books are also Ebooks for around $5.00 Also, likely in your local library, but try and get the updated version. Best, Steve
Hello Steven heard you on Coast last night it was riveting.I tried to call because I have a question
about Marcel Duchamp.He worked on a sculpture for 10 years which looks eeriely like the murder scene.
Id hementioned in your book? And which book do you discuss the artists.I am going to purchasethat book.Thank you.
Kathy: Yes, Duchamp’s “Etant Donnes” figures prominently in my investigation as do other surrealist artworks. BDA II would be a good book as it lays out the surrealist artworks/connections. Steve
Mr Steve first of all I want to sincerely apologize for some of the comments in which was floating your message board with of strings of compete and utterly nonsense,but I was only exercising my opinion on some of the things I have read in regards to your book,and I plainly got way out of line but I only did so for the fact that I am a real big fan of some of your work and I guess I became completely starstruck and I feel as tho your work and this case is bigger then some rap it’s bigger than anything I ever read and I just felt that reading some of your books and the books of james ellroy has really changed my views on alot of things and it has elevated my conscious and my maturity level and giving some of my opinions just allowed me to get alittle head of the chief who’s running this story so I again sir apologize for my unacceptable behavior
Zach H. Quite alright. Lot of material to try and digest. So many “moving parts”.
Yes u are absolutely correct Mr hodel,but you are superb sir you will sort it all out thank you very much…
Hi Steve Model, i was lucky to catch Ur 3 hrs. on C2Cam radio show last night with George Knapp. Absolutely spellbinding, i had to stay tuned. My wife found the short TNT tv series ” i am the Night” a week back which primed me for Ur broadcast. Thank you so much for all Ur hard work all these years and sharing the results. Despite some very difficult early years for U, Ur Mom & brothers Ur story of survival is amazing, Thank God U’ve persevered and carried on and are still with us. Are any of Ur recent books a thorough compilation to date ? If not, are there 2 or 3 U’d recommend most ? The excerpts of Ur own life & timeline along the way as retold last evening are also remarkable, quite interesting and helpful. i hope U were able to include as much of that as possible into some of Ur recent editions. Good luck 2 U and Ur family Sir, michael e. clark
Thanks for the kind words. Much appreciated.
Suggested reading order would be: BDA I (Skyhorse 2015ed); Most Evil I (Dutton); BDA II (2014) Most Evil II (Rare Bird Books 2015); BDA III (Rare Bird Books 2018) and finally In The Mesquite (Thoughtprint Press 2019)
More fascinating information on Fred Sexton. If only that gun hadn’t been on “safety”…. It really makes me wonder about the “Maltese Falcon” Fred supposedly designed. I’m not so certain Fred could design anything other than a satanic ritual or a vicious child molestation. Seems more likely that (in typical psychopathic fashion) Sexton copied the design from somebody else ( a fellow prop designer?) and just like he did with Gemma’s art work, took credit for it himself.
And as for Lloyd Wright Jr, he sure did have his hands in building epic homes for some the worst psychopathic murderers of his day. And since I since don’t believe in coincidence when it comes to things as evil and dark as that, well… suffice to say there’s more to the Wright family of builders (Masons) than meets the eye isn’t there? Surprise, surprise. RIP Gemma Taccogna, RIP.
Dear Lucas and Steve,
About the pottery collected, those signatures were not Fred Sexton’s. Gemma signed Fred’s signature on both. Purpose? Not sure. Financial reasons maybe? Please see future posts on Fred’s signature and provenance especially involving The Maltese Falcon. If have provenance on pieces, I would certainly authenticate.
I suspected that might be the case, as the signatures do appear consistent with Gemma’s.
I am familiar with the documentation in regard to Sexton and the Maltese Falcon comparisons.
Steve, I just came across the information about Fred Sexton and Gemma Taconia. Evidently you have published a book or books on them? I was a student of gemma’s in the late ’60s and would come to her house in Palos Verdes for art lessons as payment for my working in her studio on her paper mache sculptures. There were many of us who made papier mache structures for her to create her porcelanized finish on and then she would paint them. I was a current student of hers at the time that Gemmie, the daughter ,was hospitalized after having been attacked. No one mentioned what had happened but I knew it was Fred since he disappeared. I am in touch with Gemma, the daughter, on Facebook and recently saw a post by Zen for some prints of his paintings which he’s selling. I’m so grateful for my training with Gemma as I am a theatrical artist today. She really shaped me as an artist. I’m also so glad to hear that is that her children are wonderful artists!
Thanks for the contact. I met Gemma’s son and daughter before Gemma died some years ago.
Guess I didn’t know that Zen was a painter? Good on him. I’ll contact you by email.
Best email for me is: [email protected]