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
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.