The Killing of Gladys Conrad


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The Carlsbad by the Sea Retirement Community could easily pass for a five-star hotel. Set on a bluff overlooking the beach in upscale Carlsbad, the cluster of Spanish-style buildings, with red-tile roofs and private balconies, is surrounded by palm trees and lush gardens of roses and impatiens.

Living there isn’t cheap. Entrance fees range up to half a million dollars, on top of monthly “rent” of as much as $3,675. But this is not your run-of-the-mill old-folks’ home. This is for the retired doctors, lawyers and CEOs who want, and can afford, the very best.

As the brochure says, “Nestled on the coast of the Pacific Ocean, surrounded by palm trees and birds-of-paradise, Carlsbad by the Sea Retirement Community offers adults (60 and growing) more than just a place to retire—it offers a lifestyle that many compare to a luxury cruise.”

Unfortunately for 84-year-old Gladys Conrad, the “luxury cruise” came to an abrupt, and tragic, end—an end not even locked gates, security guards and around-the-clock video surveillance could prevent.

Shortly after 1 p.m. on Saturday, September 1, 2001—less than two years after she moved in—the retired psychiatrist’s ravaged body was found in one of the two bedrooms in her apartment on Garfield Street, between Carlsbad Village Drive and Grand Avenue. It was discovered by a friend, who had become concerned when Conrad didn’t show up for her morning bridge game.

Autopsy results list the cause of death as “manual asphyxiation,” or strangulation. Police reports indicate Conrad had been brutally beaten and raped, sometime between 10 p.m. Friday and 10 a.m. Saturday. Police surmise the initial attack occurred in the living room and that the attacker got in through an unlocked patio door, but that’s about all they know—or are willing to talk about.

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