The headlines read She Stole Babies! Even more alarming was that Hazel Oden wasn’t your usual kidnapper. She was an eight-year-old little girl.
In 1927, Hazel was living at 2706 Wabash Avenue in Los Angeles, California with her parents and 12 siblings. Her modus operandi was to wheel a buggy around the neighborhood until she happened upon an unattended infant in a baby carriage. She would transfer the baby into her buggy and wheel away.
Various assumptions were made about Hazel’s motivations for absconding with babies every chance she got. Some believed it was because her family was poor and she had but one doll which was quite tattered. Others felt the little girl was lonely. I’m not sure how that was possible when five of her siblings were under the age of 12 and surely would have made good playmates. Although, Hazel did say that she liked baby girls better than boys and the youngest of her siblings were boys.
After the 4th kidnapping in less than a month, Hazel was remanded to a juvenile detention facility where she could be observed. Letters and gifts of doll babies poured in from all over the country. However, when presented with these dolls, Hazel had no interest in them and would ask “where’s the buggy?”.
Unfortunately for Hazel, none of the more innocent childhood theories hit the mark. Before she turned to kidnapping, it was revealed that she was in the habit of starting fires. After all of the evaluations were completed, it was determined that Hazel’s issues were more than her family could handle. She was committed to the Pacific Colony for the feeble-minded in what was then Spadra, California (now Pomona).
The photo I’ve shared of Hazel with her parents and brother, Rudy, gives me a glimmer of hope that she was spared the most gruesome horrors of the institution, which included forced sterilization. Hazel was still an inmate at the Colony in 1940, when she was 20 years old. But, maybe she eventually was able to live with her family. I’ll be anxiously awaiting the release of the 1950 census records to find out.
Hazel died at the age of 60 on January 19, 1980, and was laid to rest with her family in Rose Hills Memorial Park in Pomona.
Update ~ The snapshot featured in this post, as well as some other photographs of the Odens, have been reunited with family, a great-granddaughter of one of Hazel’s sisters.
Los Angeles Post Record, Los Angeles, CA ~ October 22, 1927
Ventura County Star, Ventura, CA ~ November 9, 1927
Los Angeles Times, Los Angeles, CA ~ November 15, 1927