She Stole Babies

Hazel, Mary, Rudy, and Fred Oden

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.

October 22, 1927 ~ Los Angeles Post Record (CA)

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.

Sources:
Census records
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


9 thoughts on “She Stole Babies

    1. I don’t believe she harmed the babies, just played with them…thank goodness. Based on other family photos I have, this appears to be her parents’ house. I can’t be sure if this was a visit or if she was out of the colony by this time. I’m really hoping that I’ll find her living with her parents on the 1950 census.

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    2. Hello, this photo was taken at home. My great great grandparents where able to check her out for day visits mostly when the other siblings where home.

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      1. I’m so glad you found the photos via find a grave. It’s great to be able to reunite them with family and to learn more about Hazel, even though it’s quite sad.

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    1. Hello all. I wanted to give you an update. I was able to locate Hazle in the 1950 census. She is still listed as an inmate…(This was not a shock to me as I had already confirmed she died at the institution.) I was able to get more from one of her siblings wives who is still living and remembers the story. Hazle had “stolen” anywhere around 30 to 40 babies over a period of time. This was during the time period where mothers left the babies out side in the buggy while in the store. What she liked to do was take her old ratted baby and put it in the real baby’s carriage and take the real baby for a walk. She would then walk the baby down the street and back. The day she was caught she swapped the babies again but decided to take the baby to the park. Hazle then decided to stop and play with the baby instead of taking him or her back to their mother. The police ended up finding Hazle and the baby at the park. When the police questioned Hazle she promised that she wouldn’t do it again. But the police felt that Hazle wasn’t in her right mind and that my 2x great grandparents could not control her and all of ther other kids they had as this was not the 1st call they have had recived about Hazle. My 2x great grandparents were able to check her out of the home for day visits here and there. Sadly Hazles health declined through out her life. Her hands ended up being locked in place and she became non verbal. And by the time she was in her late 30’s early 40’s she was wheelchair bound.

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