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Downtown's Death Leaps

By Eric Richardson
Published: Tuesday, August 11, 2009, at 10:23AM
1939 Leaper Illustration Los Angeles Times

It was from the 11th floor of this Olive Street office buildings, as indicated by dotted line, that Lois Asche fell to her death yesterday.



The Downtown News this week writes about the six suicide jumps that have taken place thus far in 2009, asking whether there might be an underlying cause for the seemingly high number of cases.

Jumpers, though, are nothing new to Downtown. The archives of the L.A. Times are littered with stories about the cases, which the paper often referred to as "death leaps."

The stories are all tragic, with attempts to explain the situations often trending toward money or relationship issues. Most Downtown structures of ten stories or more have had a leap at some point in their history.

Clusters of leaps aren't new either. On July 21, 1956, the Times described how two men had leaped to death from different Downtown buildings "almost simultaneously" the day previous. Robert Speers, 48, took his life when he "plunged" from the 13th floor fire escape of the Mayfair Hotel in City West, while Henry Albert Ackerman, 33, jumped from 639 S. Spring.

Particularly fascinating is the regularity with which these leaper stories were accompanied by illustrations of the decedent's downward path. Times illustrators drew in dotted paths to show the leaper's take-off and landing points.

One finds it hard to imagine that the paper would do the same today.

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