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A Look Back:

Millionaire died in misunderstanding

Oil tycoon may have avoided fatal scuffle with mistaken housekeeper had he known enough Spanish to explain the situation prior.

October 10, 2009|By Brianna Bailey

In a fit of protective rage, Minola Gallardo lunged at Newport Beach millionaire William Bartholomae when she saw him standing in his bathrobe with a knife over her half-sister, who lay crumpled on the floor of the oil baron’s bayfront mansion the morning of Jan. 5, 1963.

Gallardo wrested the knife from the 70-year-old millionaire’s hands and stabbed him twice in the abdomen.

Bartholomae, a well-known sailing champion and oil tycoon, would die on the kitchen floor of his mansion at 2100 E. Balboa Boulevard that day because of a tragic misunderstanding.

A jury would eventually find Gallardo not guilty of manslaughter in Bartholomae’s death.

Gallardo, 31, a penniless Spanish housekeeper, could speak no English.

If Bartholomae had been able to speak a few words of Spanish, he might have been able to tell Gallardo that her sister, Carmen, had fallen in the kitchen seconds earlier while chopping up some mushrooms for breakfast.

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Carmen Bartholomae, 25, a former dancer, was married to William Bartholomae’s brother, Charles. She was still recovering from giving birth to her first child a few weeks earlier when she felt a sharp pain in her abdomen while cooking breakfast and collapsed on the floor that day, according to contemporary news accounts.

“I though he [Bartholomae] had done something to Carmen,” a tearful Gallardo told a jury through an interpreter while on trial for manslaughter in the millionaire’s death, the Los Angeles Times reported July 3, 1964.

“I thought he had killed her,” Gallardo testified. “I don’t remember very well, but I grabbed him — Bartholomae — and began to fight.”

Penniless and illiterate, Gallardo had come to Newport Beach from her native Malaga, Spain, in 1963 to help her half-sister Carmen with housework after she gave birth to a son, Carlos, according to contemporary news accounts.

William, Charles and Carmen Bartholomae, along with baby Carlos were all living in William’s 22-room Newport Beach mansion when Gallardo came to visit.

The trial proceedings were confusing to Gallardo, who had only had one year of schooling when she was 7 years old. She could not read or write except to sign her name.

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