Elizabeth Short was an (aka the Black Dahlia) American woman who was found murdered in the Leimert Park neighborhood of Los Angeles, California. Her body had been mutilated and bisected at the waist.
She was from Boston and had spent her early life in Medford, Massachusetts, and Florida before moving to California, where her father lived. It is commonly known that she was inspiring acter.
On January 9, 1947, Elizabeth returned to her home in Los Angeles after a short trip to San Diego with Robert "Red" Manley, a 25-year-old married salesman, who he had been dating. Manley had stated that he dropped off Elizabeth at the Biltmore Hotel located at 506 South Grand Avenue in downtown Los Angeles and that Elizabeth had met her sister. (Who had been visiting from Boston that afternoon.) And it was reported that the Hotel staff had seen Elizabeth using the lobby phone. And a little while later she was reported to have been seen at the Crown Grill Cocktail Lounge at 754 South Olive Street. (Which was about 0.4 miles away from the Biltmore Hotel.)
On January 15, 1947, Elizabeth's naked body had been found severed into two pieces in a vacant lot on the west side of South Norton Avenue, half-way between Coliseum Street and West 39th Street in Leimert Park, Los Angeles. At the time the neighborhood was very undeveloped. A local resident had found the body. Her name was Betty Bersinger. She had found the body around 10 am with her 3-year-old daughter. When Betty had first seen the body she thought it was a discarded store mannequin, but when she realized it was a body she rushed to the nearby house and called the police.
Elizabeth's severely mutilated body was completely severed at the waist and drained of blood. Medical Examiner determined that she had been dead for around ten hours before she was discovered. This timed her death at some time either sometime during the evening of January 14, or the early morning hours of January 15. Her body had been washed by her killer. Her face had been slashed from the corners of her mouth to her ears. (creating an effect known as the "Glasgow smile") She had several cuts on her thighs and chest, where entire portions of flesh had been cut away. The lower half of her boy was put a foot away from the other half. And her intestines were placed under her lower half. The victim's hands had been placed above her head, and her elbows had been bent in right angles, and her legs had been spread apart.
Upon the discovery of the body, a crowd of passersby and reported began to gather.
Near the body, detectives located a heel print amid tire tracks. Also, there was a cement bag filled with water blood found nearby.
There was an autopsy performed on Elizabeth's body on January 16, 1947. (by Frederick Newbarr, the Los Angeles County coroner) It stated that Elizabeth was 5 feet 5 inches tall, and weighed 115 pounds. And had light blue eyes, brown hair, and badly decayed teeth. There were ligature marks on her ankles, wrists, and neck. And her body had been cut in half using a technique called hemicorporectomy. The lower half of her body had been removed by transecting the lumbar spine between the second and third lumbar vertebrae. But because there was very little bruise near that area, it was determined that it was done after death.
It was also determined that she died from blows to her face and the shock from the blows to her head.
On January 21, 1947, a person claiming to be Elizabeth's killer called the office of James Richardson. The caller congratulated James on the coverage of the case. And also stated that he planned to eventually turn himself in after the police pursued him further. He also stated that he should "expect some souvenirs of Beth Short in the mail".
And on January 24, the caller fulfilled his promise, when a suspicious manila envelope was discovered by a U.S. Postal Service worker. The envelope was addressed to "The Los Angeles Examiner and other Los Angeles papers" with individual words that had been cut and pasted from newspaper articles. And a large message on the face of the envelope read "Here is Dahlia's belongings letter to follow". The envelope contained Short's birth certificate, business cards, photographs, names written on pieces of paper, and an address book with the name Mark Hansen embossed on the cover. The packet had been carefully clean with gasoline, similarly to the body. (this caused the police to believe the package had been sent directly from the killer.) But despite the efforts to clean the package, partial fingerprints were lifted from the envelope and sent to be tested. But unfortunately, the fingerprints were contaminated in the transit, and therefore were useless. On the same day, they received the package a pair of black shoes had been found near where the victim's body had been found. But like the package it had been cleaned with gasoline, destroying all fingerprints.
On March 14, an apparent suicide note was found tucked into a pair of shoes along with a bundle of man's clothing. The note read, "To whom it may concern: I have waited for the police to capture me for the Black Dahlia killing, but have not. I am too much of a coward to turn myself in, so this is the best way out for me. I couldn't help myself for that, or this. Sorry, Mary."
The clothes included a coat and trousers of blue herringbone tweed, a brown and white Y shirt, white jockey shorts, tan socks, and tan moccasin leisure shoes, size about eight. But they gave no clue to the owner of the clothes.
Police quickly deemed Mark Hansen, the owner of the address book found in the packet, a suspect. (Hansen was a wealthy local nightclub and theater owner) But one the day that Elizabeth was murdered he was in Portland, Oregon, visiting his father-in-law, who was dying of kidney failure.
On January 26, another letter was received by the Examiner, this time handwritten, which read: "Here it is. Turning in Wed., Jan. 29, 10 am. Had my fun at police. Black Dahlia Avenger". The letter also named a location the killer was supposed to turn himself in. And police waited at the location on January 29, but the killer never came.
Instead, at 1:00 pm, the Examiner offices received another cut-and-pasted letter, which read: "Have changed my mind. You would not give me a square deal. Dahlia killing was justified."
By the spring of 1947, Short's murder had become a cold case with few new leads.
And her killer has never been caught.
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