The Black Dahlia murder (1947)

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The murder of 22-year-old Elizabeth Short in January of 1947 was one of the biggest news stories of the 20th century, and continues to fascinate people to this day. Partially because of Short’s striking beauty and partially due to the particularly brutal nature of her murder, the media of the time latched on to the case with a vengeance, with William Randolph Hearst’s papers in particular sensationalizing the case and giving her the nickname the “Black Dahlia.”

After running through a laundry list of suspects — some self-confessed, others collared by police — the murder remains unsolved to this day, and is the subject of numerous books and movies. Even now, when a new article or book appears about the Black Dahlia, police receive an influx of tips and confessions to the crime. – AJW


Los Angeles girl hacked butcher style

Burlington Daily Times News (January 17, 1947)

Los Angeles — Hampered by a scarcity of clues, police today pressed a roundup of suspects in the gruesome butcher-slaying of a young woman identified by the Federal Bureau of Investigation as Elizabeth Short, 22, whose birthplace was Hyde Park, Mass.

The Los Angeles Times said she was the daughter of Mrs Phoebe M Short, 46, of Medford, Mass.

The identification made by the FBI in Washington was from fingerprints obtained when the girl was employed in the Post Exchange at Camp Cooke, Calif, in 1943, when the girl was taken into custody for alleged violation of juvenile court laws.

Santa Barbara Policewoman Mary Unkefer recalled that she put Miss Short, whom she described as a very attractive girl, on a train for Medford, “about nine days later.”

In Medford, Mrs Phoebe M Short said she would not believe that the victim was her daughter until she was notified by police.

Mrs Short said her daughter, Elizabeth, one of her five daughters, had been working as a motion picture extra until two weeks ago, when she was believed to have gone to San Diego to work in an Army hospital. Mrs Short said a severe case of asthma made it necessary for Elizabeth to go to a warmer climate in the winter.

At San Diego Police Detectives Ed Storter and Gerald Walk said Mrs Elvert French told them the slaying victim stayed at her home in Pacific Beach, San Diego suburb, for a month and left last January 7 with an unidentified red-haired youth, presumably headed for Hollywood.

Mrs French, the detectives related, said her daughter, Dorothy, met Miss Short in a theater early in December and invited her to their home. Mrs French said the Short girl appeared “depressed and moody and unwilling to discuss her past other than to say she came from Hollywood.”

In the rundown of suspects, police were questioning a 23-year-old Bakersfield man who, officers said, had been reported molesting women at a bus depot. The back seat of his automobile was missing, but the suspect said he removed it to carry machinery.


Police believe ‘Black Dahlia’ killed by woman

Harrisburg Daily Register (January 21, 1947)

Los Angeles — Police made a complete about-face today in their efforts to find the torture-murderer of pretty Elizabeth Short, and began an intensive search for a woman, rather than a man, as the mutilator of the “Black Dahlia.”

Former roommates of the strikingly beautiful 22-year-old girl were placed first on the list of those to be questioned. The decision to change all previous tactics of the week-long search came after a meeting of the city’s top-ranking police officials which began last night and lasted well into the morning hours.

Prime suspect in the new drive is a girl roommate who disappeared January 15, the day Miss Short’s tortured and mutilated body, hacked in two, was found in a lover’s lane.

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Adding to their belief that the girl’s slayer may have been a woman were two factors. First, the fact that she was known to be in Los Angeles January 9th without any luggage which would indicate she spent the week before she was killed with some woman who could provide extra clothing and makeup. Second, police officials said they believed the killing followed a pattern of other horror-murders by women.

Her presence in Los Angeles on January 9th was sworn to by Robert (Red) Manley, 25, who was cleared of suspicion yesterday after a long grilling by the police and two lie detector tests. Manley suggested another possible suspect, a swarthy, stocky “blind date” who jealously scratched Miss Short’s arms until they bled. The man was insanely jealous of the girl, he said.


‘Black Dahlia’ slayer plans to surrender

Anniston Star (January 27, 1947)

Letter received by newspaper says he will give up on Wednesday

Los Angeles — A person believed to be the torture slayer of “Black Dahlia” Elizabeth Short, 22, today offered in a taunting letter, to surrender to police Wednesday.

The letter, addressed to The Los Angeles Examiner, “appears to be legitimate” Homicide Capt Jack Donahue said.

A quick examination by Police Chemist Ray Pinker showed no fingerprints.

The card, mailed in downtown Los Angeles late yesterday, read:

“Here it is. Turning in Wednesday, Jan. 29, 10 a.m. Had my fun at police. Black Dahlia Avenger.”

The note was scrawled in boldly-printed capital letters. It was written in ink on a penny postcard.

Donahue said the note might be the “letter to follow” referred to by the sardonic slayer last week when he mailed newspapers a package containing several personal effects of the beautiful “Black Dahlia,” whose mutilated body was found January 15.

Authorities, who received by mail the butchered beauty’s papers and little address book, said a roundup of 75 names listed in the book added little to what was known.

Officers plowed through scores of false clues, sifted dumps for bits of evidence, interviewed hundreds of persons, only to return their investigation to the letter writer who mailed in Miss Short’s “belongings” Friday and promised another communication.

Black Dahlia Murder Scene Courtesy of Los Angeles Public Library

GI now ‘sure’ he killed Black Dahlia

Salt Lake Tribune (February 11, 1947)

Fort Dix, NJ — Talkative Corp Joseph Dumais said Monday that he had stabbed Elizabeth Short, the Los Angeles Black Dahlia, then hacked her body in half with a meat cleaver — but his “confession” remained to be proven.

The new detailed “confession” made by Dumais after five days of constant grilling by army criminal investigation department authorities was telephoned immediately to Los Angeles for checking.

Only the actual slayer could supply certain details of the way the black-haired beauty’s body was mutilated and dissected. On whether Dumais had given those facts hung the truth of his story.

In his new statement Dumais said he stole an automobile and a rope before going on a date with Miss Short in San Francisco, Maj Cornelius T Morris, public relations officer, said. During the date Dumais bound the girl with the rope, then stabbed her in the back, he said.

Dumais said he also slashed the Black Dahlia on the face and mouth with the knife. Then, he said, he used a meat cleaver to cut up her body. The corporal said he washed the blood off the parts of her body and left them in a vacant lot in Los Angeles. They were found there January 15.

Capt William Florence, CID chief here, who questioned Dumais throughout, said he was “convinced” the corporal was the killer.

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