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Cold Case: Black Dahlia

The Untimely Death of a Beautiful Woman

The deceased body of Elizabeth Short

On a cold winter's day, in 1947, the body of a beautiful aspiring actress was discovered. The mother, who was walking with her child, at first that it was a mannequin just ditched to the side of the road. But upon closer inspection, and to her horror, it was much more than a naked mannequin. It was the dumping place of Elizabeth Short's body. Obviously, the now panicked mother rushed to closest home to call the authorities.

Upon finding her, the police found two things very unexpected. First, that there was not a drop of her blood anywhere. This told authorities that the killing took place in a different location. Second, Elizabeth was literally cut into two! She was cut right above the waist and the distance between the upper and lower half was about a foot. When she was found: her legs were spread wide, the mouth cut into what's known as the "Glasgow Smile," and she also had cuts along her breasts and thighs. 

According to the medical examiner, she had died 10 hours before he discovery. Which means, she had passed on in the late hours of January 14th or the early hours of January 15th. The autopsy showed that the 115 lbs young woman had some sort of material bound (ligature marks) on her ankles, wrists, and neck. The coroner noted "irregular laceration with superficial tissue loss" on her right breast. He also stated that there were superficial lacerations on the right forearm, left upper arm, and the lower left side of the chest. Now to the most insane part of her discovery; the incision. The lower part of the spine consists of five separate lumbar vertebrae. The cut was between the 2nd and 3rd vertebrae. He noticed that there wasn't much bruising along the incision, which means that this monster dissected her after she passed on. Bruising was located along the front and right side of her scalp, along with minor bleeding in the subarachnoid space on the right side. The subarachnoid space is a three layer membrane that protects the nervous system of the brain and spinal cord. But, no part of her skull was cracked or broken. Due to the dilation of her anal canal, he believes that she was raped. Shortly after, she was identified as Ms. Short from fingerprints collected from her arrest four years prior.

On the 21st, a call came in to the editor of the local newspaper, the Examiner. This call was from "supposed" killer of Elizabeth. He told the editor, James Richardson, that he plans on turning himself in, eventually. But he wanted the authorities to dig deeper in the case. He also told Richardson to "expect some souvenirs of (Eliza)Beth in the mail." Three days later, a US Postal Service working came into contact with a manila envelope with words that had be cut and glued to the envelope. It said: "Here is Delilah's belongings letter to follow." Within contained her: birth certificate, business cards, photographs, papers with names written on them, and a address book with the name Mark Hansen (a local wealth nightclub and theater owner) embossed on the cover. 

The police found that all the items were swiped with gasoline, which is the same substance Short's body was wiped down with. They were able to clean off some of the gasoline and pick up partial finger prints. But, due to the poor transfer of the evidence, they were unable to be properly analyze the prints. The same day the package was received, there was "reportedly" a black suitcase and black suede shoes sitting atop a dumpster about two miles from Elizabeth's dump site. In the same way as her body and the package, the items were wiped clean with gasoline.

Quickly, police contacted and questioned Mr. Hansen. He admitted that the address book was his and was unsure why she was in possession of it. Note: Mr. Hansen and Ms. Short were acquaintances. A friend and roommate of Elizabeth, Anna Toth, told investigators that Short recently had rejected sexual advances from him. She said that it could have been a clear motive. The investigators cleared Hansen as a suspect for Shorts unexpected death. The next potential suspect was a 25-year-old married salesman, Robert "Red" Manley. Red stated that after their date, he dropped Short off at the hotel where her visiting sister was staying at. Manley was put through several polygraph tests and passed them. The police also questioned the names of those in Hansen's address book. Throughout the beginning stages, about 1,400 LAPD investigators, sheriff deputies, and California State Patrol officers were working on this case. They searched in various places to find potential evidence, but none was found. In fact, the Lloyd G. Davis (City Councilmen) had a $10,000 reward for any information about her killer. On the 26th, the Examiner, received the letter they were expecting."Here it is. Turning in Wed., Jan 29 10am. Had my fun at police. Black Dahlia Avenger."

On the 29th, the police arrived at the location stated in the letter, but he did not appear. Three hours after the time he was supposed to turn himself in, another letter arrived. It was another cut and glued letter saying, "Have changed my mind. You would not give me a square deal. Dahlia killing was justified."

February 1st, the lead investigator, Captain Jack Donahue, was interviewed. He believes that Elizabeth was killed in a building on the outskirts of town and then transported to the city for dumping. LAPD believes that the killer would have been a surgeon, doctor, or anyone with medical knowledge, due to the dissection of her body. LAPD eventually obtained a warrant for the University of Southern California Medical School, which oddly isn't that far from dump site. The investigation of the school, its students, and professors yielded no results. During the case, the investigators accumulated a list of 12 potential killers. Many speculate Dr. George Hodel was the very last person to see her alive. Even his own son, who became an investigator, believes he killed Short, and even more women.

Dr. George Hodel 

It's been 70+ years since her gruesome and tragic death and investigators have no clue what happened or who her killer is. 

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Cold Case: Black Dahlia
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