Murder of Elizabeth Short who was nick-named Black Dahlia is one of the most fascinating murders ever. What makes entire Black Dahlia case so much more fascinating is the fact that despite massive media coverage and involvement of countless official and self appointed investigators, the murder of Elizabeth Short remains unsolved. Who killed, dismembered and mutilated body of Elizabeth Short? Nobody knows. Some guess, but nobody knows for sure and given that she was killed on January 15, 1947 – over 60 years ago, her killer has already most likely died of natural causes (or by some other means).
It is quite likely the mystery of an unsolved case that immortalized Black Dahlia. The fascination with her life and especially gruesome death continues even after six decades. Not only has there been several Black Dahlia inspired books, there is also a Hollywood movie, countless websites and (my favorite) a band called The Black Dahlia Murder. The guys are from Detroit, Michigan and even though I have to admit I have never heard any of their songs, they must have liked something about Elizabeth Short to choose her ending as name for their band. To top it all up, some people get tattoos matching Black Dahlia autopsy photo with her face mutilated and wide cut across her mouth.
Elizabeth Short Biography
Elizabeth Short was born on July 29, 1924 in Hyde Park, Massachusetts. She was a little girl when her father Cleo abandoned the family, leaving care for 5 girls in the hands of Beth’s mother Phoebe Mae. Since Elizabeth suffered from asthma, she would spend most of the year with the family in Medford, Massachusetts but was sent to Florida to stay with family friend in winter.
The family had no contact with daddy Cleo who was believed to have committed suicide but that proved false after he attempted to come back to Phoebe who rejected him. Knowing her dad is alive and lives in California, Elizabeth Short left to live with him when she turned 19. Elizabeth had a dream of becoming a movie star and moving to California seemed like the step in right direction to pursue her dream. After a short stay in Californian Vallejo, Elizabeth and her dad moved to Los Angeles but that didn’t last long. It was early 1943 when Elizabeth Short got in an argument and a fight with her father and left for Santa Barbara. That’s where the mugshot is from – she was arrested for underage drinking and sent on her merry way back to Medford, Massachusetts. So much for becoming a famous movie star in LA.
Elizabeth Short spent following two years moving up and down Florida and Massachusetts being unemployed or working as an actress. Since she looked half decent, she got lots of attention form pussy hungry men who spent money on her meals and clothes. Pretty girl got by even though she was flat broke all the time. Quite unfair for average looking girls.
During her whereabouts in Florida, Elizabeth Short met Major Matthew M. Gordon Jr. with whom she allegedly fell in love. Being part of the 2nd Air Commandos, Major Matthew M. Gordon Jr. was sent to serve in India from where he sent a letter to Elizabeth Short with marriage proposition. Elizabeth accepted the proposal but Gordon died in a plane crash before he could return. This affair between Elizabeth Short and Matthew Gordon has been denied by Gordon’s family, though.
After Matthew Gordon, there was another man in her life, with whom she was allegedly just friends. Lt. Gordon Fickling who lived in Long Beach received a letter form Elizabeth Short which she sent one day before her death. In the letter she mentioned that she wanted to move to Chicago to become a fashion model – pretty girls have it easy. Just go around looking pretty and someone’s gonna hire you to do a job of looking pretty. Elizabeth Short was last seen alive on January 9, 1947 – nobody has a clue where she’d been during the week before her murder.
Elizabeth Short Murder
Dead body of Elizabeth Short was discovered on January 15, 1947 in a vacant lot in Leimert Park, Crenshaw district of Los Angeles by mother and daughter who were on their way home after doing some shopping. They first thought there was an abandoned mannequin in the grass but as they got closer the horrific truth was revealed. That was no mannequin, but a body of a young girl naked, cut in half, her face slashed from mouth to ear and her hands posed above her head.
There was no evidence at the crime scene. No footprints, no weapons, nothing to provide the police with any clues. Crime scene details were provided to the media and the story of Black Dahlia took off. By now, nobody even knows whether she had this nickname while she was alive or whether it was started by one of the media and everyone else went with it.
Black Dahlia Autopsy Results
The investigation of the Black Dahlia murder returned inconclusive results. While mutilated body of Elizabeth Short was drained off blood, there was hardly any at the crime scene leading investigators to conclusion that she was murdered elsewhere and dumped in that ditch after she was dead. The mortician concluded that her body was cut in half with either an electric saw or a large butcher knife. Her death was caused by “hemorrhage and shock due to concussions of the brain and lacerations of the face.”
Autopsy report further details that face of Elizabeth Short had deep 3″ long laceration that extended laterally from right corner of her mouth and a 2.5″ long laceration that extended laterally from left corner of her mouth making her look as if she was smiling. Her body was bruised in several places, including head and neck but no evidence of trauma indicative of strangulation was found on trachea, the thyroid glands or hyoid bone.
Elizabeth Short has a small tattoo of a rose on her thigh. This tattoo was cut off by the murderer(s) and shoved up her vagina along with a lot of grass. Autopsy results also suggested that Elizabeth Short was sexually abused and sodomized both before death as well as post mortem. Her stomach was filled with all sorts of matter, including feces however no sperm was found anywhere on or near her body. Bruising suggests that Elizabeth Short was tortured prior to death as dead bodies don’t bruise.
It is also interesting to note that Elizabeth Short was believed to suffer from genital defect which rendered her unable to have normal sex. However coroner did not find anything unusual about her reproductive organs so the rumors of genital defects remain unconfirmed.
Who Killed Elizabeth Short?
According to expert criminal profilers, the extent of injuries body of Elizabeth Short suffered suggests that she was killed by a person who knew her and was close to her. The only other killer profile that would cause this extent of injuries would be a psychopath mass murderer who chose Elizabeth Short as his next victim. However serial killers take several years and several victims before they reach this level of brutality. According to experts, serial killers modify the way they kill based on what gave them most gratification in previous victims.
As the popularity of Black Dahlia grew, several men confessed to being the killers only to be proven liars. That was complicating the investigations as the police had no leads, no suspects and no evidence to work with and each time someone would come forth to confess to being the killer of Black Dahlia, they would be proven wrong. Looks like there are dozens of wannabe murderers who do not have the guts to kill someone, but wish they had done it in such marvelous fashion as killers of Black Dahlia did it. The way she was killed appealed to several dozen men who wanted to be thought of as killers who murdered a woman in an exceptionally horrific way. Funny how a mind of a man works.
Out of 60 people who confessed to murder ot Elizabeth Short, several were eliminated and following 23 remained as possible suspects:
Dr George Hodel, Joe Scalis, Salvador Torres Vera, Marvin Margolis, A Chicago police officer Dr A. E. Brix, George Bacos, Glenn Wolf, Maurice Clement, Michael Anthony Otero, James Nimmo, Jacob Fisk, John D. Wade, Mark Hansen, Sergeant Chuck, Dr Patrick S. O’Reilly, C. Welsh, Dr Artnur McGinnis Faught, Carl Balsiger, Dr M. M. Schwartz, Francis Campbell, Dr Paul DeGaston, Queer Woman Surgeon
62 years after infamous Black Dahlia murder the LAPD is no closer to solving the mystery than they were in 1947. If they could not have solved it so far, it is unlikely the real murderer will be found now. Heck, Elizabeth Short herself would be over 84 year old if she was still alive today. Los Angeles Police Department put a lot of effort towards solving of the Black Dahlia murder but got nowhere. The case has been declared “officially unsolved” and it will likely stay that way forever.
The gallery with pictures of the Black Dahlia murder, including crime scene and autopsy photos is below: