The Black Dahlia: Another Confession, and Another Murder

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U.S. Army Corporal Joseph Dumais [Photo courtesy of LAPL]

On February 8, 1947 the Herald-Express announced that the Black Dahlia case had been solved. They had found the killer!

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The Herald-Express story began:

“Army Corporal Joseph Dumais, 29, of Fort Dix, N.J., is definitely the murdered of “The Black Dahlia”, army authorities at Fort Dix announced today.’

Dumais, a combat veteran, had returned from leave wearing blood stained trousers with his pockets crammed full of clippings about Short’s murder. According to the Herald, Dumais made a 50 page confession in which he claimed to have had a mental blackout after dating Elizabeth Short in Los Angeles five days before her body was found.

The good looking corporal seemed like the real deal. He told the cops that “When I get drunk I get pretty rough with women.” Unfortunately, when police checked his story against known facts the solider’s confession didn’t hold up. Dumais was sent to a psychiatrist.

Two days after Dumais’ false confession the Herald put out an Extra with the headline: “Werewolf Strikes Again! Kills L.A. Woman, Writes B.D. on Body”.

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The victim of the “Werewolf Killer” was forty-five year old Jeanne French. Her nude body had been discovered at about 8 a.m. on February 10, 1947 near Grand View Avenue and Indianapolis Street in West L.A.

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Cops at the scene of Jeanne French’s murder. [Photo courtesy LAPL]

Jeanne Thomas French had lived an incredibly fascinating life. She had been an aviatrix, a pioneer airline hostess, a movie bit player and an Army Nurse. And at one time she had been the wife of a Texas oilman. The way she died was monstrous.

jeanne and frank picA construction worker H.C. Shelby was walking to work around 8 o’clock that morning along Grand View Blvd. when he saw a small pile of woman’s clothing in weeds a few feet from the sidewalk. Curious, Shelby walked over and lifted up a fur trimmed coat and discovered French’s nude body.

French had been savagely beaten, and her body was covered with bruises. She had suffered some blows to her head, probably administered by a metal blunt instrument — maybe a socket wrench. As bad as they were, the blows to her head had not been fatal. Jeanne died from hemorrhage and shock due to fractured ribs and multiple injuries caused by stomping — she had heel prints on her chest. It took a long time for French to die. The coroner said that she slowly bled to death.

Mercifully, Jeanne was unconscious after the first blows to her head so she never saw her killer take the deep red lipstick from her purse, and she didn’t feel the pressure of his improvised pen as he wrote on her torso: “Fuck You, B.D.” (later determined to be P.D.) and “Tex”.

French had last been seen in the Pan American Bar at 11155 West Washington Place. She was seated at the first stool nearest the entrance and the bartender later told cops that a smallish man with a dark complexion was seated next to her. The bartender assumed they were a couple because he saw them leave together at closing time.

Jeanne’s estranged husband, Frank, was booked on suspicion of murder. The night before she died Jeanne had gone to the apartment where Frank was living and they’d quarreled. Frank said that his wife had started the fight, then hit him with her purse and left. He said that was the last time he saw her. He told the cops she’d been drinking.

David Wrather, Jeanne’s twenty-five year old son from a previous marriage was also brought in for questioning. As he was leaving the police station he saw his step-father for the first time since he’d learned of his mother’s death. David confronted Frank and said: “Well, I’ve told them the truth. If you’re guilty, there’s a God in heaven who will take care of you.” Frank didn’t hesitate, he looked at David and said: “I swear to God I didn’t kill her.”jeanne french_husband lie detector

Frank was cleared when his landlady testified that he’d been in his apartment at the time of the murder, and when his shoe prints didn’t match those found at the scene of the crime.

Cops followed the few leads they had. French’s cut-down 1929 Ford roadster was found in the parking lot of a drive-in restaurant, The Piccadilly  at Washington Pl. and Sepulveda Blvd. Witnesses said that the car had been there since 3:15 the morning of the murder, and a night watchman said it was left there by a man. The police were never able to find out where Jeanne had been between 3:15 a.m. and the time of her death which was estimated at 6 a.m.

Scores of sex degenerates were rousted, but each was eliminated as a suspect. Officers also checked out local Chinese restaurants after the autopsy revealed that French had eaten Chinese food shortly before her death.

French’s slaying, known as the “Red Lipstick Murder” case, went cold.

Three years later, following a Grand Jury investigation into the numerous unsolved murders of women in L.A., investigators from the D.A.’s office were assigned to look into the case.

Frank Jemison and Walter Moragan worked the French case for almost eight months, but they were never able to close it. They came up with one hot suspect, a painter who had painted the French’s house about four months prior to her death. He even dated her several times. The suspicious thing about the painter was that the day after Jeanne’s murder he had burned several pairs of his shoes. Also he wore almost the same size shoes as the ones that had left marks on French’s body.

Jemison and Morgan thoroughly investigated the painter, but he was eventually cleared.

There were so many unsolved murders of women in the 1940s that in 1949 a Grand Jury investigation was launched into the failure of the police to resolve the cases.

There haven’t been any leads in Jeanne French’s case in decades; however, there is currently a female LAPD detective assigned to Elizabeth Short’s murder case. Surprisingly, she still gets several calls a month. To this day there are people who want to confess to the Black Dahlia murder. So far she’s been able to eliminate each one of the possible suspects with a simple question: “What is the date of your birth?”

NEXT TIME: This post concludes my coverage of the Black Dahlia case for this year, but next time we’ll look at the victims of some of the unsolved homicides of women in Los Angeles that led to a Grand Jury investigation in 1949.

 

 

Did a Woman Kill the Black Dahlia?

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Sketch of Jane Doe #1 prior to her ID as Elizabeth Short.

Max Handler with Det. Ed Barrett (in hat and glasses). [Photo courtesy LAPL]

Max Handler with Det. Ed Barrett (in hat and glasses). [Photo courtesy LAPL]

Dozens of men had been interviewed as possible suspects in the murder of Elizabeth Short. None of the interviews had panned out. A seemingly endless stream of false confessors appeared at various police stations around town; guys like Max Handler, a film bit player, who was the 25th man to claim he had murdered the Black Dahlia. During a lie detector test he admitted that his confession was false and that he “wanted to get away from a gang of men who have been following me constantly”. In the photo he looks to have been on a lobotomizing bender.

Daniel S. Voorhies, a 33 year old army vet, also confessed to killing Short. He said that he’d had an affair with her in L.A. — the problem with his story was that at the time he claimed that he and Short were having a torrid affair, Beth was a very young teenager living on the east coast.

The local landscape was littered with crumpled up false confessions given by every sad drunk and deranged publicity seeker — and most of the confessors were men; but not all of them.

False confessor, Minnie Sepulveda. [Photo courtesy of LAPL]

False confessor, Minnie Sepulveda. [Photo courtesy of LAPL]

A gal named Minnie Sepulveda stepped up and said that she had killed the Black Dahlia. She hadn’t.

Mrs. Marie Grieme said that she had heard a Chicago woman confess to the Black Dahlia’ murder. Her story didn’t lead anywhere.

Even though none of the women who had confessed had been guilty, the cops were beginning to think that it wasn’t out of the question that Short’s slayer had been a woman. After all, L.A. had had its share of female killers.

The Herald-Express ran side-by-side photos of three infamous homicidal women who had been busted in L.A., Louise Peete (one of only four women ever to have been executed by the State of California) was a serial killer. She’d been busted for murder in the 1920s, did eighteen years, and following her release from prison committed yet another murder for which she paid with her life.

dahlia_herald_16_women_killersWinnie Ruth Judd committed two murders in Arizona. She was busted in L.A. when a trunk containing the dismembered remains of Hedvig Samuelson and Anne Le Roi began to get a little ripe and leak bodily fluids in the baggage claim section of a local train station.

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Winnie Ruth Judd’s trunks. [Photo courtesy LAPL]

In 1922, Clara Phillips (aka “Tiger Girl”) murdered Alberta Meadows, the woman she suspected was a rival for her husband’s affections. She struck Meadows repeatedly with a hammer and, for the coup de gras, she rolled a 50 lb. boulder on top of the corpse.

Body of Alberta Meadows -- victim of Clara Phillips' wrath. [Photo courtesy of UCLA]

Body of Alberta Meadows — victim of Clara Phillips’ wrath. [Photo courtesy of UCLA]

So, the notion that a woman could be Short’s killer wasn’t far-fetched at all. The Herald-Express had featured a series of columns written by psychologist Alice La Vere. La Vere had previously profiled Short’s killer as a young man without a criminal record, but she was very open to the idea of a female killer. She abruptly shifted gears from identifying a young man as the slayer to “…a sinister Lucrezia Borgia — a butcher woman whose crime dwarfs any in the modern crime annals – are shadowed over the mutilated body of 22-year-old Elizabeth Short.”

Obviously La Vere was an expert for hire, and if the Herald-Express editors had asked her to write a convincing profile of the killer as a mutant alien from Mars, she’d likely have done it. Still, she made some compelling comments in her column for the newspaper.

“Murders leave behind them a trail of fingerprints, bits of skin and hair. The slayer of “The Black Dahlia” left the most tell-tale clue of all–the murder pattern of a degenerate, vicious feminine mind.”

Even more interesting was La Vere’s exhortation to the cops to look for an older woman. She said:

“Police investigators should look for a woman older than ‘The Black Dahlia’. This woman who either inspired the crime or actually committed the ghastly, unspeakable, outrage, need not be a woman of great strength. Extreme emotion or high mental tension in men and women give great, superhuman strength.”

Yesterday I compared some of Alice La Vere’s profile of the possible killer to a profile created by John E. Douglas, who is retired from the FBI’s Behavioral Analysis Unit (BAU) — La Vere’s sixty-six year old profile held up rather well.

What I find interesting about La Vere’s profile of a female perpetrator is that she said that the woman would be older than Short. In recent years an older woman did become an integral part of a theory about the crime.

It is a theory put forward by L.A. Times copy editor and researcher, Larry Harnisch. Harnisch wrote an article for the Los Angeles Times on the fiftieth anniversary of Short’s death. Subsequently, Harnisch has done a lot more digging into the case and he has unearthed an important connection between the body dump site near 39th and Norton, and two medical doctors. One of the doctors, Walter Alonzo Bayley, had lived in a house just one block south of the place where Elizabeth Short’s body had been discovered. At the time of the murder he was estranged from his wife who still occupied the home. Bayley had left his wife for his mistress, Alexandra Partyka, also a medical doctor. Partyka had emigrated to the U.S. and wasn’t licensed to practice medicine, but she did assist Bayley in his practice.

bayley_partyka2Following Bayley’s death in January 1948, Partyka and Dr. Bayley’s wife, Ruth, fought over control of his estate. Mrs. Bayley claimed that Partyka had been blackmailing the late doctor with secrets about his medical practice that could have ruined him.

There is also a link between Bayley’s family and Short’s. In 1945 one of Dr. Bayley’s adopted daughters, Barbara Lindgren, was a witness to the marriage of Beth’s sister, Virginia Short, to Adrain West at a church in Inglewood, California, near Los Angeles.

Harnisch discussed Dr. Bayley in James Ellroy’s 2001 “Feast of Death”. [Note: Be forewarned that there are photos of Elizabeth Short in the morgue.]

It is clear that a woman could have murdered Elizabeth Short; but could the woman have been Dr. Bayley’s mistress, Alexandra Partyka?  The chances are that we’ll never know.

NEXT TIME: Another confession, and another murder.

The Black Dahlia Case Goes Cold — Or Does It?

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Elizabeth Short’s murder dominated the front pages of the Herald-Express for days. But even in a murder case as sensational as that of the Black Dahlia the more time that elapses following the discovery of a crime, the fewer clues there are on which to report. The fact that the case was going cold didn’t dampen the Herald’s enthusiasm for reporting on it. As I mentioned on Thursday, the paper sought out psychiatrists  psychologists, and mystery writers who would attempt, each in his/her own way, to analyze the case — and fill column space in the paper. Decades before the FBI’s Behavioral Analysis Unit (BAU) was founded the shrinks and writers whose work appeared in the Herald-Express were engaging in speculative profiles of both the victim and her killer.

One of the psychologists tapped by the Herald to contribute her analysis of the victim and slayer was Alice La Vere. The Herald introduced La Vere as “…one of the nation’s most noted consulting psychologists”. Miss La Vere, said the Herald, would give to readers:
“an analysis of the motives which led to the torture murder of beautiful 22-year-old Elizabeth Short”.

La Vere’s analysis seems surprisingly contemporary.

beth_eddieHere is an excerpt from her profile of Short’s personality:

“Some gnawing feeling of inadequacy was eating at the mind of this girl. She needed constant proof to herself that she was important to someone and demonstrates this need by the number of suitors and admirers with which she surrounded herself.”

La Vere went on to describe the killer:

“It is very likely that this is the first time this boy has committed any crime. It is also likely that he may be a maladjusted veteran. The lack of social responsibility experienced by soldiers, their conversational obsession with sex, their nerves keyed to battle pitch — these factors are crime-breeding.” She further stated: “Repression of the sex impulse accompanied by environmental maladjustment is the slayer’s probable background.”

How does La Vere’s profile of Elizabeth Short and her killer compare to a an analysis by retired FBI profiler John Douglas? Douglas suggested that Beth was “needy” and that her killer would have “spotted her a mile away”.  He said that the killer “would have been a lust killer and loved hurting people.”

On the salient points, I’d say that La Vere and Douglas were of like minds regarding Elizabeth Short and her killer — wouldn’t you?

craig_rice_TimeAt the time of Elizabeth Short’s murder, mystery writer Craig Rice (pseudonym of Georgiana Ann Randolph Walker Craig)  was one of the most popular crime writers in the country. In its January 28, 1946 issue, Time Magazine selected Rice for a cover feature on the mystery genre. Sadly, Rice has been forgotten by all except the most avid mystery geeks (like me).

Craig Rice was invited by the Herald-Express to give her take on the Black Dahlia case in late January 1947. Rice described Elizabeth Short in this way:

“A black dahlia is what expert gardeners call ‘an impossibility’ of nature. Perhaps that is why lovely, tragic Elizabeth Short was tortured, murdered and mutilated  Because such a crime could happen only in the half-world in which she lived. A world of–shadows.”

NEXT TIME: Could a woman have murdered the Black Dahlia?

The Black Dahlia

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Herald-Express photo of the crime scene. A blanket has been added to cover the victim, and her facial wounds have been removed. [Photo courtesy LAPL]

The first thing that cops had to do following the January 15, 1947 discovery of Jane Doe #1  was to ID her, if they could. They rolled her prints, but were worried  about getting them safely to the FBI in Washington, D.C. Severe winter storms were grounding planes — the delay in getting an ID could be as much as a week — which is a lifetime in a homicide investigation.

Elizabeth Short's fingerprints.

Elizabeth Short’s fingerprints. [Photo courtesy LAPL]

The relationship between newspaper reporters and cops was different in 1947 than it is today. Reporters generally had desk space in the local cop shop, and they often cautiously shared information with each other — a perfect symbiosis.

Warden Woolard, Assistant Managing Editor of the Herald, had a brainstorm about Jane Doe’s fingerprints. The paper had recently purchased some fairly new technology, a Soundphoto machine, that Woolard thought might be used to transmit the victim’s prints to the FBI. Woolard spoke with LAPD Captain Jack Donahoe about the idea and both agreed that it was worth a shot.

The prints were transmitted to the FBI, but they couldn’t read them. A Herald photographer, Russ Lapp, suggested reversing the lab process and using the prints as negatives. He then blew them up to 8×10, which made them large enough to be read by the specialists at the FBI.

Once the FBI had readable prints they quickly identified the dead girl as twenty-two year old Elizabeth Short who had, as far as they knew, last resided in Santa Barbara and had worked in the PX at Camp Cooke.

The Herald-Express had a major scoop, and the cops had ID’d the victim. But because of their crucial role in getting an ID on Beth Short, the dynamic of the relationship between the paper and the LAPD shifted a bit. Hearst had deep pockets and a stable of reporters who went out and picked up leads and valuable evidence that they were willing to share with the law — for a price. The quid pro quo was simple, the Herald would continue to dig up clues and be granted exclusives, and LAPD would then have access to the information uncovered by the paper. Captain Donahoe wasn’t especially happy about the arrangement, but there wasn’t much he could do.

Phoebe Short

Phoebe Short

A Herald re-write man, Wayne Sutton, was assigned to locate Short’s mother, Phoebe Short in Medford, MA. Sutton found her and was then tasked with breaking the news of her daughter’s death to her.

Using the cruel ruse that Beth had won a beauty contest, Sutton was able obtain lots of information about the dead girl. Phoebe loved to talk about her beautiful daughter. To his credit Sutton was miserable deceiving Phoebe, and with one hand over the mouthpiece of the phone he called his boss a “lousy son-of-a-bitch”.  Sutton finally exhausted the beauty contest sham, and his boss instructed him to tell her the brutal truth.

Phoebe would not believe that her daughter was dead, murdered. It was inconceivable. Local Medford cops were contacted and they had to go over to Phoebe’s house and tell her the story in person before she would accept it.

The Herald became ground zero for rumors and anonymous tips; and some of the tips proved true. An anonymous caller told reporters that Beth had kept memory books that she’d stuffed with photos of herself and friends, and the books were in a trunk. The trunk had gone missing during shipment from Chicago to L.A. The Herald wanted that trunk desperately. They found it at the Greyhound Express station in downtown L.A., and from that moment on the story was illustrated with photos of Beth, her friends, and lovers.

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On Friday, January 17, 1947, a photograph of Elizabeth Short appeared on the front page of the Herald-Express, and the caption read “The Black Dahlia”. She would never be called anything else again.

NEXT TIME: Unraveling the mystery of The Black Dahlia.

Aggie and the Werewolf

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It was after 10 a.m. on January 15, 1947 — Mrs. Betty Bersinger and her three year old daughter Anne were bundled up against the chill of a cold wave that had held L.A. residents in its grip for several days. Mother and daughter were headed south on the west side of Norton when Mrs. Bersinger noticed something pale in the weeds about a foot in from the sidewalk.

Betty Bersinger

Betty Bersinger

At first Bersinger thought she was looking at either a discarded mannequin, or maybe even a live nude woman who had been drinking and had passed out; that particular area was known as a lover’s lane. But it quickly dawned on her that she was in a waking nightmare and that the bright white shape in the weeds was neither a mannequin, nor a drunk. Bersinger said “I was terribly shocked and scared to death, I grabbed Anne and we walked as fast as we could to the first house that had a telephone.”

In her 1949 autobiography, Newspaperwoman, Aggie Underwood said that she was the first reporter to arrive at the scene. After over six decades it’s difficult to sort out exactly who arrived first, many people have made that claim, but there is sufficient evidence to conclude that it was a reporter from the Herald-Express, Aggie’s paper.

dahlia_herald_2_descriptionIt doesn’t matter whether a person was the first to arrive, or the last, because everyone who was at the vacant lot on Norton that day saw the same ghastly scene.

Here is Aggie’s description:

“It [the body] had been cut in half through the abdomen, under the ribs. The two sections were ten or twelve inches apart. The arms, bent at right angles at the elbows, were raised about the shoulders. The legs were spread apart. There were bruises and cuts on the forehead and the face, which had been beaten severely. The hair was blood-matted. Front teeth were missing. Both cheeks were slashed from the corners of the lips almost to the ears. The liver hung out of the torso, and the entire lower section of the body had been hacked, gouged, and unprintably desecrated. It showed sadism at its most frenzied.”

The coroner duly recorded the victim as Jane Doe #1 for 1947.

LAPD Detectives Harry Hansen & Finis Brown

LAPD Detectives Harry Hansen & Finis Brown

Two seasoned LAPD detectives, Harry Hansen and Finis Brown, were in charge of the investigation. During the first twenty-four hours officers pulled in over 150 men for questioning. The most promising of the early suspects was a twenty-three year old transient, Cecil French. He’d been busted for molesting women in a downtown bus depot. Cops were further alarmed when they discovered that French had pulled the back seat out of his car. Had he concealed a body there? Police Chemist, Ray Pinker, determined that the floor mats of French’s car were free of blood or any other physical evidence of a bloody murder.

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The initial Herald-Express coverage referred to the case as the “Werewolf” slaying due to the savagery of the mutilations inflicted on the unknown young woman. Aggie’s werewolf tag would identify the case for a few more days until a much better one was discovered — The Black Dahlia.

NEXT TIME: The bisected body of the young woman found in Leimert Park is identified as twenty-two year old Elizabeth Short from Medford, MA.

Somebody Knows — The Black Dahlia

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On August 8, 1950 the CBS radio network aired a program called SOMEBODY KNOWS. The program was a summer replacement for the regularly scheduled SUSPENSE while it was on summer hiatus.

SOMEBODY KNOWS offered a $5,000 reward to anyone who supplied information leading to the arrest and conviction of the person(s) who brutally murdered Elizabeth Short.

The reward was never claimed.

Listen to the show here:   SOMEBODY KNOWS

The Black Dahlia: Part Two — January 9, 1947

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About 12:20 p.m. on January 9, 1947, Elizabeth Short and Robert “Red” Manley left the motel where they had spent the night.

What did Beth and Red talk about during the couple of hours that it took them to drive back to Los Angeles from San Diego? According to Manley, he had asked her about some scratches that he’d noticed on her arms. She had spun a tale of an “intensely jealous” boyfriend – an Italian “with black hair who lived in San Diego”, and claimed that it was he who had scratched her. It was later discovered that the scratches were probably made by Beth herself, the result of itchy insect bites. She would lie to him a couple of times more before their day together ended.

Robert "Red" Manley with his wife Harriette. [LAPL Photo]

Robert “Red” Manley with his wife Harriette. [LAPL Photo]

Because Manley and his wife had been having some problems, he had wondered if they were meant to be together. In the way that only a spouse on the verge of cheating can do, he had justified his relationship with Beth in his own mind by considering it a “love test”.  If he remained faithful to his wife, despite the temptation of being near Beth, he would conclude that his marriage was meant to be.

Following a platonic night in a motel room, Red must have decided that his marriage was made in heaven after all. But he had a problem, he’d been out of touch with his wife for a couple of days. How would he explain his lack of communication?

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In my mind’s eye I see Beth and Red seated across from each other on the bench seat in his Studebaker, each lost in thought. Beth wondering what she’d do once she had returned to L.A. Would she go to friends in Hollywood and hope they had an empty bed for her?  And her immediate difficulty would be Red. How would she get away from the well-meaning guy for whom she felt nothing?

Once they arrived in the city, Beth told Red that she needed to check some of her luggage at the bus depot. He took her there, and Beth was ready to wave good-bye to him and be on her way – but he wouldn’t leave. He told her that he couldn’t possibly leave her in that neighborhood on her own. She insisted that she would be fine, but he wouldn’t hear of it.

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Biltmore Hotel and part of Pershing Square. [LAPL Photo]

Beth had a few minutes while she checked her bags to come up with a plan to ditch Red. When they returned to his car she told him that she needed to go to the Biltmore Hotel to wait for her sister. It was another lie. The sister she referred to was in Oakland, hundreds of miles to the north.

Red drove her several blocks back to the Biltmore Hotel, the lobby of which was directly across the street from Pershing Square. Beth thanked Red for being so nice. He’d paid to have taps put on the heels and toes of her pumps, and of course he’d paid for meals and the motel room.  She thought that he would drive off and leave her, but once again he said that he didn’t feel comfortable just putting her out of the car.

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Matchbook cover — Crown Grill

He parked, and the two of them waited in the Biltmore’s lobby for quite a while. Finally, Beth had managed to out wait Red. He said he had to go. She told him she would be fine and that she expected her sister to arrive at any moment.

Red left her at the Biltmore at approximately 6:30 p.m.  Beth watched him go – gave him a few minutes, and then she exited the Biltmore lobby and turned right down Olive Street. She may have been headed for the Crown Grill at Olive and Eighth; she’d been there before and maybe she hoped to bump into someone she knew; after all, she needed a place to stay.  Some patrons of the bar later told cops that she’d been there that night, but no one had seen her leave.

No one who knew her would ever see Elizabeth Short alive again.

NOTE: I’ll pick up the Black Dahlia case again on January 15th. It will be the 66th anniversary of the discovery of Elizabeth Short’s bisected body and mutilated body in a vacant lot near 39th and Norton in Leimert Park.

The Black Dahlia: Part One — January 8, 1947

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beth_LAT_photoSixty-six years ago, on January 8, 1947, Robert “Red” Manley drove to the home of Elvera and Dorothy French in Pacific Beach, in the San Diego area , to pick up a young woman he’d met a month earlier.  Her name was Elizabeth Short.

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Robert “Red” Manley [LAPL Photo]

Manley was a twenty-five year old salesman with a wife and baby at home. The Manley’s had been married for fifteen months and lived in the suburbs of Los Angeles. Red would later tell investigators that he and his wife had had “some misunderstandings” so he decided that he should “make a little test to see if I were still in love with my wife.”  The woman Manley used to test his love for his wife was twenty-two year old Elizabeth Short.

Elizabeth (who often called herself Betty or Beth) had asked Red to drive her back to L.A. – she told him that she didn’t like San Diego. Red agreed to help her out – it was the final part of his love test.

Beth and Red weren’t on the road for too long before they stopped at a roadside motel for the night.  They went out for dinner and drinks before returning to their room to go to bed.  According to Red his night with Beth had been strictly platonic – he took the bed and she slept in a chair.

The pair left the motel at about 12:20 p.m. on January 9, 1947 for Los Angeles.

Beth had one week to live.

Next: The Black Dahlia: Part Two — January 9, 1947

Film Noir Friday: A Life At Stake [1954]

ALifeAtStake1954

Welcome! The lobby of the Deranged L.A. Crimes theater is open. Grab a bucket of popcorn, some Milk Duds and a Coke and find a seat.

Tonight’s feature is A LIFE AT STAKE [1954], starring Angela Lansbury, Keith Andes, Douglass Dumbrille, Claudia Barrett, and Jane Darwell..

Enjoy the movie!

TCM says:

Building contractor Edward Shaw is brooding over his recent business failures, due to his partner’s gambling, when he is approached by lawyer Sam Pearson. Pearson, who scoffs at Shaw’s determination to repay his debts, offers to introduce him to a client who can invest a half million dollars in his company. Curious, Shaw agrees to meet with Pearson’s client, Mrs. Doris Hillman. At the luxurious Hillman home, Shaw is intensely attracted to the flirtatious Doris, who states that she wants to form a partnership with him in which he will build homes on the properties she finds. Doris asserts that Augustus, her much-older, wealthy husband, wants to keep her happy, but Shaw is suspicious of his sudden good fortune. Doris explains that she knows about Shaw’s work because her cousin lives in a home he built, and so Shaw agrees to further negotiations, if the Hillmans supply the funds for him to repay his original investors. Doris promises to ask Hillman about the provision and Shaw leaves, although he finds himself preoccupied with thoughts of the sexy Doris.

Film Noir Friday: Eyes in the Night [1942]

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Welcome! The lobby of the Deranged L.A. Crimes theater is open. Grab a bucket of popcorn, some Milk Duds and a Coke and find a seat.

Tonight’s feature is EYES IN THE NIGHT [1942], directed by Fred Zinnemann and starring Edward Arnold, Ann Harding, Donna Reed and Friday (the dog–who plays himself and steals the show).

Enjoy the movie!

TCM says:

New York detective Duncan Maclain refuses to allow blindness to interfere with his work, which is aided by his faithful dog Friday, his butler, Alistair, and his assistant, Marty. One day, actress Norma Lawry, an old friend, visits Mac and asks him to help her prevent her stepdaughter Barbara from doing something foolish with actor Paul Gerente. Paul, a cad who had once been Norma’s lover, has convinced Barbara that Norma only married her father Stephen for his money. Mac tells Norma that she doesn’t need a “gumshoe” and suggests that she talk to Paul herself. Paul refuses to listen to Norma’s pleas and insists that he loves Barbara, who is appearing in a local theatrical production with him, even though she is only seventeen. That night, Stephen has to go away on a business trip to test a secret formula on which he has been working for the government. Because Norma is worried about Barbara, she decides not to accompany him and goes to Paul’s apartment. When Barbara arrives, she finds Paul’s dead body and thinks that Norma has killed him, even though Norma insists that he was dead when she arrived.

Film Noir Friday on Saturday: Boston Blackie Booked on Suspicion [1945]

boston blackie_booked

Welcome! The lobby of the Deranged L.A. Crimes theater is open. Grab a bucket of popcorn, some Milk Duds and a Coke and find a seat.

Tonight’s feature is BOSTON BLACKIE BOOKED ON SUSPICION, directed by Arthur Dreyfuss and starring Chester Morris and Lynn Merrick. The Boston Blackie films are light-weight and formulaic, but I love them. Former crook Boston Blackie and Police Inspector Farraday  butt heads once again in this entry, the eighth in the series.

Enjoy the movie!

TCM says:

When an illness confines rare book expert Wilfred Kittredge to his bed on the eve of a rare book auction, Boston Blackie disguises himself as Kittredge and offers to conduct the auction for his friend and book store owner Arthur Manleder. Unknown to Blackie, counterfeiter Porter Hadley has manufactured a first edition of Charles Dickens’ Pickwick Papers to be sold at the auction. On the day of the auction, Blackie, aided by Kittredge’s assistant, Gloria Mannard, sells the book to Alexander Harmon for $62,000. The next day, Harmon discovers that the book is a fake and reports the crime to Inspector Farraday.

The Black Dahlia

Sixty-eight years ago today Elizabeth Short walked out of the Biltmore Hotel and headed south.  She may have stopped in at the Crown Grill–a few of the patrons recalled seeing her there on the evening of January 9th.

Whether Beth vanished immediately after exiting the lobby of the Biltmore, or whether she made it to the Crown Grill or even as far as Hollywood hardly matters. What’s important is that there are no verifiable sightings of her until her body was discovered by a Leimert Park housewife, Betty Bersinger, on January 15th.  Short had been cruelly murdered and then her killer had mutilated her remains.

There are more questions than answers in the unsolved murder. Who? Where? Why?  All we know for sure is that she died about ten hours before she was found, her body was obscenely posed and meant to be found.

Over the next several days I’ll be re-posting articles I wrote for this blog when it debuted two years ago.

bd susps and confessors

Photo is from the L.A. Police Museum’s 2012 Black Dahlia exhibit.

Film Noir Friday: Destination Murder [1950]

Destination_Murder- Welcome! The lobby of the Deranged L.A. Crimes theater is open. Grab a bucket of popcorn, some Milk Duds and a Coke and find a seat.

Tonight’s feature is DESTINATION MURDER [1950], directed by Edward L. Cahn and starring Joyce MacKenzie, Stanley Clements and Hurd Hatfield.

Enjoy the movie!

TCM says:

During a five-minute intermission between shows, Jackie Wales slips away from his date at a Los Angeles movie theater and climbs into a waiting car. As he rides with a man named Armitage to a nearby house, Jackie changes into a messenger boy outfit, then shoots and kills well-to-do businessman Arthur Mansfield as he stands in his doorway. Jackie’s sprint back to the car is witnessed by Mansfield’s daughter Laura, who later picks Jackie out of a police lineup. Although Laura is unable to positively identify Jackie, she complains when police lieutenant Brewster releases him. Convinced that Brewster is not doing enough to find her father’s killer, Laura undertakes to investigate Jackie herself.

Film Noir Friday: The Prowler [1951]

the-prowler-movie-poster-1951

Welcome! The lobby of the Deranged L.A. Crimes theater is open. Grab a bucket of popcorn, some Milk Duds and a Coke and find a seat.

Tonight’s feature is THE PROWLER [1951], directed by Joseph Losey and starring Van Heflin and Evelyn Keyes.  The print may not be stellar, but the film is a cult classic

Enjoy the movie!

TCM says:

One evening policemen Bud Crocker and Webb Garwood arrive at 1918 Orchid, Los Angeles, to follow up on the report of a prowler. The older, friendly Bud advises house owner and beautiful blonde Susan Gilvray to be careful but later that evening his partner, the younger flirtatious Webb, returns for a check-up call. While Susan and Webb listen to the radio and visit over coffee, Susan explains that she is alone because her wealthy, middle-aged husband John is the late night-disc jockey on the radio. Susan recognizes Webb as a once-famous high school basketball player from Indiana, where she grew up. Webb bitterly recounts his bad breaks since high school, but shares his dream of owning a motel court. Webb returns another evening to visit, and when he asks for a cigarette, Susan explains that her husband keeps both the cigarettes and her locked up. When Webb jimmies the desk drawer lock to retrieve a pack of cigarettes, he spies John’s will and surreptitiously reads it. Webb grills Susan about the marriage, and she reluctantly answers that though John provides for her, he has not provided what she really wanted, a baby.

 

A Holiday Orgy of Crime – Redux

HOLIDAY ORGY OF CRIMEReaders of the Los Angeles Times were bound to have been dismayed when, on December 26, 1930, they saw the headline “Holiday Brings Orgy of Crime”. Apparently not all Angelenos were filled with goodwill toward their fellow man, or woman for that matter. The article was a litany of Christmas Eve and Christmas Day misdeeds that began with the shooting of a police officer.

Officer Allen G. Adcock of the Hollenbeck Heights division was shot by a bandit during the early morning hours of Christmas Day. Officer Adcock had been directing traffic during a fire at Macy and Gelardo streets when a car containing two men ignored his command to halt and blew through the intersection at a high rate of speed. Apparently Adcock “badged” a civilian, Earl H. Pfeifer, and commandeered the man’s auto to pursue the suspects. With Pfeifer at the wheel, Adcock stood on the running board of the car and held on for dear life. One of the fleeing men leveled his weapon at Adcock, who then whipped out his own pistol. The two men fired simultaneously and a bullet from the suspect’s gun struck a glancing blow on Adcock’s head which knocked the cop off of Pfiefer’s running board.

Pfiefer stopped to render aid to the fallen policeman and the suspects escaped. A subsequent investigation showed that the two suspects were bandits who had held up Irwin Welborn of West Twenty-ninth Street. They drove him out to Long Beach and then robbed him of $2 and his car.

At Pacific and O’Farrell Streets in San Pedro, a local poultryman, Jack Zuanich, was slugged on the head with a wooden club. The reason for the attack was not determined. Zuanich was taken to the San Pedro General Hospital in serious condition.

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Los Feliz Bridge (aka Shakespeare Bridge) [Photo courtesy of LAPL]

Two cowardly bandits, turned rapists, dragged Maxine Ungeheur (20) and her younger sister Thelma (19) out of a car under the Los Feliz Bridge (aka Shakespeare Bridge) and brutally attacked them. The sisters were being driven home by Roland Oakley, a Griffith Park employee, following a Christmas Eve soiree. Oakley slowed his auto near the bridge and the bandits stepped out from a clump of trees and threatened the girls and Oakley with guns. Oakley, under threat of death, stood helplessly by as the girls were ravaged. The cops located clues at the scene, in particular a leather glove believed to have been worn by one of the attackers. Detective Lieutenants Hoy and Kriewald of the Lincoln Heights Division were hopeful that the clue would lead to the arrests of the men involved in the assaults.

In addition to all of the other mayhem occurring in and around the city, there was a spate of holiday burglaries for cops to contend with. Two men were discovered plundering a store on Huntington Drive by Officers Cooke and Carter, and a citizen, A. Burke. Upon being found out the two crooks attempted to high-tail it to freedom. Officer Cooke fired at the fleeing suspects and the citizen. A. Burke, unloaded a charge of bird shot from his shotgun at the burglars. Both suspects dropped to the ground, but one of them scrambled to his feet and made good his escape. The other crook was captured by officers and gave the name of Bernave Palacios. He was held on suspicion of burglary.

Benjamin Caldron was held up in his South Western Avenue flower shop on Christmas morning by two bandits and robbed of $110.

The Ungeheur sisters were not the only women who were victims of rape, or attempted rape, over the Christmas holiday. Mrs. Dorothy Loustanau was walking near the corner of Ninetieth Street and Avalon Boulevard when a man drove an automobile up to the curb and leaped out. Snarling that he would beat her to death if she resisted, he clapped his hand over her mouth and pinioned her arms while he attempted to force her into his car. Dorothy struggled desperately and succeeded in staying out of the car. Her attacker, enraged that his victim was putting up a fight, tried to drag her into a vacant lot, but Dorothy broke free and began to scream for help. Her assailant fled the scene.

Lillian Rosine, of 1322 Cherokee Avenue in Hollywood, was driving down Las Palmas Avenue with a friend, Earl Marshall, when a bandit leaped onto the running board of her car. The bandit produced an automatic weapon and commanded Lillian and Earl to stick up their hands. Lillian became furious with the brazen bandit and instead of complying with his order she leaned in front of Earl and shoved the bandit in the face!

The crook was thrown off balance and fired, the round grazed Earl’s head inflicting a four inch wound in his scalp! Lillian screamed and stomped down hard on the gas. The bandit tumbled off of the running board, stood up, and then proceeded to walk nonchalantly up Selma Avenue. Lillian dashed to the Hollywood Receiving Hospital a few blocks away where Earl’s wound was treated and dressed. The bandit remained at large.

Hollywood Receiving Hospital c. 1936 [Photo courtesy of LAPL]

Hollywood Receiving Hospital c. 1936 [Photo courtesy of LAPL]

I’ll wrap up the orgy of crime with the murder of Jose Lopez (45). Lopez died in Georgia Street Receiving Hospital from wounds received in an attempted hold-up and fight. Lopez’s friend, Jose Ayala, told the cops that he and Jose were accosted by two men early Christmas morning and beaten with clubs. Ayala did his best to provide a description of the killers but he had been rendered unconscious by a blow in the mouth early in the affray.

NOTE: This is a re-post from last year’s holiday season. Enjoy.

A Visit From the Sheriff – 2014

Ching-ching-a-ling! Ching-ching-a-ling!
Are those sleighbells I hear?
No.
It’s gunfire…

COX_CHRISTMAS

T’was the week before Christmas, December ’54
David Cox’s house was filled with violence, mayhem and smashed crockery galore.

David’s Downey neighbors awoke to ruckus and clatter,
and wondered just what in the hell was the matter.

It must be that S.O.B. Cox, they concluded –
a few beers in his belly and he’s completely deluded.

They turned away from their windows and went back to their beds,
where they pulled the covers up over their heads.

David had arrived home three hours late,
with booze on his breath and his eyes filled with hate.

His wife, Billie, had made a modest request
for $25 to buy each of their girls a new dress.

“Mary and Katherine don’t need presents, you frivolous bitch!”
David picked up a lamp and smashed it to bits.

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He ripped out the windows, wood frames and plaster,
then sped off in his truck leaving behind a disaster.

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Later that evening when David came home
he drove his truck into a fence, then lurched around drunk and alone.

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Hello! Anyone home? He shouted to the empty house.
Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse.

His children were frightened and his pregnant wife was alarmed,
she tooks the kids to her mother’s so they wouldn’t be harmed.

The Norwalk Sheriff’s station was called, and deputies rushed to the scene.
David was wielding a shotgun and he looked pretty damned mean.

“Drop your weapon!” the deputies shouted calling David by name.
But Cox opened fire and the cops did the same.

cox_photo3

Sgts. Lovretovich and Piper stood over David who was collapsed on the lawn.
He’d taken multiple rounds — he was deceased, he was gone.

Why didn’t he do as we said, they pondered aloud; to behave as he had –
he must have been crazy, he must have been mad!

david coxDavid’s drinking and anger had cost him his life,
he’d never again see his friends, children, or wife.

Christmas was dismal for the Cox family that year.
Instead of baby dolls, buggies and bears named Ted,
there was a casket, flowers and tears to be shed.

No doubt about it, David Cox had acted a fool.
A moron, an idiot, a jackass, a tool.

Neighbors were heard to exclaim, ere Deputies drove out of sight.

Don’t screw with the Sheriffs, they’ll put up a fight.

 

NOTE:  I wrote this poem last year and I thought it would be nice to make it a holiday tradition. I’m really just an old-fashioned dame at heart.

I couldn’t do justice to A VISIT FROM ST. NICHOLAS by Clement Clarke Moore which provided the inspiration for this post, but it was fun just the same.

I took very few liberties with this take. I put words in the mouths of the victim and the cops, but otherwise the details are as they appeared in the  Los Angeles Times report of the incident.  It pleases me no end that one of my favorite Deputy Sheriffs of the era, Ned Lovretovich, played a role in this story. His career continues to fascinate me.

Many thanks to Mike Fratantoni for turning me on to a great story–he knows them all.

 

Film Noir Friday: Moonrise [1948]

moonrise_1948

Welcome! The lobby of the Deranged L.A. Crimes theater is open. Grab a bucket of popcorn, some Milk Duds and a Coke and find a seat.

Tonight’s feature is MOONRISE [1948], directed by Frank Borzage and starring Dane Clark, Gail Russell and Ethel Barrymore.

Enjoy the movie!

IMDB says:

In the tiny community of Woodsville, young Danny Hawkins (Dane Clark) is constantly tormented by his fellow townspeople because his father was put to death for killing another man. When he hopes to put his dark family history behind him and begin a relationship with warmhearted teacher Gilly Johnson (Gail Russell), local bullies try to put a stop to the romance by jumping Danny. After accidentally killing one of his attackers, Danny must struggle to escape the same fate as his father.

Film Noir Friday: Saboteur [1942]

saboteur_1942

Welcome! The lobby of the Deranged L.A. Crimes theater is open. Grab a bucket of popcorn, some Milk Duds and a Coke and find a seat.

Tonight’s feature is SABOTEUR [1942], directed by Alfred Hitchcock and starring Priscilla Lane, Robert Cummings, Norman Lloyd and Otto Kruger. This is a fantastic WWII era thriller by the master of suspense.

Enjoy the movie!

TCM says:

Munitions worker Barry Kane is falsely accused of setting fire to the Stuarts Aircraft Factory in Los Angeles, a fire that caused the death of his best friend, Ken Mason. Barry realizes that the real saboteur is Frank Fry, the man who handed him a fire extinguisher, which turned out to be full of gasoline. Remembering that Fry had an envelope addressed to him from the Deep Springs Ranch in Springfield, California, Barry goes there to find the killer, but the ranch’s owner, Charles Tobin, tells him that he does not know Fry. Tobin’s granddaughter, however, hands Barry a telegram addressed to Tobin from Fry stating that Fry is going to Soda City. Although Tobin has Barry arrested, Barry manages to escape from the police by jumping off a bridge.