The Black Dahlia: San Diego

beth-short-headshot-in-colorSeventy-one 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 about a month earlier. Her name was Elizabeth Short.

Red 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 a bungalow court in one of L.A.’s many suburbs. Red and his wife had had “some misunderstandings” as they adjusted to marriage and parenthood. Perhaps restless and feeling unsure about his decision to marry, Red decided to “make a little test to see if I were still in love with my wife.”  The woman Red used to test his love for his wife was twenty-two year old Elizabeth Short.


Robert “Red” Manley [Photo courtesy LAPL]

Elizabeth (who called herself Betty or Beth) had worn out her welcome in the French home. Elvera and Dorothy were tired of Beth couch surfing and contributing nothing to the household. Beth spent much of her time compulsively writing letters, many of which she never sent.

One of the unsent letters was to a former lover, Gordon Fickling. In the letter dated December 13, 1946, Beth wrote:

“I do hope you find a nice girl to kiss at midnight on new years eve. It would have been wonderful if we belonged to each other now. I’ll never regret coming West to see you. You didn’t take me in your arms and keep me there. However it was nice as long as it lasted.”

Another complaint that Elvera and Dorothy had was that, despite her claims, there was no evidence that Beth ever looked for work. Beth wrote to her mother, Phoebe, that she was working for the Red Cross, or in a VA Hospital, but it was just one of the many lies that Beth told about her circumstances.  Beth had an opportunity to work, if she was willing to pursue it. Red had arranged with a friend of his to get her a job interview — but she didn’t follow-up.

When Red heard that Beth hadn’t made it to the job interview, he became worried and wrote to her to find out if she was okay. She said she was fine but didn’t like San Diego, she wanted a ride back to Los Angeles.  She asked Red if he’d help her out, and he agreed. It was the worst mistake of his life.

The drive from San Diego to Los Angeles was going to be Red’s love test. If nothing happened with Beth then he would know that he and his wife were meant to be together. But if he and Beth clicked, he’d have a tough decision to make.

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. Red’s night with Beth was strictly platonic. He took the bed and she slept in a chair. He had passed his self-imposed love test.

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

Beth had about one week to live.

Next time: The Black Dahlia — Last Seen

6 thoughts on “The Black Dahlia: San Diego

  1. There is no such thing as a love test after you are married! If you’re insecure you check out other people prior to even proposing!
    Sounds to me he was lying about the whole thing!

    • Cyberella, I couldn’t agree more. The love test thing was just a lame excuse to cheat on his wife. He didn’t cheat with Beth Short, but who knows if he conducted any other ridiculous love tests.



    (Copywrite by Tony Crossley, October 2018)

    The killer was a Homicidal Sadist and Psychopath, who lacked empathy and remorse.
    The killer was prone to violent fantasies about torturing and killing women, that were powerful enough to prevent him from doing it.

    For unknown reasons, the fantasy failed, leaving the killer unable to control his urge to kill.

    Because the killer needed to control Short on his own terms, playing the part of executioner
    was irresistable.

    The killer had a pathological hatred of women, however at the same time felt threatened by them.

    Torturing Short may have taken several days and killing her was always part of the plan.
    The acts were pre-meditated and prolonged, enabling the killer to gain maximum enjoyment
    from what he was doing, which ended after Short died.

    The killer got off humiliating, torturing and making certain Short suffered as much as possible.

    Physically disfiguring Short was the killer’s way of ‘dehumanising’ her and making her less attractive meant the perceived threat to him was lower.

    It’s possible the large chunk of Flesh cut from Short’s left Thigh was kept by the killer as a ‘Trophy’
    or he could’ve eaten it.

    Cutting Short’s boobs and Vagina was the killer’s way of ‘defeminising’ her,
    by destroying the things that made her a woman.

    Short may have been subdued by Ether before being taken to the place where she was tortured.
    (Because of the way Short’s body was dismembered, it’s been suggested the killer had surgical training.
    If this is true, it may have been a simple matter to obtain Ether)

    With each torturous act rendering Short less attractive, meant the killer didn’t have to feel insecure, jealous or threatened about other men’s interest in her, as Short became so ugly,
    no-one would’ve wanted her.

    As suggested by John Douglas and others, Short may have had previous contact with the killer
    and perhaps felt comfortable with him.

    The killer was extremely angry with Short and lost control during the torture.
    The meticulous cleaning of her body and the area where she was killed, indicates control
    was regained and calm restored after the ‘event’.

    The place where Short was killed had to be quiet and private with Electricity and running Water.

    I don’t know why Surgical skills would’ve been necessary to cut a body in half
    and doubt a Doctor or Surgeon had anything to do with the killing.
    I feel there was too much focus on the medical aspects of Short’s dismemberment.
    The killer may have read books about Anatomy and Surgical procedures and coupled with possible past employment in a medical related field, such as Ambulance Driver, Nurse or Assistant,
    Mortuary Attendant, Funeral Home worker etc.. may have made the job of dismembering
    Short so much easier.

    I don’t believe Dr. George Hodel had anything to do with Short’s death and think
    his son Steve has an Axe to grind with his Father, who comes across as a bit of a Ratbag.

    The fact Short’s body was carefully washed and her Anus packed with Grass,
    is something an Undertaker would do during Funeral preparations.
    (A Plug is used instead of Grass to prevent leakage)

    The killer may have been stalking Short before picking her up, however how would he have known
    she was at the ‘Biltmore Hotel’ ?.
    I feel the killer was targeting Short in particular and not just driving or walking around looking
    for potential victims.

    The killer may not have liked the type of woman Short was – seductive, sexy, attractive, popular with men etc…which may have increased his feelings of jealousy and insecurity.
    Short could’ve rejected the killer or behaved indifferently towards him during an earlier meeting.

    The memory of the killing may have been enough to prevent him from killing again,
    as it could’ve been too risky to continue.

    I don’t believe the Man who rang the paper was the actual killer and think he found Short’s belongings and used them to taunt the press and Police.

    The real killer did’nt want to be caught.

    I had a vision of the place where Short was killed and believe the Door leading to the torture chamber was a sliding one.

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