Black Dahlia–Last Seen

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

Robert Red Manley courtesy LAPL

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? Red noticed some scratches on Beth’s arms and asked her about them. She 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 scratched her. Beth herself probably made the scratches because of itchy insect bites. Beth lied to Red a few times more before their day together ended.

Red and his wife were having problems, so, in the way that only a spouse on the verge of cheating can do, he sold himself on the notion that if he and Harriette were destined to be together, then nothing would happen with Beth.

Following their platonic night in a motel room, Red’s marriage was certified as made in heaven—the fates clearly decreed it. But he had a problem; he’d been out of touch with Harriette for a couple of days. How would he explain his lack of communication to her? Any guy capable of devising a ridiculous love test could surely come up with an excuse for being incommunicado for a couple of days.

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 may have been wondering what she’d do once she hit L.A. Maybe she’d go to friends in Hollywood. If she was lucky, someone would have an empty bed for her. Her immediate difficulty was Red. How would she get away from the well-meaning guy for whom she felt little or nothing?

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

Beth had a few minutes while she checked her bags to come up with a plan. When they returned to his car, she told him she needed to go to the Biltmore Hotel to wait for her sister. It was another lie. Virginia, 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 main lobby was on Olive Street, directly opposite Pershing Square. Beth thanked Red. He was a gentleman. 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 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.

Matchbook cover from author’s collect

He parked, and the two of them waited in the Biltmore’s exquisite lobby for quite a while. Beth out waited 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 in the Biltmore at approximately 6:30 p.m. Beth watched him go. She gave him a few minutes, and then she exited the hotel and turned right down Olive Street.

Beth may have been headed for the Crown Grill at Eighth and Olive. She’d been there before and perhaps she hoped to bump into someone she knew; after all, she needed a place to stay. Some patrons of the bar later told cops she’d been there that night, although it could not be verified, and no one saw her leave. 

Beth was never seen alive again.

NEXT TIME: More Black Dahlia coverage.


4 thoughts on “Black Dahlia–Last Seen

  1. It was clearly and obviously him! He was discharged for “hearing voices”, he planned a “love test” what the hell does that mean? They obviously had sex in that motel lol 😂 at some point (most likely after he pretended to leave) he followed her and picked her up again, but this time, the “voices” told him to bash her head in (thats her actual cause of death) then I believe he panicked and called his wife. Only after this, he told the lies about her sister/ having a platonic night with her in the motel. The wife believes him, says she’ll help him, then cut her face up and bisected her, so she could transport the body (on some level she knew he had sex with the dead woman, which explains how she was able to slice her a Glasgow smile, envy).
    This man was clearly deranged in his mind, he could easily pass the archaic “lie detector”. I can’t find his alibi anywhere, however she was last seen with him on the 9th and her body was found on the 15th, he could have snapped any of those days. It was him. Every other hypothesis is highly exciting/ fictional/ highly unlikely/ she spent a lot of time with Manly, he did it. I also firmly believe that his wife absolutely knew. Further, I would also be so brave to say that I think the so called “fall” that caused his death in the 80’s- was him, killing himself.

    • I’m afraid we’ll have to agree to disagree on this, but I appreciate your comments and your considered review
      of the available information. Many people share your view. Thanks for weighing in.

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