Black Dahlia: Conclusion

[NOTE: The Long Beach Independent-January 15, 1949. I believe the detectives in the photo are Harry Hansen and Finis Brown ]

Two years passed with police no closer to a solution for Elizabeth Short’s murder. The 1949 Los Angeles Grand Jury intended to hold LAPD’s feet to the fire for failing to solve the Dahlia case and several other unsolved homicides and disappearances of women during the 1940s.

On September 6, 1949, the jury’s foreman, Harry Lawson, told reporters that a meeting of the administrative committee was scheduled for September 8.

Lawson said:

“There is every possibility that we will summon before the jury officers involved in the investigation of these murders. We find it odd that there are on the books of the Los Angeles Police Deportment many unsolved crimes of this type. Because of the nature of these murder and sex crimes, women and children are constantly placed in jeopardy and are not safe from attack. Something is radically wrong with the present system for apprehending the guilty. The alarming increase in the number of unsolved murders and other major crimes reflects ineffectiveness in law enforcement agencies and the courts, and that should not be tolerated.”

In his statement, Lawson places the blame for the unsolved homicides squarely on the shoulders of law enforcement and the courts. What Lawson failed to understand was that crime was changing. No longer could police assume a woman’s killer was her husband or boyfriend. Stranger homicides were nothing new, but neither were they common.

The population of post-war Los Angeles skewed young and, because of a variety of factors, like the acute housing shortage, they were transient. A potent and deadly mix of opportunity and a large victim pool made it easy for the criminally inclined to do their worst. Women had a false sense of security about men in uniform. Behavior considered risky by today’s standards was acceptable during the 1940s.

From the outbreak of the war, the government encouraged women to support men in uniform. Newspapers and women’s magazines devoted countless column inches to ways in which they could aid fighting men. Women formed “Add-A-Plate” clubs. The mission of the clubs was to invite a soldier home for a meal. Women also routinely picked up soldiers and sailors hitchhiking because it was their patriotic duty.

On April 2, 1943, the Pasadena Post wrote about a “ride waiting zone” which gave military men a place to stand and be visible to passing motorists who would then give them a ride. Most of the men were decent and law-abiding, but some returned home severely damaged by their war experiences. How many of those men were capable of murder?

Pfc. George Morrow, left, and Pvt. Dennis Ward could not wait until painters had completely finished the first service men’s waiting zone before they tried it out.

LAPD detectives spared nothing in their investigation of Short’s slaying. They took over 2700 reports. There were over 300 named suspects. They arrested fifty suspects who they subsequently cleared and released. Nineteen false confessors wasted law enforcement’s time and resources.

In 1949, the DA’s office issued a report on the investigation into Short’s murder. In part, the report stated:

“[she] knew at least fifty men at the time of her death and at least 25 men had been seen with her within the 60-day period preceding her death. She was not a prostitute. She has been confused with a Los Angeles prostitute by the same name… She was known as a teaser of men. She would ride with them, chisel a place to sleep, clothes or money, but she would then refuse to have sexual intercourse by telling them she was a virgin, or that she was engaged or married. There were three known men who had sexual intercourse with her and, according to them, she got no pleasure out of this act. According to the autopsy surgeon, her sex organs showed female trouble. She had disliked queer women very much, as well as prostitutes. She was never known to be a narcotic addict.”

Distracted by the continuing saga of local gangster Mickey Cohen, the jury turned their attention away from the carnage. In the end, they passed the baton to the 1950 grand jury–which also found itself sidetracked.

Mickey Cohen and his bullet proof car.

What happened to the women who disappeared? It is unlikely that we will ever know. It is also unlikely that the identity of the killer(s) will be discovered. People will always speculate about the cases, and every few years a book about the Black Dahlia slaying will emerge claiming to have solved the decades long cold case. None of the books I’ve read so far is credible.

I do not accept theories which rely on elaborate conspiracies perpetrated by everyone, from a newspaper mogul to a local gangster to an allegedly evil genius doctor. My disbelief is based in part on the fact that most people are incapable of keeping a secret. Benjamin Franklin said, “Three (people) can keep a secret if two of them are dead.” Eventually, someone talks.

Elizabeth Short’s killer probably kept his depraved secret but, even if he didn’t, anyone who may have known the truth is long dead.

NOTE: This concludes my series of Black Dahlia posts for now. I hope you will stay with me as I unearth more of L.A.’s most deranged crimes.

Unsolved Homicides & Mysterious Disappearances of Women in Los Angeles During the 1940s

This month is the seventy-fourth anniversary of the murder of Elizabeth Short–the Black Dahlia.

I will write about the case in the blog again this year, as I have every year since 2013. In addition to writing about the case, I am offering a webinar (see below) on four unsolved homicides (including Elizabeth Short) of women in Los Angeles during the 1940s.

Elizabeth Short’s funeral

The unsolved murders are tragic; but at least family members and other loved ones had a body to mourn and to lay to rest.

Disappearances haunt the living. Did the person leave by choice, or were they taken against their will? As the years pass, the unanswered questions echo in lonely rooms. Broken hearts never quite mend.

In 1949, two very different women vanished in Los Angeles.

MIMI BOOMHOWER

On August 19, 1949, forty-eight-year-old socialite, Mimi Boomhower, known as the ‘Merry Widow’, disappeared from her Bel-Air home. When police arrived for a welfare check, the lights were on and a salad was left out on the dining table. One of Mimi’s dresses was laid out on her bed. Her car was still in the garage and there was no sign of a robbery.

Jean Spangler, a twenty-six-year-old dancer, model, and actress, left her home at 5pm on October 7, 1949. She was supposed to meet her ex-husband to discuss child support payments and then she was expected to be at a night shoot for a film. Jean didn’t arrive at either of her appointments.

JEAN SPANGLER

At 7pm on Tuesday, January 12, 2021, we’ll discuss the homicides, disappearances, and why Los Angeles was such a dangerous place for women in the 1940s.

HO, HO, HOmicide: Holiday Noir–Mr. Soft Touch [1949]

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.

We are celebrating the holidays over the next few days with holiday themed noir movies.

Happy Holidays!

Tonight’s feature is MR. SOFT TOUCH, starring Glenn Ford, Evelyn Keyes, John Ireland, Beulah and Percy Kilbride.

At Christmas time in San Francisco, Joe Miracle steals $100,000 from the River Club, which he used to own. After evading his pursuers, Joe hides out with Victor Christopher, the brother of his dead partner Leo, and Victor’s wife Clara. Clara has purchased a berth for Joe on the next ship leaving the city. The ship, however, will not depart until the following night. While Joe is trying to decide where he will hide until then, the police demand to search the apartment. At first Joe believes they are looking for the stolen money, but learns that they want to arrest Victor for disturbing the peace and beating Clara. When the police mistake Joe for Victor and arrest him for the night, Joe believes that his problems are solved, but Jenny Jones, a social worker, persuades the judge to give Joe a suspended sentence. 

Film Noir Friday: Undertow [1949]

Welcome! The lobby of the Deranged L.A. Crime theater is open! Grab a bucket of popcorn, some Milk Duds and a Coke and find a seat. Tonight’s feature is UNDERTOW starring Scott Brady, John Russell, Dorothy Hart, and Peggy Dow.

TCM says:

After buying a half-interest in a small lodge near Reno, Tony Reagan, a recently discharged veteran, runs into Danny Morgan, an old friend from Chicago. Danny, who operates a Reno casino owned by Chicago racketeer Big Jim Lee, offers Tony a job, but Tony declines, stating that he gave up the “business” long ago. Tony shows Danny the engagement ring he plans to give Sally Lee, Big Jim’s niece and ward, and Danny, in turn, shows off the ring he has bought for his girl. Confident and carefree, Tony then helps novice gambler Ann McKnight win at the craps table.

 

Film Noir Friday — Sunday Matinee: Manhandled [1949]

Welcome to Film Noir Friday — Sunday Matinee! 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 MANHANDLED starring Dorothy Lamour, Dan Duryea and Sterling Hayden.  Enjoy the movie!

TCM says:

Unemployed writer Alton Bennet tells psychiatrist Dr. Redman about his nightmares, in which he dreams that he murders his wealthy wife Ruth with a heavy perfume bottle. Redman’s secretary, Merl Kramer, takes notes as Bennet denies coveting his wife’s jewels, which are worth $100,000. After Bennet is refused an advance from his publishers, he becomes jealous of Ruth’s close relationship with handsome young architect Guy Bayard, who is designing their new beach house.

 

Film Noir Friday — Holiday Edition: The Crooked Way [1949]

 

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. Because it is Memorial Day, today’s film, THE CROOKED WAY, features a tale about a WWII war hero suffering from amnesia.  The film stars John Payne, Sonny Tufts and Ellen Drew.

Enjoy the movie!

TCM says:

Eddie Rice, a veteran suffering from amnesia, returns to Los Angeles from a San Francisco veterans hospital hoping to learn who he is and discovers that he is a gangster named Eddie Riccardi and has a police record. Although he does not know it, five years earlier, Eddie was acquitted of murder after turning state’s evidence for homicide detective Lieutenant Joe Williams. His partner, Vince Alexander, took the “rap” and spent two years in prison. On a Los Angeles street, a woman recognizes Eddie and reports him to Vince, who sends his thugs to beat up Eddie.

 

Film Noir Friday: Take One False Step [1949]

 

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 TAKE ONE FALSE STEP starring William Powell, Shelley Winters, Marsha Hunt and James Gleason.

Enjoy the movie!

TCM says:

Prof. Andrew Gentling, in Los Angeles to help found a new college, is inveigled by old flame Catherine Sykes into a midnight drive. Next day Catherine is missing, believed killed; friend Martha convinces Andrew that he’s a prime suspect and should investigate before he’s arrested. But this only puts Andrew in a more deadly kind of danger.

 

Film Noir Friday: Whirlpool [1949]

whirlpool-gene-tierney-1949-everett

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 WHIRLPOOL, starring Gene Tierney, Richard Conte, Jose Ferrer and Charles Bickford.

Enjoy the movie!

TCM says:

The wife of a psychoanalyst falls prey to a devious quack hypnotist when he discovers she is an habitual shoplifter. Then one of his previous patients now being treated by the real doctor is found murdered, with her still at the scene, and suspicion points only one way.

 

Film Noir Friday: Whirlpool [1949]

whirlpool-gene-tierney-1949-everett

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, WHIRLPOOL, starring Gene Tierney, Jose Ferrer, Richard Conte, and Charles Bickford.

Enjoy the movie!

 TCM says:

In a Los Angeles department store, unorthodox therapist David Korvo watches as Ann Sutton, wife of famous psychoanalyst Dr. Bill Sutton, is stopped for shoplifting. After convincing the manager that arresting her would mean a scandal for the store, he arranges to meet her the next day. Although Ann assumes that Korvo is a blackmailer, he gives her the store records to destroy, and invites her to a party a few days later. There, Korvo informs her that he can tell that she is a kleptomaniac, and is tired and hurt by emotional pressures. When Ann admits that she cannot sleep, Korvo assures her that he can help and then hypnotizes her without her knowledge.

https://youtu.be/eg91vy0U_9k

Film Noir Friday: Jigsaw [1949]

Jigsaw

 

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 JIGSAW [1949] starring Franchot Tone and Jean Wallace.

Enjoy the film!

TCM says:

After New York City printer Max Borg is murdered, District Attorney Walker, who is assigned to the case, learns that Borg, who had recently been exposed as the printer of propaganda posters for a race hate group called “The Crusaders,” was apparently silenced by them. When an article about the group appears in a local newspaper, Walker’s deputy, Howard Malloy, visits the author, Charles Riggs, who is also his sister Caroline’s fiancé. Later, Charlie is followed home by a mysterious figure, who knocks him unconscious and pushes him out of his high-rise window.

Uh, oh…the plot thickens!