Seventy years after the Black Dahlia murder, a British author believes she's finally solved the case.
The murder of Elizabeth Short, known as the “Black Dahlia,” is the oldest unsolved murders in the history of Los Angeles–as well as one of its most brutal–making it one of American history’s most horrific and mysterious killings.
The Murder Of Elizabeth Short
On Jan. 15, 1947, Short’s dead and mutilated body was found in a residential neighborhood outside of Los Angeles by a mother out for a walk with her child.
According to the woman, the way Short’s body had been posed at first led the woman to believe that the body was actually a mannequin.
Short’s corpse was severed at the waist, and her intestines had been removed, folded up, and tucked under her lower torso. Pieces of her skin had been removed, there were ligature marks on her wrists and ankles.
There was no blood at the scene–and her body had been entirely desanguinated–leading L.A. Police Department detectives to conclude that she had been murdered elsewhere. Her corpse had also been completely wiped down with gasoline before being dumped.
The most chilling part, however, was the lacerations on her face.
The killer had sliced each side of her face, from the corners of her mouth to her ears, creating a Joker-like smile.
The L.A. Police Department reached out to the F.B.I. to help identify the body, which the F.B.I. was able to do thanks to their extensive collection of fingerprints. Short’s fingerprints turned up in their database since she had applied for a job with the US Army’s Camp Cooke Commissary in 1943.
They also had a mugshot of her from several months after she applied for the commissary job–she had been arrested by the Santa Barbara Police department for underaged drinking–which the F.B.I. provided to the press shortly after identifying the body.
The Press Becomes Embroiled In The Black Dahlia Murder Case
A week after her body was found, Los Angeles Examiner editor James Richardson received a call from a person claiming to be the murderer, who said he would be sending “souvenirs” of Short in the mail.
Four days later, a postal worker found an envelope addressed to the Examiner. Inside were Short’s birth certificate, business cards, photographs, a list of names, and an address book.
The media branded Short as a sexual deviant, claiming that she would trick men into giving her room and board, gifts and money in return for sex, and then not deliver on her promises.
They gave Short the nickname, “The Black Dahlia”, after her reported preference for wearing a lot of sheer black clothing and for the popular Blue Dahlia film that was currently in theaters.
Police searched hundreds of locations throughout Los Angeles for clues, heard over 60 confessions for the murder, and interviewed over 12 suspects, but ultimately never arrested anyone.
Most people assumed that the Black Dahlia murder was a date gone wrong, or that she had run into a sinister fellow late at night while walking alone.
For 70 years, the Black Dahlia murder case remained open. Cold, but open.
Has The Black Dahlia Murder Been Solved?
British author Piu Eatwell announced that she had finally solved the decades-old case, and was publishing her findings in her book called Black Dahlia, Red Rose: The Crime, Corruption, and Cover-Up of America’s Greatest Unsolved Murder.
The real culprit, she claimed, was Leslie Dillon, a man who police had initially investigated but had let go. But, she said, there was much more to the case besides the killer himself.
According to Eatwell, Dillon was just a hitman who was hired to kill Short by Hollywood theatre mogul Mark Hansen.
Hansen was another original suspect that had eventually been let go, and the owner of the address book that had been mailed to the Examiner.
Hansen ran a sort of half-way house at the time, and young starlets seeking fame in Los Angeles would often stay there. Short had reportedly stayed at the home for a few days with a friend of hers shortly before her murder.
Eatwell alleges that Hansen was infatuated with Short and came onto her. She rebuffed his advances but continued to tease him. Finally, Hansen had had enough and kicked her out of his house.
Then, he called on Leslie Dillon, an acquaintance, to “take care of her.” Hansen, it seemed, knew Dillon was capable of murder but didn’t know just how deranged he really was.
Before beginning his career as a writer, Leslie Dillon had worked as a mortician’s assistant, where he would have learned how to bleed bodies dry, and dismember them. Later, when interviewed by police, he had admitted an interest in the case, telling them that he wanted to write a “true detective” style piece on it.
Eatwell also discovered, from police records, that Dillon knew details of the crime that had not been released to the public, such as that Short had a tattoo of a red rose on her upper thigh which had been cut off and shoved inside her.
Despite all the evidence pointing to him, Dillon was never tried and was let go early on by police. Eatwell claims that it was due to Mark Hansen’s ties to the LAPD. The department was corrupt, to begin with, but Eatwell believed that Hansen contributed largely to their corruption by paying off officers investigating Short’s death.
Another discovery that lent itself to Eatwell’s theory was a crime scene found at a local motel.
During her research, Eatwell came across a report by Astor Motel owner Henry Hoffman. On the morning of Jan. 15, 1947, Hoffman opened the door to cabin three and found blood and feces splattered across the room. In cabin nine he found a bloodstained bundle of women’s clothing.
Instead of reporting the crime, Hoffman simply cleaned it up. He had been arrested four days earlier for beating his wife and didn’t want to risk another run-in with police.
Eatwell believes that cabin three is where Short was murdered. Eyewitness reports, though uncorroborated, claim that Dillon was seen at the motel with Short shortly before her body was discovered.
Eatwell’s theories have not been proven, as everyone involved with the original Black Dahlia murder case is dead, and the official LAPD documents are locked away in vaults, not for public viewing.
However, Eatwell remains confident in her findings, and truly believes that she’s solved the mysterious and gruesome case of the Black Dahlia murder.
Enjoy this article on the Black Dahlia murder? Next, read about the Cleveland Torso Murders, a series of killings strikingly similar to the Black Dahlia’s. Then, read bout other creepy still-unsolved crimes.