By Jim Kouri
It is a “cold case” that continues to draw the attention of millions of crime buffs and moviegoers: The Black Dahlia” murder case.
A Hollywood bit-part actress, the beautiful Elizabeth Ann Short (July 29, 1924 – January 15, 1947) was believed to have been last seen on January 9, 1947, 65 years ago. Less than a week later, the remains of a horribly mutilated female were found in “The City of Angeles,” but it was obvious Short didn’t encounter an angelic being.
Short — dubbed the “Black Dahlia” by the press for her rumored penchant for sheer black clothes and for a movie at that time — was found sliced clean in half at the waist by a mother walking her child in a Los Angeles neighborhood just before 11 a.m. on January 15, 1947.
The body was reportedly just a few feet from the sidewalk and posed in the grass in such a way that the woman who discovered the body at first thought it was a department store mannequin. Short’s body had been washed and cleaned and she had been “posed” with her hands over her head and elbows bent at right angles
Through fingerprints, the FBI identified the aspiring actress while helping detectives from the Los Angeles Police Department. There were marks on her ankles and wrists made by rope, consistent with being tied either spread-eagled or hung upside down. Although the skull was not fractured, Short had bruising on the front and right side of her scalp with a small amount of bleeding on the right side, consistent with blows to the head. The cause of death was blood loss from the lacerations to the face combined with shock due to a concussion of the brain.
In fact, the FBI identified Elizabeth Short in Washington, DC, just 56 minutes after getting her blurred fingerprints via “Soundphoto” (a primitive fax machine used by news services) from Los Angeles.
Short’s prints actually appeared twice in the FBI’s fingerprint collection (104 million at the time): First, because she had applied for a job as a clerk at the commissary of the Army’s Camp Cooke in California in January 1943 and; second, because she had been arrested by the Santa Barbara police for underage drinking seven months later.
The FBI also had her “mug shot” in their files and provided it to the press. They did not have a photo from her Army application as some historians and writers have claimed.
Despite the extensive mutilation and cuts on the body, there wasn’t a drop of blood at the scene, indicating Short had been killed elsewhere, but the primary crime scene was never found by police investigators.
An extensive manhunt met with negative results and the killer of Elizabeth An Short a/k/a The Black Dahlia has never been identified.