On Wednesday, January 15th, 1947, Los Angeles housewife Betty Bersinge took her 3-year-old on a walk to a nearby shoe repair shop. As they were walking, Betty saw something that appeared to be a broken and oddly twisted department store mannaquin in a vacant lot. Upon closer inspection, she realized she was looking at a woman's corpse, and promptly took her daughter away and called police from a neighboring house.
The first officers on the scene were Frank Perkins and Will Fitzgerald. On arrival, they immedately called for assistance to help. The unknown victim had had been dismembered at the waist. Her face and body had been horribly slashed. Rope marks were also found on her ankles, wrists, and neck. Obviously, her death was quite grotesque. It was also obvious that she was not killed at the lot. There were no blood stains around or on the dumped vicitim who appeared to have been washed clean.
Upon hearing of the brutal murder, Captain John Donahoe of LAPD's Homicide Division assigned 2 of his best detectives, Sergeant Harry Hansen and his partner Finis Brown. Donahoe also added Herman Willis, a bright detective from the Metro division to work on the now infamous murder.
As the trio scoured the empty lot for any possible clues, the unknown victim's body had been taking to the Los Angeles County Mougue. She was later identified as Elizabeth Short through FBI fingerprint records which were there because she had worked as a clerk at Camp Cooke in California during the war.
Elizabeth Short was a 22-year-old aspiring actress when she was murdered. Born July 29, 1924, in Hyde Park, Massachusetts, as one of 5 daughters. Her father left them in 1929 following the collapse of his minature golf construction company. Elizabeth and he eventually settled into a good relationship and he asked her to come to California until she landed a job.
Once in California however, the daughter-father relationship became strained and she eventually was forced to stop staying with her father. That's where she got the job at Camp Cooke. Early on Short decided to stay with a girlfriend in nearby Santa Barbara after she felt uncomfortable staying at the camp. She did however, immediately catch the eye of many soldiers there, and was dubbed "The Camp Cutie of Camp Cooke."
Following a scuffle with police, Short was sent back to Massachusetts. She returned and tried an unsuccessful modeling career before returning to the East Coast where she met and fell in love with a pilot, Major Matt Gordon. He soon left on assignment to India, but they had arranged to be married in October of 1945.
It never happened, as Matt was returning back to America, his plane crashed. Short was somewhat destablized by the tragic event and eventually went back to Hollywood where she still looked for the right person to marry. Short also picked up her now famous nickname, "The Black Dahlia," from a newly released movie called The Blue Dahlia. She also started to become very vampy and was popular in the Hollywood nightlife prior to her demise.
Investigations into the Black Dahlia's murder often found dead ends and the police were swamped by leads, often useless, by people who only saw the Black Dahlia. As many people in the Hollywood nightlife knew of her. Also of interest was the murder of Los Angeles socialite Georgette Bauerdorf (She had been strangled and raped before she was dumped in her bathtub face down with a piece of towel in her throat to keep her from crying). Although there were some similarites, hostilities between the LAPD and the county sheriffs stonewalled any cooperations. Even worse, much of her personal effects, including those that were delivered anonymously had been washed of any fingerprints or possible other leads.
Eventually, though, the LAPD recieved a tape recording that implicated Jack Anderson Wilson (AKA: Arnold Smith) in the murder. However, he was never charged...he died in a hotel fire. To this day the Black Dahlia as well as that of Georgette Bauerdorf case remains unsolved, and Los Angeles' most shocking murder.