By Saul Roth
On January 15th, 1947, the mutilated body of a young woman was found in an empty lot in Los Angeles. The woman was later identified as Elizabeth Short, and she had been brutally murdered. Despite the best efforts of the police, the case remains unsolved to this day and is known as the “Black Dahlia” murder.
Elizabeth Short was born July 29th, 1924, in Hyde Park, Massachusetts. She had an unhappy childhood, as her parents separated when she was 16, leaving her to be raised by her father and stepmother. Elizabeth left home at 18 and moved to Miami, where she worked odd jobs. In 1943, she moved to San Diego and enlisted in the Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps. She left the service in 1945 and moved to California, where she began working as a waitress and attending beauty school.
By January 1947, Elizabeth was living in Los Angeles with a roommate, Mary Pacios. On January 9th, Elizabeth told Mary she was planning to visit her sister in San Diego for the weekend. She never arrived and was not seen again until her body was discovered 6 days later.
The body of Elizabeth Short was found in an empty lot on 39th Street and Norton Avenue in South L.A., by a mother and her young daughter. It was determined that Elizabeth had been dumped at the lot after her murder had occurred elsewhere.
Elizabeth’s body had been cut in half at the waist, then drained of all its blood. Her facial features had been slashed, her cheeks disfigured, and her breasts cut off. The lower right portion of her body was severely burned. Her intestines had been placed in a neat pile near her body.
The police investigation into the Black Dahlia murder was one of the biggest in the history of Los Angeles. Over 600 suspects were questioned but no evidence could conclusively link any one of them to the crime. A deathbed confession from a dying man claiming responsibility for the murder was deemed unreliable and thus discounted.
The media sensationalized the Black Dahlia murder, claiming Elizabeth was a promiscuous woman who cavorted with many men. Theories about her death ranged from her involvement in the underworld, to her involvement in a secret Nazi ring. These stories damaged Elizabeth’s reputation and made it difficult for police to find reliable witnesses.
No one has ever been charged with the Black Dahlia murder. The case continues to fascinate true crime enthusiasts, amateur detectives, and authors alike, who continue to offer their own theories as to who may have committed the heinous act.
Despite almost 75 years passing since Elizabeth Short’s death, the mystery of the Black Dahlia murder remains unsolved. Today, Elizabeth’s story serves as a somber reminder of how quickly a life can be taken away, and how little justice sometimes remains for victims of violent crimes.