History's Greatest Mysteries (2020) s04e24 Episode Script

The Black Dahlia

Tonight, a mysterious
and gruesome crime
that’s haunted the
public for decades.
The tragic story
of Elizabeth Short,
known as the Black Dahlia,
is a murder mystery
that just doesn’t go away.
The victim is a young beauty,
and like Jack the Ripper
or the Zodiac Killer,
her murderer has never been
caught or even identified.
The police are definitely
working off the idea
that this is a
personal vendetta.
How many bad men does it
take to kill one 22-year-old?
A young wannabe starlet
in Hollywood contrasted
with this very horrible death.
Now we explore the top theories
surrounding one of history’s
most notorious unsolved crimes.
You’ve got this very violent,
very vicious killer out
there and nobody knows
when he’s gonna strike again.
Back then, when you
had power, you had money,
you had prestige, you
could get away with murder.
Who killed the infamous
Black Dahlia and why?
For over seven decades,
the Los Angeles Police
Department has kept
the Black Dahlia
murder case open.
Each new detective assigned
to this legendary cold case
must first review the evidence.
Los Angeles, California,
January 15, 1947.
It’s an uncharacteristically
cool morning
in Leimert Park.
There’s a local
resident who’s walking
in the early morning hours
about 10:00 with a toddler,
and she sees something
that looks like a mannequin
in an open field.
Mannequin that appears
to be broken in half.
She thinks it’s a prank.
She calls the police.
Police come and it ends up
being anything but a mannequin.
What they’re really looking at
is the bisected corpse
of a young woman,
naked, scrubbed, cleaned,
and drained of all her blood.
This was a very brutal murder.
The body’d been
severed at the waist
and had likewise been mutilated.
One of her breasts
has been removed.
There is an incision or
a gash above her genitals
resembling a hysterectomy scar.
The body was left in a position
that is both shocking and
sexual at the same time.
This tattoo had been
cut away from her thigh,
a tattoo of a rose, and
inserted somewhere else
that I’m not sure if you
want me describing on camera.
There were signs of torture.
There were signs
she had been beaten
and maybe most importantly,
there was no blood at the
scene of this homicide.
Her face was severely beaten.
Her mouth has been
slashed from ear to ear
in a grisly smile.
The police initially believe
that she had been killed
sometime between 10 to
12 hours before her body
was most likely dumped
at that location.
The medical
examiner, upon autopsy,
determined that the individual
died from a concussion,
hemorrhaging, and
trauma to the body.
Mercifully, she was already dead
when the killer carved
up the rest of her.
The way the body has been
cut in half is very specific.
The body has been cut
between the second and
third lumbar vertebrae.
It’s called a hemicorporectomy.
This is the exact point
where you would cut someone
without having to
go through bone.
Investigators believe the killer
has to be someone
with medical training
or at least
expertise in anatomy.
There were people that
the LAPD interviewed
that were doctors.
They actually investigated
300 medical students at USC
to find out if one
of them had done it.
The very next day, officers
run the victim’s prints,
and within a few hours,
they have a name.
She is
22-year-old Elizabeth Short
from the Boston suburb of
Medford, Massachusetts.
Her fingerprints were on file
with police and FBI databases
’cause she had applied
for a job at a California
military camp in 1943.
And she had also been
arrested for underage drinking
in Santa Barbara County.
The prior arrest for underage
drinking in Santa Barbara
does become relevant
here because
the arresting officer knew
that she had a rose
tattoo on her left leg,
and that was in the report.
Investigators begin looking into
Elizabeth Short’s
background for more clues.
She was raised by
a single mother
in a middle-class family.
At a very early age,
her father faked his
suicide and left the family.
She was a young
woman who left her home
to come find fame and fortune,
maybe, in Los Angeles.
A beautiful young woman
cut down in the prime
of her life by this, you
know, shadowy creature.
It’s kind of the archetype
of the kinda crime
that captures the American
public’s attention.
Police and
reporters try to get a lead
on Beth’s life, but
the more they dig in,
the more of a
mystery she becomes.
She’s a high school dropout
and she’s kinda bouncing
around from friend to friend,
you know, what the youngsters
call couch surfing now.
So she was really trying
to figure out what it is
that she wants to
do with herself.
When she came to LA,
Beth describes herself
as an aspiring actress.
However, there’s no evidence
that she ever auditioned
for any roles.
It’s in Long
Beach, California in mid-1946
that Short picks up the nickname
that will stick with her
after her death.
Elizabeth Short liked
hanging out at this diner,
and the customers there had
actually named her Black Dahlia
because she dyed her hair black.
She liked wearing
black clothing.
And a movie called "The Blue
Dahlia" had just come out.
And so they named
her the Black Dahlia.
A month before Beth’s murder,
she told friends that she
was going to the Bay Area
to visit her sister.
But in reality, she
went to San Diego.
And there, she sleeps
in a movie theater.
One of the women working
at the movie theater
lets Elizabeth Short live
with her and her family
for about a month.
But eventually,
they tire of her,
and that’s when she, you know,
starts up with Red Manley.
On the evening of January 9,
six days before her dead body
will be found in Leimert Park,
Beth is given a ride
back to Los Angeles
by a traveling salesman
named Red Manley.
He said she was very fidgety,
she couldn’t sit still.
She just seemed
very uncomfortable.
Red Manley tells police
that he dropped Beth off
at the Biltmore Hotel
in Downtown Los Angeles,
and then he heads home.
Officers checked out his alibi
and everything rang true.
And so the last time that
Beth was seen by anyone
was about 10:00 p.m.
at the Biltmore.
Doorman said he walked her
out and that was the last time
anyone had seen her.
Six days later, she’ll be dead.
And the biggest manhunt
in LA history kicks off.
One of the first witnesses
that investigators talked to
was her on-again,
off-again friend,
sometime housemate,
roommate, Ann Toth.
Toth is the one that
points investigators
in the direction of their first
real suspect, Mark Hansen.
Mark Hansen was the operator
of the Florentine Gardens
on Hollywood Boulevard.
It was a very
popular dance club.
He’s this Danish millionaire.
He has lots of very
powerful friends.
He’s very influential,
and he lives in this
house on Carlos Avenue.
This was kind of a haven
for dancers at his club,
for people who would
just come to the city
and wanted to be actresses,
just people chasing
the dream of Hollywood.
Ann Toth is
one of the women who lives
in the Carlos Avenue home.
She tells police that
Beth lived there too,
off and on between May
and November of 1946.
One of the reasons that
Toth directed officers
to Mark in the first
place is because she knew
that he was completed obsessed
and infatuated with Beth.
He would forbid her to
bring other men to the house,
which sounds like, you know,
the jealous boyfriend type.
Hansen was described as
fixated on Elizabeth Short.
He had this unrequited
sexual interest in her.
So she’s trying to find
a way to, you know,
kind of shoo him off sexually
without infuriating him,
so she comes up with this
fiction that she’s a virgin.
The fact that Beth rebuffed
Mark Hansen with stories
of, "I’m a virgin," probably
only fueled his desire
to want her all the more.
The stormy
relationship doesn’t end there.
To avoid any conflict with Mark,
it’s rumored that she was
having her gentlemen friends
drop her off about a
block away from his house.
Now, this just infuriates him,
so Mark doesn’t speak to
Beth now for several days.
Things allegedly come to a head
in early November 1946.
Ann Toth had told the
police that the final straw
in this relationship between
Mark Hansen and Elizabeth Short
is that Hansen had told
Elizabeth that it was only her,
it was all about her,
he was obsessed with
or fixated on her.
And then he brings
another woman home,
and she sees this and
suddenly is now aggravated.
And there is some kind of,
I don’t know if
they come to blows
or it’s just a verbal argument,
but something
happens between them
and that is kind of where
things completely fall apart
between Hansen and Short.
The morning after
this explosion,
Hansen does evict
her from the property
where she’s been staying.
But Ann tells
police it isn’t the end
of Mark and Beth’s
tumultuous relationship.
The night before the murder,
Ann said that
Elizabeth had called
and that Mr. Hansen had been
acting nervous and restless.
She also said that Elizabeth
was going to come over,
but she didn’t show up.
So the last night that
anybody sees Elizabeth Short,
she does make a phone
call to Mark Hansen.
And he tells her,
"Everything’s fine.
You still have a place to stay."
But according to Mark,
Beth never came back.
Police question
the well connected
nightclub owner,
but he downplays his
relationship with Elizabeth.
He says he was never
interested in Beth,
he never tried to
have sex with her.
He found Beth to be
fair looking, average.
Hansen does himself no
favors with the police.
He tells easily
disprovable lies.
He says he didn’t speak to
her after he evicted her.
According to Ann,
Mark Hansen told her
Beth could come and stay there
if she needed a place to stay.
But when questioned
by investigators,
Mark Hansen said
he turned Beth away
and never saw her again.
On January 21,
six days after Beth
Short’s body is discovered,
an envelope containing the
contents of her purse arrives
at the "Los Angeles
Herald Examiner."
Among the materials submitted
were Elizabeth Short’s
Social Security card,
an address book that bore
the name of Mark Hansen
on its cover.
At first blush, it looks
like somebody’s trying
to set this guy up.
Because you just don’t send
incriminating materials
to the police.
If you wanna do that,
you might as well go
to the front desk
and turn yourself in.
It’s quite believable
and reasonable
to suspect Mark Hansen as
the perpetrator of this crime
because we know that he was
obsessed with Elizabeth.
But Mark Hansen has an alibi
and witnesses to back him up.
He said that when
the murder occurred,
he was at a movie theater
opening in Long Beach.
And he also had a
business associate testify
that he was at his home in
Redondo Beach until 3:00 a.m.
This would not give
him enough time
to kill Elizabeth and
then dispose of the body
in the way it had been
and be able to get away.
Hansen’s alibi
knocks him down
the suspect list.
Police never search his
properties or vehicles
for blood or evidence,
and the case moves on.
You’ve got this very violent,
very vicious killer out there
and nobody knows who he is.
Nobody knows when he’s
gonna strike again.
It’s January of 1947
and Los Angeles is in the
grips of a tabloid frenzy.
Everyone wants to know who
killed the Black Dahlia.
Media were all over this case.
At that time, there
were four major dailies
in the city of Los
Angeles competing.
This is the ’40s, so
you’re pre-internet,
you’re pre-Twitter, but
you are also at a time
when the papers are putting
out two editions each day.
They’re putting out
mornings and evenings,
trying to just
edge each other out
and get, you know, at least
one exclusive per day,
twice per day.
This story had everything
that you would relate
to a film noir.
You’ve got the seedy
underbelly of Hollywood.
You’ve got the gruesomeness
of the killing,
and then the great
unknown is who did it.
The Black Dahlia case
even becomes headline
news around the country.
Everyone was watching.
Everyone was reading papers.
This was a hot story.
And the cops were pressured
to find out who done it.
You had, at one
point, 150 suspects
that investigators were
looking at, wanting to talk to,
had talked to.
You had people who were
calling in with tips.
And you even had people
who were confessing.
There were certain things
that would only be known
to the killer.
One of the details that
police kept from the media
was the fact that Elizabeth
Short had a tattoo on her leg.
It was a rose.
Having information
that others don’t have
is one way of helping
eliminate folks
from like being a
potential suspect.
So, after the initial
excitement of this young woman
found in a field and the
several editions a day
of newspaper and
all this coverage,
a month passes and the
cops are still at a loss
of who killed Elizabeth Short.
As their
investigation continues,
the LA Police make a connection
to similar grisly murders
that occurred a decade earlier
and over 2,000 miles away.
Cleveland, iron and steel center
of the Middle West.
The nature and manner of
death of Elizabeth Short
tends to lend itself
to a belief that
there might be other murders
that are related to this.
A dismemberment murder,
a brutal, probably
sexual murder of a woman.
Cleveland, Ohio investigators
are beginning to wonder
if the Black Dahlia killer is
someone they’ve hunted before.
Investigators in
Cleveland are looking
at all that’s happening
around this young woman found
in a field, and
they are wondering,
"Is their killer the
same as our killer?"
About a decade before in 1930,
Cleveland also had
a killer who seemed
to delight in killing folks
and dissecting the bodies.
It all starts
in September of 1934,
when a beachcomber on
the shores of Lake Erie
makes a gruesome discovery.
They discover a
female who’s headless
with her legs
amputated at the knees,
partially covered in sand.
This body was essentially
a torso with the upper legs
still intact, but the rest
of the body was missing.
Investigators eventually find
her legs but not the head,
and this woman becomes known
as the Lady of the Lake.
Exactly one year later,
two teenagers discover
the decapitated corpse
of a white male in a vacant lot.
The body was found decapitated
with his genitals removed.
While searching the crime scene,
police find the
body of another man,
40 years old, who had also
been decapitated and castrated.
Every few months,
more butchered bodies turn up.
The Cleveland killer seems
to target men and women
who are down on their luck,
folks who maybe a
perpetrator might think
they won’t be missed and
were probably vulnerable
in the moment.
So we can already
see specific parallels
between the Cleveland
Torso Killer
and the Black Dahlia case.
We see bodies that are
turning up dismembered
and disfigured in a way that
involves a certain amount
of anatomical and/or
medical skill and knowledge.
Like the Black Dahlia’s killer,
who sent taunting
letters to the newspaper,
Cleveland’s mad butcher seems
to enjoy goading
the authorities.
A very significant parallel
between the two cases
is the fact that the killers
communicated with police
after the murders were done.
In the case of the
Cleveland Torso Killer,
that killer was taunting
the investigator
who at that time was Eliot Ness.
Eliot Ness was the investigator
who took down Al
Capone in Chicago.
The Cleveland
Torso Killer is believed
to be responsible for
the murders of seven men
and five women.
In 1938, Cleveland’s
racked up about 12 bodies now
as a result of
this Torso Killer,
and then it just stops.
And so the question is,
why? What happened?
The belief was is
that Eliot Ness,
during his investigation
of the Torso Killer,
had honed in on a guy who
was only known as Dr. X.
This person has
received medical training,
and Eliot Ness coaxes this
person, who he calls Dr. X,
to talk with him.
This Dr. X receives two
polygraph tests and fails both.
There was never enough
evidence to charge him,
but Eliot Ness manages to coax
him into an insane asylum,
and the torso murders stop.
But some believe
the suspect known as Dr. X
wasn’t actually the Torso Killer
and that the only reason
the murders stopped
is because the real killer moved
to a new hunting ground.
Perhaps the killer actually
left the area because
a letter had been received
by the police department.
In this letter,
he’s kind of cheeky,
and he says, "You can relax
now. I’ve left the area.
I’ve gone to sunny California,
and I’ll be engaging in my
surgical endeavors there."
The suspect also
says that he’s buried
his most recent
victim in Los Angeles
between Crenshaw
and Western Avenue,
which is really only about
five miles from Leimert Park.
Did Cleveland’s mad butcher
set his sights on
Elizabeth Short?
The Cleveland Torso Killer
and the killer of Elizabeth
Short, the Black Dahlia,
had some type of
anatomical training.
They knew where to cut,
where to avoid bone.
There are also a
number of differences
between the two cases.
We see with the
Cleveland torso killings,
there are decapitations.
Elizabeth Short was
not decapitated.
The Cleveland Torso killings,
the bodies weren’t
necessarily posed.
Also, the Cleveland Torso
killings involved men,
which is different victimology
than the Elizabeth Short case.
The Cleveland Torso
Killer’s mutilations
might have been more
defensively motivated,
designed to keep him
from being caught.
Versus the Elizabeth Short case,
which may have been
more in the service
of sexual gratification.
There was no hard
proof that the killer
of Elizabeth Short was the
Cleveland Torso Killer.
The MOs feel totally
different to me.
Most old unsolved
murders slip into obscurity.
Not so with the Black Dahlia.
As the decades go by and
the leads grow colder,
the search for answers only
seems to be heating up.
In 1997 on the 50th
anniversary of the murder,
the "Los Angeles Times" hires
renowned criminal profiler
John Douglas to take his
own look at the case.
Douglas believes that the
killer of the Black Dahlia
was a male,
someone who’s familiar with
surgical equipment.
He believes that the
killer was motivated
by personal stress, alcoholism,
and romantic rejection.
One of
Douglas’s biggest questions
is, why Leimert Park?
The fact that the
killer dumps the body
in a residential area
right in the middle of LA
was notable to John Douglas.
Because there’s so many other
places in Southern California
to dump a body if you
don’t want it to be found.
John Douglas feels
that the perpetrator
would have a connection
to this neighborhood
and to this spot.
Well, who would possibly
have a connection
to this neighborhood
that could have the means
and the opportunity
to commit this murder?
Following up on that theory,
an "LA Times" reporter
finds a suspect
that has flown under the
radar for half a century.
His name is Dr. Walter Bayley.
Walter Bayley is born in 1880,
he’s a World War I veteran.
He is a surgeon
at the University of
Southern California,
and maybe most importantly,
he has an office not
far from the Biltmore,
you know, where Elizabeth
Short was last seen.
Dr. Bayley had a young son
who was riding his bicycle
and was killed by a driver,
and it was a very traumatic
incident in his life.
It’s been said
that at this point,
he sort of threw
himself into his career.
He had a private practice
where he specialized
in mastectomies
and hysterectomies.
Given the injuries she suffered,
given the specific areas of
her body that were mutilated,
there’s a line of thinking
that Bayley would’ve known
exactly how to cut, move,
otherwise dismember those parts
of a human being.
Dr. Bayley and
his wife lived in Leimert Park
in a house just a block away
from where Elizabeth Short
will be found murdered.
But in the months
before the murder,
Dr. Bayley’s marriage and
his life were coming apart.
He has become
estranged from his wife
about four months before
Elizabeth Short is killed,
and kind of shacks up with
this younger physician.
He had a successful
medical practice,
and then he sort of broke
bad in a certain way.
His personality
changed dramatically.
He left his wife.
He took up with
this younger woman.
He would have these
bizarre kind of habits
like watching surgery films
at night while he ate dinner
with this younger woman.
And that sorta fit the
profile of somebody
who might commit this murder.
One researcher investigating
the Black Dahlia case found
evidence of a connection
between Dr. Bayley
and Elizabeth Short.
And he obtained
Elizabeth Short’s
older sister’s
marriage certificate.
And on the marriage certificate,
one of the witnesses was
Dr. Bayley’s daughter.
And the address that Dr.
Bayley’s daughter listed
was only one block
from the crime scene.
And that’s where Walter
Bayley’s ex-wife lived.
So there’s now a connection
between Elizabeth
Short and Walter Bayley
and the residence
and the crime scene.
Adding to the
case against Dr. Bayley
is his own medical condition.
Dr. Bayley had a very
specific brain condition
known as encephalomalacia.
The neurobiologists said
that this kind of dementia,
this could lead to a dramatic
change of personality
later in life.
It could lead to a
certain kind of violence
and hypersexuality that
might be consistent
with somebody who would
commit this kind of crime.
Some theorists
contend that Bayley,
elderly and weakened
by his disease,
severed the body to make
it easier to transport
and purposely dumped
it just 1/2 a block
from the house in which
his ex-wife still lived.
If he’s the suspect
and he left this body
within proximity to his wife,
it would have been maybe
to perhaps unsettle her
and make her feel
that, you know,
this place that, you know,
she calls home and feels safe
is no longer safe
based on the fact
that a nude woman
cut in half was found
a block or two away.
Dr. Bayley
dies on January 4, 1948,
not even one year after
the Black Dahlia murder.
But his death doesn’t
stop speculation
that he’s the killer.
Bayley wasn’t a
suspect at the time,
but to a number of LAPD
homicide detectives,
of all the theories that
had been going around
for many, many decades,
they felt his was
the most plausible.
There is this thought
process that basically this man
is going mad not far
from the Biltmore
with the means,
mode, and opportunity
to commit a crime like this,
and then Elizabeth short
wanders into his path.
Walter Bayley’s death
is critical here
because if this was to
become a pattern of behavior,
he didn’t live long enough
to find another victim.
Walter Bayley
isn’t the only person
who raises suspicions long
after Elizabeth Short’s murder.
In 2006, Don Wolfe
publishes a book
in which he advances the theory,
what if somebody with
a hair-trigger temper,
some infamous violent mobster
killed Elizabeth Short?
And not only that he killed her,
but he did it at the behest of
a famous and powerful person.
Bugsy Siegel is
infamous mafia figure,
one of the people associated
with the foundation
of Murder, Inc. in New York,
which is not a
reputation you develop
unless you have hurt people.
Siegel moves to
California in the mid-1930s
to set up a West
Coast criminal empire.
Despite his track record
as a merciless hitman,
he soon finds himself
hobnobbing with celebrities.
One of the power
players that Bugsy Siegel
is known to associate
with is Norman Chandler,
who is at the time the publisher
of the "Los Angeles Times."
Chandler is the civic leader
in the second largest city
in the U.S.
The rumor is that
Norman Chandler
got Elizabeth Short pregnant
and that could not be.
I don’t know if either
she refused an abortion
or he never asked, but to cover
up the affair and the baby,
Chandler reaches
out to Bugsy Siegel.
And so Bugsy Siegel
gets two of his henchmen
to take care of the problem,
and the problem is, of
course, Elizabeth Short.
But most investigators point
to one flaw in this theory:
her autopsy report states
that Beth wasn’t pregnant.
Elizabeth’s autopsy did not
show that she was pregnant,
that this detail
would’ve been changed
by a medical examiner, somebody
that Siegel could reach,
or somebody that
Chandler could reach.
There is other
circumstantial evidence
supporting the Black
Dahlia murder as a mob hit.
Norman Chandler had a condo
right near the Biltmore Hotel.
So maybe, on January 9,
when Red Manley drops
Elizabeth Short off
at the Biltmore Hotel,
maybe she’s going to
see Norman Chandler
at his condo nearby.
Maybe she was
walking into a trap.
movement around the time
of the Black Dahlia killing
raises even more questions.
It’s believed that Bugsy
Siegel was in Los Angeles
during the time that
Elizabeth Short was killed.
But on the day her body
is found in Leimert Park,
Bugsy Siegel leaves town
and he goes to Palm Springs.
The LAPD has kept its
most famous cold case open
since 1947, and the
detective assigned
to the Black Dahlia
murder must evaluate
all the new leads and theories
that continue to come in,
like the one that comes from
a former homicide detective
who believes he’s tracked
the elusive killer
right to his own front door.
Steve Hodel is a 24-year
veteran of the LAPD,
but he never investigated
the Black Dahlia case himself
until the death of
his beloved father,
Dr. George Hodel, in 1999.
When his father passed away,
you know, he started
going through
all of his father’s
things and he came across
this little black book
and saw a picture that
looked like Elizabeth Short.
During some family conversation
with his older step-sister as
he’s looking at these photos,
the older sister tells
Steve that, at some point,
their dad had been identified
as a potential suspect
in the Black Dahlia murder.
In the very beginning,
Steve Hodel set out to
prove that his father
had no involvement in
Elizabeth Short’s murder.
But over time,
Steve Hodel’s investigation
would lead him
to a horrifying conclusion
and cast his father in
a very different light.
George Hodel was very
wealthy, very charismatic.
He was actually a
genius, if you will.
He’s in college at
Caltech when he was 16,
and he falls in love
with his professor.
He had an affair with
one of his teachers
and got her pregnant,
and she didn’t want
anything to do with him,
because obviously, you
know, she’s a teacher
and he’s 16 years old.
But it just kinda
goes to show like,
that personality that
he had, you know,
because as he got
older, you know,
he married several times.
He’ll go on to have 11 children
by five different women.
He grows up in
the Los Angeles area
and eventually becomes
a medical doctor
and even the head of the
LA Department of Health,
where he treated STDs
and performed abortions
for the rich and
famous and elite
around the Los Angeles area.
He had every political,
every police in his pocket.
You could say he
was taken care of.
By the 1940s,
Hodel is swinging amongst
an elite LA crowd,
including surrealist
photographer Man Ray
and movie director John Huston.
Then in 1945, he’s accused
by his daughter Tamar
of sexual abuse.
During the trial, Tamar
accuses Hodel of murdering
the Black Dahlia.
Despite the fact that
there are eyewitnesses
to the incest events,
he is acquitted,
but Los Angeles Police
then monitor his home,
planting microphones
in the house
to see if they can get evidence
related to the
Black Dahlia murder.
Investigators spend
the next 40 days and nights
monitoring and
recording conversations
inside the Hodel home.
At some point,
he is heard saying,
"Well, even if I did do
the Black Dahlia murder,
they would never catch me."
The deeper Steve digs
into the Black Dahlia evidence,
the more convinced he
becomes that his dad
is the monster who tortured
and mutilated Elizabeth Short.
Witnesses at the time
report seeing Elizabeth Short
in the presence and
company of Dr. Hodel
and that she may have
been a patient of his
or perhaps even
a dating partner.
Another clue for Steve Hodel
is the concrete bag found at
the Black Dahlia crime scene.
One of the other
reasons that Steve thought
maybe his dad has been involved
is that this concrete
bag that was found
at the scene where Elizabeth
Short’s body had been dumped,
Steve said he found a
very similar concrete bag
at his dad’s home because
there was some construction
being done there.
Steve Hodel found the receipts
and he matched the
receipts to the cement bags
that were found at
the crime scene.
Studying the crime scene photos,
Steve also believes he’s
established a motive.
There’s literally
some of Man Ray’s work
that almost exactly resembles
the way her body was laid out.
And some believe that,
if this was George Hodel
who perpetrated this murder,
that he was trying to imitate
or perhaps even supersede
the work of Man Ray due
to his close relationship
and perhaps jealousy of Man Ray.
In 1950, just
when it seems the case
against George
Hodel is heating up,
the doctor abruptly
moves to the Philippines,
which at the time has no
extradition treaty with the U.S.
He goes there and he
creates a whole new family.
And he came back many years
later, lived in San Francisco,
and then he passed.
Steve went on to
write several books
and still believes to
this day that his father
actually killed Elizabeth Short.
In 2017,
the 70-year anniversary of
Elizabeth Short’s murder,
a fresh look at the
unredacted records
breathes new life
into an investigation
that has never
officially been closed.
The fact of the matter is,
LAPD still has a very
talented detective assigned
to this investigation
with the hopes
that a solution still remains.
Some believe that solution
may involve a man
who made headlines
in the months after the murder.
This is someone who
investigators had looked at
from the very start.
It’s the fall of 1948,
and LAPD’s chief
police psychiatrist,
Dr. Joseph Paul De River,
is still determined
to find the Black
Dahlia’s killer.
The LAPD, years
on from the murder,
starts to get a
little desperate.
They’re trying to bait out
the killer any way they can.
So Dr. De River is interviewed
for a true crime magazine
where he basically makes
some flattering statements
about who the Black
Dahlia killer may be,
talking about the
intelligence of the individual
who did this and perhaps
the person’s need
to brag or boast about it.
Within days,
the letter that De River
has been waiting for arrives
at police headquarters.
A man named Jack Sands
contacted De River saying
that he had information about
the Elizabeth Short murder.
And the main thing that
is posited in this letter
is that someone
named Jeff Connors
has committed the homicide.
Sands proposes that the
murderer, Jeff Connors,
could’ve been Elizabeth
Short’s ex-lover
and perhaps she mocked him
by insulting his manhood,
therefore, the murder would’ve
been motivated by revenge.
Jack Sands proposes this
as the hypothetical motive
of Jeff Connors, but
Dr. De River says,
"Oh no, Sands
himself is the guy."
By now, police
psychiatrist Dr. De River
is convinced he’s writing
to the actual killer
and that Jack Sands
is not his real name.
So to track down
this Jack Sands,
the LAPD dispatches
an officer to Florida
to monitor his mailbox.
And they soon discover
that this Jack Sands
is actually a man
named Leslie Dillon.
Dillon is a married man who
bounced between residences
and also between jobs.
He’d once worked as a
mortician’s assistant,
which intrigues
police given the way
that Elizabeth Short’s
body was cut up.
De River has
an undercover LAPD officer
bring Dillon to a bugged
hotel in El Monte, California,
so De River can talk to
him about the murder.
They spend three days in
a hotel room that’s bugged
to have a conversation about
the details of this killing.
Dillon tells the police
that he believes Connor
had a motive to kill
Elizabeth Short.
Playing on a hunch,
Dr. De River asks Dillon
to take off his clothes,
and he’s shocked.
Dillon has the
genitals of a child.
This is important because
it might’ve been the reason
that Elizabeth Short may
have been mocking him
and thus, his reason
for feeling humiliated
and wanting to
retaliate and kill her.
De River is seeking to
establish the credibility
of Leslie Dillon,
so he tests him.
He inquires about the damage
to Elizabeth Short’s body.
One of the things that we
know that police held back
was the fact that the suspect
had actually cut a portion
of Elizabeth Short’s leg,
which contained a
tattoo of a rose.
When asked about the rose
tattoo and its location
on Elizabeth Short’s body,
without hesitation,
Leslie Dillon states
that it was removed
from her left thigh
and placed in her pelvis.
This was something only the
killer and the police knew,
and he just answered the
question affirmatively.
After four days of questioning,
Dr. De River is convinced
he’s finally solved
the Black Dahlia murder.
They go back to Los Angeles,
and Dillon is
ultimately arrested,
but just when it seems
like the case is a lock,
LAPD makes a stunning
On January 10, 1949,
Leslie Dillon is
booked on suspicion
of killing Elizabeth Short.
Upon inspection of
Leslie’s Dillon’s suitcase,
investigators find 700
phenobarbital pills,
along with 70 razorblades,
and a dog leash.
The dog leash itself
had been damaged or worn,
perhaps as if it had been
bearing a significant weight,
as in the weight of the
body of Elizabeth Short.
the case against Dillon,
it’s discovered that a
relative who gave him
a place to stay at the
time of the Dahlia murder
lived just two blocks
from where Beth’s purse
and shoes were dumped.
They found her
handbag and her shoes,
just maybe two miles
from where she was left.
Leslie Dillon has suggested
a man named Jeff Connors is
the Black Dahlia murderer
and that he lives in the
San Francisco Bay Area,
but the cops
believe Jeff Connors
is merely Dillon’s alter ego.
And as things turn out,
there is a real Jeff
Connors and he really is
in the San Francisco Bay Area.
enough, police learn
that Jeff Connors, in addition
to knowing Leslie Dillon,
he also knows Mark Hansen,
one of our suspects
from a previous theory,
as well as Elizabeth Short.
And that all of these
paths might’ve crossed
at some time previously.
suspect that those paths
might’ve crossed when a jealous
and spurned Mark Hansen may
have enlisted their help
in killing Beth Short.
But when Jeff Connors’
ex-wife gives him an alibi
for the presumed
time of the murder,
he’s allowed to walk free.
Mark Hansen was very powerful,
and he had a lot of money and
he had a lot of connections.
What if he used all of that
to make this case disappear?
Leslie Dillon had plenty reason
to want to get rid
of Elizabeth Short.
There’s a theory that
she mocked his manhood
or lack thereof.
Leslie Dillon may
have the motivation
with humiliation and revenge.
Mark Hansen may have the
means and the ability
to get Elizabeth Short to him
and also the means to get it
all cleaned up afterwards.
All these years later,
newly uncovered witness
statements may finally explain
how that happened.
In 2018, the son of one of
the Florentine Garden showgirls
reaches out to
investigators and says
that his mom, Nanette,
had said to him
that she knew exactly who
had killed the Black Dahlia.
Nanette also,
according to her son,
said to him that she had
seen someone who resembled
Elizabeth Short in
Mark Hansen’s home
behind the Florentine Gardens,
known as the Carlos
Avenue house.
According to Nanette’s son,
she asked Hansen
who the girl was,
and he said it was
Elizabeth Short.
So a week after the
Black Dahlia murder,
when the story was
all over the news,
Mark Hansen apparently
called Nanette and said
she shouldn’t mention
this to anyone
or her career would be over.
But Beth was out
of Hansen’s Carlos
Avenue house by the 10th,
so where did she go after that?
According to unredacted
district attorney’s
office documents,
Mark Hansen, Leslie
Dillon, and Elizabeth Short
were all seen at the
Aster Motel together.
Theory has it that Leslie Dillon
and her old friend Mark
Hansen kidnapped her
and tortured her in one of
the rooms at the Aster Hotel.
Witnesses saw Mark
Hansen leave room three
at the Aster Hotel
in Los Angeles.
The hotel owner’s wife
walked into room three
after everyone had left it,
and she found blood
and gore everywhere.
These witness
accounts, buried for decades,
point to the possibility
that the Aster Motel was where
Elizabeth Short was tortured,
murdered, and mutilated.
However, by the time the LAPD
examined the Aster Motel,
there is no evidence
of a bloody murder.
And though the Aster Motel is
ruled out as a crime scene,
the detectives
assigned to investigate
are quickly removed.
The two detectives who
were working this case,
who were working the
Aster Hotel scene,
are suddenly excused.
Why would they be
kicked off this case?
Is it because of
Mark Hansen’s pull?
Is it possible
that multimillionaire
Mark Hansen had the clout
to bury evidence and
squelch an investigation
into his possible guilt?
It’s yet another
unanswered question
in LA’s most compelling
murder mystery.
The Elizabeth Short mystery
carries on to this day
because nobody’s been caught.
Given the nature of the crime,
we want an answer.
We wanna know why.
We wanna know who.
And until we do, I think there
will always be an interest.
The Black Dahlia murder has
a long, unsavory suspect list,
but without solid evidence,
there’s still no way to
rule anyone in or out.
The file remains open.
A detective is
still on the case.
Maybe one day a newfound
clue will finally lead
to the identity of
Elizabeth Short’s killer
and justice at last
for the Black Dahlia.
I’m Laurence Fishburne.
Thank you for watching
"History’s Greatest Mysteries."
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