Episode 55

Elizabeth Short: The Black Dahlia, Part 2

June 22, 2020   Tags: ,
Apple Podcasts
In January 1947, an aspiring young actress was savagely killed by what newspapers called a “werewolf.” Her injuries and post mortem slices could only have been done by a monster. But 73 years later, her family, the media and the public are all still searching for Elizabeth Short’s murderer. The theories of who could have killed the Black Dahlia are endless, from a prominent surgeon to a bellhop to a newspaper publisher. 

In this second part we are discussing theories and possible suspects. To read more about the crime, please visit the previous episode. 
The Suspects:
Red Manley- Elizabeth Short was last confirmed to have been seen in his company. He dropped her off at the Biltmore Hotel on January 9th, 1947. Law enforcement checked his alibi for January 14th and 15th. It was solid. Manley was released and remained helpful to the police, even identifying Elizabeth’s belongings. Manley died, after spending decades in a mental hospital, from an accidental fall in 1986.

Mark Hansen-Elizabeth Short stayed with Mark Hansen on and off from May to October of 1946. There is a record of the two having a phone conversation on January 8th. Hansen's name was on an address book that the supposed killer sent to the press. Mark Hansen was never completely cleared for the crime, but he seems an unlikely suspect.    

Dr. Patrick S. O’Reilly-According to reports, O'Reilly met Elizabeth Short through Mark Hansen at parties they all attended. When investigating him, the authorities learned he had a history of sexual violence. He was convicted of assault with a deadly weapon for an attack on his secretary. O’Reilly took his secretary to a motel with plans of sexual tryst. When she refused he began to “sadistically beating her almost to death for no other reason that to satisfy his sexual desires.”   Again he was not completely cleared. 

Leslie Dillon-He was an aspiring screenwriter who was a former mortician's assistant and a bellhop. Dillon entered the investigation by reaching out to Dr. De River about the case. He claimed a friend of his killed Elizabeth Short. De River thought it was a smoke screen and that he may have actually killed Short. 

The two wrote letters before deciding to meet in person. Once in person, Dillon told De River how to bleed a body. It was a skill he used while being a mortician's assistant. He also gave theories as to why some of the mutilation was inflicted upon Elizabeth's body. 

Their talks ended with Dillon's arrest. But because an undercover officer was present during their talks, Dillion claimed he was unlawfully detained. The claim was brought about in a lawsuit. Thanks to the lawsuit, even though Dillon was a viable suspect, he was never charged.

George Hodel-In 1949, law enforcement started to dig into Hodel after he was accused of molesting his 14-year-old daughter at a party. Despite three witnesses claiming to have seen Hodel sexually assaulting his daughter, he was acquitted of the charges.

The LAPD felt so strongly that Hodel was a viable suspect they put him under surveillance, including placing audio bugs in his house, for over a month. 18 different detectives listened in hopes that Hodel would mention Elizabeth or the case at all. Their hunch paid off in vague ways. At one point a woman is heard screaming on the tapes and potentially incriminating statements. 

They convened a grand jury. But Hodel was never charged. To listen to a deeper dive on George Hodel, please listen to The First Degree. 
Other Theories:

Based on a graphic photo that mirrored the Glasgow smile on Elizabeth's body, Paul and Billy turned their attention to the Ukrainian Insurgent Army. The UIA committed atrocities to the Polish people, including: cutting the throat and pulling it out through the opening of the tongue; knocking out teeth and breaking jaws; tearing your mouth from ear to ear; cutting off women's breasts and sprinkling wounds with salt; and cutting the abdomen and pulling out the intestine. 

Another theory, which would hold true with any suspect, is that Elizabeth Short wasn't the killer's only victim. On June 22nd, 1949, in Morrison, Iowa, a young mother’s body was discovered in a walk-in refrigerator by her husband at the tavern they owned.  22-year-old Irma Jean Stahlhut was mostly nude, both breasts had been removed. Her throat sliced from ear to ear. According to the sheriff, her body was sliced open “down the middle.” An additional two stab wounds were present over her heart.

Her killer was quickly identified. 27-year-old World War II veteran Edward J. Beckwith was reportedly the last person in the tavern with Irma. He was convicted and sentenced to death in just a few short months.  
When Leslie Dillon was with Dr. De River, they visited the location where Elizabeth Short's body was discovered. De River reportedly asked him if he remembered it. His response seemed to describe another murder that occurred roughly nine miles away. Jeanne French's body was located on February 10th, 1947, in the Moors on the Westside of Los Angeles. Her body was also near the sidewalk, but she had been beaten and stomped to death. The killer wrote "Fuck You, PD" on her abdomen with lipstick. Jeanne French's killer was never located. 

There are many theories out there on Elizabeth Short’s murder. Several of which we didn’t discuss for a variety of reasons. But all theories have one thing in common-justice for Elizabeth Short. So dig into the cases and people we discussed today, as well as others. Also dig into foreign newspapers, maybe the killer traveled. 73 years is far too long to wait for justice.  If you have theories, please contact us.   


1. Do not name names publicly. Send everything to the police or to this page and we will forward to the police. 
2. Do not post side by side photos.
3. Do not contact any family members. 
4. Do not doxx each other and be civil. We all want the same thing. 

As tips come in, Jensen and Holes will work to verify them. If they look good, we will publish them here to try and get us closer to their names.