On January 15, 1947, my life was changed forever. I worked as a police detective in the Los Angeles Police Department. My working day started early in the morning when I woke up to the ring of my telephone. My boss did not tell much, except for the fact that the body of a woman was found on the west side of South Norton Avenue, in Leimert Park. I grabbed my clothes, took a case of tools for investigation, and went to the place of the murder. One hour later, I came to the place of destination. I found that there were many police colleagues of mine and also unknown people, probably from other investigation departments. My case partner, John Levinski, met me and showed the body.
I have seen many murders, and I thought it was impossible to impress me. Unfortunately, I was wrong. I have never seen anything creepier and ruthless throughout my twenty-year detective career. A young naked woman was laying on the ground, and her body was dismembered in two parts in the waist area. External and internal genitals, as well as the nipples, were removed. The woman’s mouth was disfigured by Chelsea’s smile, a wound caused by cutting the corners of Short’s mouth up to the ears. Medical experts conducted that she had been dead for around ten hours before the discovery. They told me that Short died either in the evening of January 14, or the early morning hours of January 15. The way of murdering was atrocious and ingenious at the same time as an ordinary person could not cut the body in half so precisely. Therefore, I suggested that the criminal worked in the medical sphere. Moreover, all the organs from the body had been removed, and several cuts on the victim’s thigh and breasts had been made. However, the most surprising was the fact that the body was totally washed and bloodless. The medical experts found intestines tucked precisely beneath her buttocks.
I realized it was not a simple murder as the corpse laid in a pose with the hands placed over the head. Also, her elbows were bent at right angles, and legs put apart. Additionally, Short’s face was full of bruises, which indicated that the victim was suffering before death. All in all, the expertise determined later that the cause of death was determined to be hemorrhaged from the lacerations to the victim’s face and the shock from blows on the head and face. The case was complicated as many passersby and reporters started to make a crowd to discover more about the victim. Later, Los Angeles Herald-Express reporter came to the place of murder and took numerous pictures of Elizabeth Short. Consequently, the reporters from other newspapers nicknamed the murder of Elizabeth Short as the case of “Black Dahlia”, due to black hair of the woman and her white skin.
All detectives learn the methods of investigating crimes during special training. The distinctive feature between the police school and personal imagination of investigating a crime is that the police show concrete steps, which detectives should follow to determine as much information as possible. Conversely, many individuals consider the job of a detective to be easy, but it demands efforts, much concentration, attention to details, psychological and sociable skills. These factors significantly contribute to the successful work of a detective. As for me, I combine several techniques of an investigation while performing my job. My way of solving the crimes includes professional skills gained from detective school and features noted from experience of real detectives and fictional ones.
Thus, my vision of the crime considers the “pure logic” of Auguste Dupin and creative imagination, which puts me to the mind of the criminal. It is crucial to see the crime from the different point of view. Moreover, I exploit various elements from Sherlock Holmes’ character even though he is fictional. A good detective needs to be versatile and understand many things and fields. Thus, Holmes used intellectual detection methodology as “deduction” and also relied on abduction, which inferred an explanation for observed details. As for real-life detectives, I follow the principles of William J. Burns, who appeared to be the one-time director of the Bureau of Investigation (BOI). He used his skills primarily to address the crimes related to domestic terrorism. Thus, the sociable skills are relevant while dealing with such crimes.
The case of Elizabeth Short appeared to be difficult and twisted as I have never seen anything like that. The case of “Black Dahlia” was one of the most difficult to work with as I together with police colleagues should have investigated a tremendous amount of false information, given by people. The thing was that after the murder was revealed through the press, hundreds of individuals came to the department to witness. However, I found that each time individuals mistakenly considered Short to be another woman. Therefore, there were no primary witnesses. The investigation into the murder of “Black Dahlia” by the Los Angeles police with the involvement of the FBI was the longest and largest in the history of US law enforcement.
Due to the complexity of the case, we suspected every person, who was one way or another was familiar with Elizabeth Short. The process of interrogation was always a studious work to do as some statements of the witnesses might contradict with each other. This phenomenon was a common occurrence because I, as a detective, should have dealt with different people who had different perspectives. People also searched coincidence in the things, which did not have it. Therefore, it was relevant for me to be sure that the person told me the truth and that information directly contributed to the case of Elizabeth Short.
I performed a lot of work, often staying late in the office to interrogate hundreds of people. The press activity was devastating to the police efforts as sensational and sometimes completely falsified reports of journalists covering the investigation, as well as the horrific details of the crime committed, attracted close attention of the public. As a result, about sixty people confessed to this murder (among them several women). I suggested that this murder was not the accidental one and tried to find associations with the crimes within other states. I cooperated with Cleveland detective Peter Merylo, who have suspected a link between the Short murder and the Cleveland Torso Murders, which took place in Cleveland, Ohio between 1934 and 1938 years accordingly.
I talked to the witness who found Elizabeth Short’s body in the morning. Betty Bersinger, who was a local, encountered at the woman’s corpse while walking with the small daughter. She told me that at first, she considered the body to be a mannequin. However, when she approached closer, Bersinger realized it was a body of a woman. Therefore, after interrogating hundreds of witnesses, I have analyzed the circumstances and medical conclusions from experts to consider the peculiarities of the crime. Consequently, I determined several suspects who could commit the crime. They were Joseph A. Dumais, Artie Lane (a.k.a. Jeff Connors), Mark Hansen, Dr. Francis E. Sweeney, George Hill Hodel, and a couple of others.
Unfortunately, my efforts were not enough to find the murderer. The case appeared to be unsolved as there were no fingerprints on Short’s body, and no other evidence, which might have helped to identify the killer. Nevertheless, the truth was revealed only several years later. In 1951, I contributed to the resumption of the case by investigating George Hodel’s home. As a result, I obtained recordings, which had a conversation between George Hodel and his son Steve. The last one confessed his father was involved in the murder. The recordings proved his words as the visitor of the conversation told Steve “supposing, I did kill the Black Dahlia, they could not prove it now. They can not talk to my secretary because she is dead”.
I suspected George Hodel from the very beginning as he was accused of murdering his secretary Ruth Spaulding who died of a drug overdose. Hodel was a physician. The reason for possible murder was to cover his financial fraud as he was billing his patients for tests, which were not made. George Hodel firstly appeared as a suspect in 1949 after the sexual abuse allegations and trial. Having investigated his case, I found the features, which might have connected him with the case of “Black Dahlia”. Hodel was a physician, which meant he had surgical skills to deal with the human body. All in all, I had collected all the necessary evidence to accuse George Hodel as the murderer of Elizabeth Short officially. However, the physician managed to escape from the United States somewhere to Asia.
Unfortunately, the police department was unable to find the trail of the criminal throughout a long time, but Steve Hodel helped me to find his father as he convinced in his guilt. The shocking fact revealed when Hodel Jr. discovered a photo album owned by George Hodel, which had a portrait of a dark-haired young woman. She strikingly reminded Steve of Elizabeth Short. According to Steve’s self-investigation, he suspected that his father could have killed more than once. Some time after, we brought all the evidence to the police department and FBI to conduct further investigation. A special expertise proved that the woman on the photograph was Elizabeth Short. Steve Hodel concurred to have his house searched for other clues. As a result, our experts found various hidden tools, some of which contained the leftover of an alleged victim. Moreover, several teeth had been found in the package, which was hidden under the floor. The medical experts proved that the teeth belonged to Elizabeth Short.
Fortunately, FBI together with the Los Angeles police department launched a special searching operation, which appeared to be successful as the murderer was found. George Hodel was sentenced to death due to the brutal murder of Elizabeth Short. I was awarded together with other detectives the crime detection. All in all, I consider the case of “Black Dahlia” to be life changing as it had influenced my further perception as a detective.