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One Of The Most Chilling Unsolved Murders In American History

What happened to Elizabeth Short on Jan. 15, 1947?

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The death of the Black Dahlia is one of the most infamous unsolved murders in American history. So, what happened to Elizabeth Short and who were the suspects in this chilling murder?

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Elizabeth Short's body was found on a vacant lot on the 3800 block of South Norton Avenue in Los Angeles. The person who discovered her body originally mistook it for a mannequin because the body was so pale and drained of all its blood.

There was no blood on the ground around Short, indicating that her body had been moved there after the murder took place. Her face was cut from her mouth to her ears, creating a gruesome "smile."


Nine days after she was found dead, The Examiner received a letter with a message cut from movie clippings. The letter read: "Here is Dahlia's belongings letter to follow."

Sure enough, the letter contained Short's birth certificate, her Social Security number, snapshots that belonged to her, and an old address book.

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Police were unable to identify a suspect from the papers, because gasoline had been rubbed on the documents to remove any fingerprints.

Several notes were sent to the police and press later. One letter read: "Turning in Wed, Jan 29. 10 A.M. Had my fun with police. — Black Dahlia Avenger." However, no one ever turned themselves in.


So who are the suspects in this case, which has been unsolved for over 70 years? The first is, of course, Robert Manley, the man who dropped Short off at the hotel. However, Manley returned to San Diego before her death and passed a polygraph.


The second suspect was Joseph Dumais, who claimed to be blackout drunk with Short a couple days before her death. He actually originally confessed to killing her, but was on his military base the day of her death...making that essentially impossible.

Looking at the facts, Steve makes a pretty compelling case against his own father. George Hodel studied surgery in medical school. This suggests he was capable of the surgical disembowelment and mutilation that was found at the scene of the crime.


Steve also found a picture he believed was Short in his father's belongings. When it was originally examined, an expert said they were 85% sure it was not a match. However, when the photo was re-examined in 2014, an expert said it was a 90–95% match.


He was also recorded saying he'd "like to get a connection made in the DA's office." This suggests the possibility that George could have paid off the police – though it hasn't been confirmed.

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This could explain why the case was suddenly dropped and all relevant evidence seemingly disappeared.



Robert Manley was hospitalized in a psychiatric facility in 1954. A previous version of this story misstated the date.