Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

The Black Dahlia Profiled

Crime Scene

A local resident of the Leimert Park area of Los Angeles came across the dismembered, nude body of a dark-haired young woman on a vacant overgrown lot.  It was mid-morning on January 15, 1947.  Will Fowler, a local reporter who arrived at the scene, wrote about the case in "Reporters: Memoirs of a Young Newspaperman."  Also later involved in this case was John Gilmore, who collected extensive documentation to write "Severed: The Shocking True Story of the Black Dahlia Murder."

Severed: The Shocking True Story of the Black Dahlia Murder by John Gilmore
Severed: The Shocking True
Story of the Black Dahlia Murder

by John Gilmore

In terms of the relevant geosocial factors, Leimert Park was a neighborhood of mostly young families, and while some lots, abandoned by developers, were cluttered with weeds, this one was fairly exposed.  Several people who had walked by it early that morning, after 6:30 (while it was still dark), claimed they hadn't seen a corpse.  Because one foot was only five inches from the sidewalk and the skin was starkly white against the grass, it would have grabbed attention.  Whoever had placed it there had apparently done so brazenly, during early daylight hours. 

The chief of the crime lab surmised that the body had been dumped after the dew had settled but before dawn, while the grass was still wet. By that time, the victim, soon identified by fingerprints as aspiring actress Elizabeth Short, had been dead approximately 10 hours.  She was only 22  years old.

Various witnesses reported seeing different cars in the area, including a black sedan, possibly a Ford, with mud spattered on a front fender.  It was creeping along the driveway of the vacant lot around 6:00 a.m. without its lights on. It stopped against the curb, idling.  No one had seen the driver.  What really grabbed the attention of detectives and reports alike, and what would be significant for a behavioral analysis, were the condition and position of the body.


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