Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

The Black Dahlia Profiled


To understand a crime of this nature, we need to know about the victim, especially if there is evidence that the offender knew her rather than randomly grabbing her off the street.  The brutalization and postmortem humiliation suggests that he probably did know her or was at least somewhat acquainted with her. 

Elizabeth Short was born in Hyde Park, Massachusetts, on July 29, 1924.  She came to Hollywood to break into the movie business and positioned herself at the right nightspots.  She wasn't adverse to using her effect on men to manipulate them, but had the reputation of a tease who did not engage in sexual intercourse, but would freely perform oral sex.  This may have been due to her apparent genital deformity.  Her life in Hollywood was aimless and somewhat seedy, living from hand to mouth and relying on others to take her in.

As police retraced Short's activities, they came across Robert "Red" Manley, 25, a hardware salesman who was apparently the last person to have seen Short alive.  He met her in San Diego the month before.  On January 8, he had picked her up from where she was staying and paid for a room for her for that night. They went out to different nightspots and returned to the motel. He slept on the bed, while she, complaining of illness, slept in a chair.

Robert "Red" Manley

Manley said she was planning a trip back to Massachusetts, but first she was going to meet her sister at the Biltmore Hotel.  She checked luggage at the Greyhound depot and he then accompanied her to Los Angeles.  Since he had an appointment, he left her at the hotel.  Those who saw her say she waited for awhile, making phone calls, and finally left around ten o'clock.  She was wearing a collarless black suit, a frilly white blouse, black suede shoes, white gloves, and a full-length beige coat.

On the risk continuum, there are things we look for that elevate a person's potential for being a victim.  Short manipulated men, which raises her risk, as does her desperation.  She was dependent on others and seemed almost homeless.  She tended to go with whoever was willing to give her a place to stay.  In addition, she wanted to advance herself, so she apparently used people. And she liked to have an effect on people.  Her risk potential was not as high as it might be for a prostitute, but almost.  Given her lifestyle, it's no surprise that she encountered the type of man who would brutalize and even kill her.


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