Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

The Black Dahlia Profiled

Gilmore's Suspect

Arnold Smith, an alias for Jack Anderson Wilson
Arnold Smith, an alias for Jack Anderson Wilson

While a number of suspects have been posed for the Black Dahlia murder, including the children of two now-dead men proposing their fathers as the most likely candidate, Gilmore offers one of the more tantalizing possibilities.

Officer John St. John took charge of the case in the 1960s, and Gilmore approached him with a tape recording which he said was given to him by a thin man, about 6-foot-4, who walked with a limp and had a long rap sheet for robbery and sexual offenses.  This man went by the name of Arnold Smith (one of the aliases for Jack Anderson Wilson), and he claimed that a character named Al Morrison had confessed to him the murder of Elizabeth Short.  In fact, they'd been together on the night it had occurred.  Smith showed Gilmore a box of Short's belongings, including a handkerchief and a photo of her with Smith, a blond woman, and "Morrison."  Smith said that he had taken Short to a room in a Hollywood hotel, along with Morrison.  Short had been surprised that "Morrison" was planning to stay in the room, too, and refused the booze he offered. 

She was uninterested in a fling with him, so Morrison took her to a house on East 31st Street, where they had a physical altercation. Morrison knocked her out and got a paring knife, large butcher knife and some clothesline.  When Short revived and tried to escape, he stuffed her underpants into her mouth and tied her up.  He proceeded to stab her numerous times until she expired.  Then he cut her in half in the bathtub to drain her body of blood.  He washed everything clean, then took her out and placed her in the vacant lot.

Unfortunately, before this tale could be corroborated, Smith set his room on fire and burned to death; if he had any photos or effects of Short's, these, too, were destroyed.


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