When Mark Hansen asked Beth why she went to San Diego, she told him a “screwball” was bothering her and she decided to go to San Diego before she went north to visit her sister.
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Beth spent several hours at the Biltmore making telephone calls and using the ladies room. About 10:00 pm, wearing Ann Toth’s coat, she walked out of the lobby doors of the Biltmore Hotel on Olive Street and turned south. According to authorities, she was not seen again until six days later, when her bisected body was found naked in a vacant lot in Los Angeles.
At 11:07 a.m. on January 15, Betty Bersinger, who lived at 3705 S. Norton Avenue, was walking south on Norton, pushing her daughter in a carriage, when she saw the body in two pieces laying in the lot. She hurried along, not wanting to frighten her child, and knocked on the door of a house nearby and asked to use the telephone. She called the police and reported what she had seen and then went on with her business.
At 11:18 a.m., officers S. J. Lambert and J. W. Haskins arrived at the scene after receiving a “man down” call. Twelve minutes later, LAPD Homicide Detective, Sergeant Finis A. Brown and his partner, Detective Harry L. Hansen, from Central Division, were on hand and examined the body.
An early report by the LAPD described the scene: “The body was comparatively free of blood smears or stains which clearly indicated that it had been washed sometime after death.” The report also said, “There were strangulation marks on the neck and definite rope or tie marks on both lower legs and arms.”
Back at the police station, officer Lambert reported, “In the drive way leading to the body was a tire track, which may have been left by the car, that deposited the body. On this track was a smear that may have been left by a bloody shoe, and their [sic] was a blood spot approx 1″ from the curb in the driveway. Another group of blood stains was on a bag which had originally contained cement.”
As time passed, more officials and newspaper reporters showed up at the scene. After the coroner had the body removed, the investigation began. Headlines, stories and photographs about the Black Dahlia filled the papers for weeks.
Finis Brown felt the killer was a publicity hound. He thought the body was placed in clear view to be seen. He didn’t feel that the body was thrown or laid out. He said,
It would indicate that it was dropped. The upper half was quite a little further in. The foot, left foot was about a foot from the sidewalk. The person wouldn’t have to drop the body or flip it out there, wouldn’t have to lean over to do it, you know. It didn’t land absolutely straight. If it had been laying, laying right together – the two halves were about a foot apart, but he legs were spread and the type of mutilation that was done would indicate a person – to my estimation who had a mania for publicity. The newspapers up until the 23rd when things began to slack off and we only had one page in the newspaper – one column, the 23rd and the 24th – that night we received the belongings of the Short girl. The next day it was full. The papers was full of it then. It continued that way until altogether about 33 days. To my estimation, the person sent that in because they wanted publicity to gloat over the fact that they had been successful in their crime and got a kick out of it.
The belongings that Brown referred to included an address book with Mark Hansen’s name embossed on the cover. The book originally had about 400 pages, although many had been removed. Investigators compared the writing with letters Beth sent to her mother and determined that most of the writing in the book was hers. There were about three or four pages written in another hand, Brown estimated. He further said,
I can’t remember the pages. There was in one – there was torn out in three places, just a few pages, five or six in one place is the most. In another place, one or two, three or four, and cut out was about four places which ranged from anywhere from three to four pages to nearly a hundred pages.
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On October 28, 1949, Lieutenant Frank B. Jemison, of the Bureau of Investigation filed a description of the body in his report to H. L. Stanley, Chief of the Bureau of Investigation.
The body had been cleanly severed at the mid line and the lower half was laying about one foot to the south of the upper half both parts laying absolutely flat with the protruding entrails of the lower one half laying under the buttocks. There was a marked post mortem lividity on the top side of both parts indicating that the victim had lain on her front side or face for some period of time immediatley following her death.
The body had been washed; there were bristles of a stiff brush still adhering to the body; there were several lacerations on the forehead which appeared to have been inflicted by a blunt instrument; lacerated left breast and lacerated right breast, the top of which appeared to have been removed. The area covered by the pubic hair was slashed in criss-cross fashion and the scarcity of hair gave rise to the opinion that the hair had been cut off rather close to the skin. (Not shaved.) There was a tic-tac-toe slashing on the right hip; the mouth was badly slashed approximately three inches from the corners and the upper lip was deeply lacerated on the right hand side. There were possible strangulation marks on the neck and definite rope or tie marks on both lower legs and arms.
From the lack of blood stains around or under the body it is a definite conclusion that she was killed elsewhere. Photographs were taken of the body and measurements as well as photographs of a tire track at the curb line at a point opposite of where the body was found. Upon removing all of the body by Cornoner’s deputies it was found that the grass undeneath the body was still wet with dew, indicating the body had been placed there after the dew fell in the early morning hours, at approximately 2:00 a.m., January 15, 1947.
Rigor mortis had not begun to set in, indicating that the murder would probably have been committed after 1:00 a.m., January 15, 1947, as the Coroner believes rigor mortis would set in within ten hours time. He stated the cause of death as shock and loss of blood from hemorrhage. He reported that echimosis [ecchymosis] appeared on the lacerations, on the head, face and right breast while slight echimosis appeared on the left breast and on the right breast and on the cut severing the body at mid line. There was no echimosis on all other lacerations indicating they were inflicted post mortem.
The flesh cut from her left thigh weighing approximately a pound was found in her vagina and the pubic hair was found in the rectum. (See photographs.)
There were no cigarette burns and no tattoo marks on the body.
Mr. Ray Pinker of the Crime Laboratory was only able to acquire a few drops of blood from this body and typed it as “A B”, which is a rare type of blood appearing in less than six per cent of the human bodies.
The officers requested that the Coroner and the County Chemist analyze the vital organs chemically to determine for one thing whether or not her body contained narcotics. At a later date when the officers requested the results they were informed that these vital organs had been misplaced and had probably been thrown out at the time they were cleaning up the laboratory and further that they had made no analysis.
And so on.
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Authorities claimed they had no reliable leads to prove the whereabouts of Elizabeth Short from the time she left the Biltmore Hotel at about 10:00 pm on January 9 until her naked, bisected body was found on Norton Avenue on the morning of January 15.