Chapter 17 ~ San Diego Round Trip

Beth left the Chancellor Apartments on December 6 and was once again homeless. Carl Balsiger drove her in his 1940 Oldsmobile to Camarillo and then brought her back. He said dropped her off at the bus station in Hollywood. She arrived by bus in San Diego on December 9.

* * *

On December 5, 1946, Beth was visibly upset. She cried and told people she was scared. Juanitia Ringo, the manager of the Chancellor in Hollywood, said, “I felt sorry for her even when she got behind on the rent. She looked tired and worried.”

“When I went up for the rent last December 5 she didn’t have it. I don’t think she had a job. That night she got the money somewhere and left the next morning.”

That same evening, December 5, Beth returned to the Carlos Avenue house.

Mark Hansen said, “- she was sitting there one night when I came home, with Ann about 5:30, 6:00 o’clock – sitting and crying and saying she had to get out of there.” He also said, “She was talking about she was going to Oakland to visit her sister there and asked if she could come back to my house when she got back. I told her, ‘I don’t think so. Better find another place.’” Hansen said he took her back to the Chancellor that night and “left her off on the street.” She didn’t ask him for money. “She told me she was working in the cafe at the airport in Burbank.”

Hansen went home and later said, “I never saw her again.”

Carl Balsiger picked up Beth on the evening of December 6, 1946. The next day, he took her with him in his car to Camarillo, a town just over the Ventura County line, five miles from the Pacific Ocean, and most famous for its forensic mental hospital. They spent the day of the 7th together and drove back to Los Angeles with another passenger, Walter Thackeray, by way of Reseda in the West San Fernando Valley. According to Balsiger, he rented her a room somewhere on Yucca Street in Hollywood that night and drove her to the bus station the next day, December 8. Beth told him she was going to Berkeley to visit with her sister.

Beth arrived by bus in San Diego at 6:00 a.m. on December 9.

According to Dorothy French, the cashier at the all-night Aztec Theatre in San Diego, Beth Short engaged her in a conversation that morning, December 9. Beth told Dorothy her story and Dorothy invited to to stay at her home for awhile.


Robert “Red” Manley was a tall, good looking, 25 year old traveling salesman from South Gate with a beautiful wife and a young son at home. He had driven his Studebaker to San Diego and visited his accounts.

He met Elizabeth Short on the street in San Diego. She rebuffed him at first, he said, but she agreed to let him drive her to the French home. They went out that evening for dinner. He had a date with her again at an airline office where Beth said she worked. Manley showed up, but she wasn’t there. “I asked two or three people and they didn’t know her and I didn’t think she worked there then.”

Red contacted her again on January 7 and they agreed to meet. He told Frank Jemison, “She asked me to drive her to Los Angeles. I told her I had to make some business calls. But she put her baggage in my car and said she would take a bus that night.” He took her out for drinks that evening and later got a motel room for the night.

Jemison asked Red if he knew how she got to San Diego. He said, “No. I don’t remember her saying how she got down there.” He asked, “Did she talk about any murders you had been reading about in newspapers — anything about that?” Manley replied, “No, in fact,. she talked very little on the way in to Los Angeles and I wasn’t in a very talkative mood. I don’t know what was the matter with her. It didn’t make any difference to me. I was just glad to get rid of her.”

Red eventually did drive her. The Los Angeles Times quoted a witness saying, “Both Miss Short and her companion were in a ‘jolly mood,’ joking as the companion loaded the valises into the automobile.” Red dropped her off at the Biltmore Hotel in downtown Los Angeles on January 9 under the assumption that she was to see her sister, Virginia West, at the hotel. He waited briefly, and at about 6:30 pm, he drove off to resume his life.

Manley’s fabled trip from San Diego to the Biltmore Hotel in Los Angeles with Beth Short has been told and retold over time, but years after the murder, Red added new touches to the story.

He said that, to his knowledge, Beth never made a telephone call after they departed the French home. “No, not one,” he said. It was Red that used the payphone just before leaving San Diego. “- I called my wife from San Diego,” he said. He agreed that it was possible that she did make calls while he was conducting business in Encinitas or Oceanside, but he never observed her using a telephone.

A newspaper reported days after the murder that Manley said of Beth, “She had bad scratches on both her arms above the elbows on the outside. She told me she had a boyfriend who was intensely jealous of her.” He said he was “an Italian with black hair,” and that he lived in San Diego. Jemison asked him if she complained of a toothache or a headache. He didn’t remember her saying one way or the other. He gave him a list of doctor’s names, including De Gaston, Ahrens, Scott and Brix, asking if she had mentioned any of them. Again, Red answered no.

She was sick in the Mecca Motel before they left. “Well, she didn’t even care to have me do much talking after we got back to the room, after we had been dancing. She just took a blanket off of the bed, propped her legs up against the wall by the heater and I asked her what was the matter with her and she said she just didn’t feel well and for me to leave her alone so I did, and she didn’t talk much more after that.”

“She said it was just that time of the month and she wanted to be left alone.” They had been at the Hacienda Club in Mission Valley, where she danced with him and with the band vocalist.

During the motor trip to Los Angeles, Red said she was constantly looking back at “Cars that passed on the right, and then, if I’m not mistaken, cars that would pass us, but I noticed mainly on cars I would pass. She would strain her neck and look, like this toward the rear of the car.”

Red drove his Studebaker from San Diego, with a stop in Encinitas, where he had a new account, and where they had hamburgers. The next stop was Laguna Beach, where Beth used the restroom and Red purchased gasoline.

From the beginning, before they left San Diego, Beth told Red that she would be meeting her sister, Mrs. Adrian West from Berkeley, at the Biltmore, but when they reached Los Angeles, she wanted to check her things at the Greyhound bus station first. According to newspaper reports, Beth’s luggage “consisted of a hat box, a suitcase and a small bag.”

She told Red he could leave her there.  “She led me to believe she hadn’t been in Los Angeles before and I told her it was a bad part of town and I better take her to the Biltmore and I told her to stay away from that part of town.”

He dropped her off at the Biltmore, where she used the restroom while he checked at the desk for her sister, Mrs. Adrian West. There was no record. He said goodbye and left.

LAPD Sergeants Sam Flowers and Jerry Wass took Manley into custody, soon after his return from San Francisco, where, he said, he read about the murder. “I turned sick inside,” he was quoted in newspapers.

Red Manley served in the Army Air Corps from June 24, 1942 until his discharge on April 17, 1945. He was a corporal and a bandsman in the Army Air Force Marching Band and played the saxophone. His education while in the service was listed as “musician, teacher, music.” He served in Santa Ana, and Lemoore, California. Red received the Service Lapel Button and the Victory Medal. He was separated from the service from Dibble General Hospital in Menlo Park, Calfiornia.

Red died on January 9, 1986, thirty-nine years to the day after leaving Elizabeth Short at the Biltmore Hotel.

* * *

The guest overstayed her welcome. Dorothy’s mother Elvera and her brother Cary tiptoed around their home while Beth slept late in the day and didn’t seem to be in a hurry to leave.   On January 7, two men and a woman showed up at the French’s door asking for her. This frightened Beth.

On January 8, Beth called Mark Hansen in Hollywood for help. She wanted to know if she could come back to his home on Carlos Avenue. Hansen recalled, “- she said that she was in trouble and she wanted to know if she could come up, if she could stay. I told her Ann[e] wasn’t home, she could not stay there at all until Ann[e] got home. That is what I told her. Ann[e] was up visiting her parents.”

Anne said she contacted Mark and told him she would be back in Hollywood on January 10. Until then, he did not know when she would return. Anne later said, “Well, if he told her I was coming back on the 10th, as he says, then she would have called me between the 10th and the 14th, because after all, I helped her move before. I did an awful lot for that girl, I think she would come to me before she went to Mark.”

Soon after, Beth made arrangements to return to Los Angeles with her new acquaintance, Bob “Red” Manley.

* * *

The San Diego police did their own Black Dahlia investigation and came up with a time line for the last weeks of Beth’s life.

Most of her time was spent “loafing.” However, she did date an unidentified man on December 10 and had another date with “an unidentified Naval officer.” On December 15, she was “Washing and Preening.” The next day, the 16th, she “Left house, saying she had interview with airline office job. Picked up by Manley outside bus depot.”

She had dates with Manley every day from December 17 until December 20. On the 21st, “Manley came for her saying she had failed to show for job interview he had arranged for her.”On December 22, Beth received a postal money order for $100 from Gordon Fickling. She  had dinner at the home of Frank Dominguez on December 24 and had “Dinner with the Frenches” on Christmas.

On December 26, she had a date with Manley again. Then on the 27th, she had a “Date with unidentified man who honked horn in street, after phoning she should be ready on time.” On December 31, she had her “Second date with Dominguez. El Cajon bartender said he slapped or patted her face to sober her up.”

On January 1, it was “New Year’s day with Frenches.” The next day, Beth received two telephone calls, including one from Los Angeles. She loafed for the next two days and on January 4, she “Went out to buy cosmetics and magazines.” January 5, she “Wrote several letters.” The next day was spent loafing. Then, on January 7, “Beth receives a wire from Manley in Huntington Park. Beth goes out with Sam Nevara.”  On January 8 Beth “Left with Manley. Went to motel.” And finally on January 9, she Left with Manley for Los Angeles.


Sam Nevara, a twenty-four year old man who lived on Columbia Street near the ocean in San Diego, said he dropped Beth off at the Frenches on January 7. He told authorities that she said she was returning to Massachusetts the following day.

Before she left San Diego on January 9, Beth gave Mrs. French a Leo Joseph crown top black hat and veil. The tag inside read, “Made in California.” Previously, she told the French women that she was a millinery model in Hollywood.

When she wrote to Gordon Fickling, not long before she left for Los Angeles, she mentioned that she was leaving for Chicago with a dress model agent named “Jack.”

When detectives asked the Frenches about “Red,” Dorothy said that Beth told her that he worked at a San Diego airline office. Beth herself told Red that she worked at Western Airlines in San Diego.

When Phoebe Short arrived in California, she said that her daughter had worked at the Naval hospital in San Diego before she returned to Los Angeles. Elvera French, who did work at the hospital, told investigators that Beth was jobless during her stay at the French home.

The authorities had to clear up the lies before they could get to the truth.

2 Responses to “Chapter 17 ~ San Diego Round Trip”

  1. Rhetta Says:

    Who called Beth from LA on Jan 2nd? Jan 7th, 2 men and a woman came looking for her. Jan 8th she calls Hanson. Who knew where to reach her on Jan 2nd?

  2. rey Says:

    One detective said that the murderer was likely someone who was denied sex by Short. How about Red Manley? The danced all night long, they slept in the same bed in the same hotel and Short used as an excuse that she’s menstruating and not feeling good, so she wanted to be left alone. She didn’t speak much to him on the ride back to LA, and he was wondering whether she was a gold digger or just a tease. That may be internal rage right there.

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