Chapter 2 ~ California & Camp Cooke

Elizabeth Short visited Los Angeles once before she moved there in the summer of 1946. She traveled west from her home in Massachusetts to visit her estranged father, Cleo Short, in Vallejo, California in 1942. While living with him briefly in his Solano County home, the two made a trip together to Los Angeles. Not long after their arrival, Beth Short made arrangements to hit the road again. Next stop would be Camp Cooke, on the  central coast of California, near Lompoc. The army camp was home to the 5th Armored Division. Beth arrived in January, 1943.


When Elizabeth Short began her brief career as a clerk at the Camp Cooke post exchange in 1943, her immediate boss was Mrs. Inez Keeling.

After the murder, a newspaper paraphrased an interview with Mrs. Keeling as saying of her employee, “she was at first shy and bashful and never dated soldiers.” In a newspaper article, Mrs. Keeling reportedly told police that Beth was, “a model employee in all respects, not smoking, seldom drinking. A few months later, she began to go out with soldiers several times a week.”

Around the same time, newspapers told of, “a brutal army military policeman, ‘so tough he once casually tore handfuls of hair from another soldier’s head.'”

The article went on to state that, “Police hunted the burly brown haired, six foot-two MP after learning that slain Elizabeth Short had a romance with him while working in the Camp Cooke post exchange.

“An unnamed former Santa Maria, Cal., policeman said the soldier’s behavior was so violent, especially when he was drinking, that he was relieved of his assignment.”

The unnamed soldier was transferred to Fort Benning, Georgia soon after. The informant said,

“We all gave sigh of relief because he was a tough customer. He was the terror of what is called ‘Whiskey Row’ in Santa Maria.”

According to the 1949 grand jury investigation, one suspect, identified only as “Sgt. Chuck,” had a similar reputation at Camp Cooke. The district attorney suspect, “was seen with victim on numerous occasions at Camp Cooke in the spring of 1943. She testified that he had assaulted her to the court-martial proceedings there and he was ordered overseas as a result of it. She attempted to obtain his personal property which it was necessary for him to leave behind. It is agreed by investigators that this could be a revenge murder committed by such a person as Sgt. ‘Chuck’. Thus far numerous associates of victim at Camp Cooke have been interviewed and a search has been made for the records of this court-martial proceedings which would reveal the full name, background and information of this suspect. Thus far they have not been found. The investigation of this suspect is pending. See Los Angeles Police Department reports.”

An unrelated incident occurred in downtown Los Angeles in January, 1947. According to newspapers, Los Angeles policewoman Myrl McBride encountered a young woman that she later identified as possibly being Elizabeth Short. The young woman, the newspapers reported, was involved with an unnamed “discharged Marine whom the girl described as ‘insanely jealous.’”

Officer McBride tried to calm the situation and walked the young woman back into the bar where she had been. She saw her a short time later in the same area. This time she was at ease.

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