Chapter 24 ~ Leads & False Leads

“Tire  tracks photographed in the pavement where the body was found indicated the tire was probably a size used on Ford, Dodge, Chevrolet, Pontiac or Oldsmobile.”

~ District Attorney Investigation

* * *

In early February, 1947, The Herald Examiner ran this notice in an inside page of their front section:

Dahlia Death

  Tip Wins Cash

By reading this, you may make some easy extra money.

It’s about the Examiner offer of $50 every week for news tips called in to the city editor, and from $5 to $100 for pictures accepted for publication.

There were two top winners in the news tip division last week – one who called in with an exclusive angle in the Elizabeth Short murder, and another about a jeep crackup that killed two men.

* * *

In the days that followed January 9, witnesses claimed to have seen Beth around town in bars, in automobiles and on the street. During the years of newspaper coverage of the murder of Elizabeth Short, many witness accounts were published. Occasionally, authorities gave credence to the stories and other times they refuted them. Often, rumors and false statements were never cleared up and the public was left to speculate which accounts were valid and which ones weren’t .

* * *

In mid January, 1947, newspapers reported:

“Long Beach police said that Margie B. Collins, restaurant operator, claimed to have seen her [Elizabeth Short] on a Pacific Electric car at 12:30 p.m. in conversation with a Negro man.

If true, this would be the last known trace of Miss Short.”

                                                          * * *

Bartender Robert “Buddy” La Gore said she was a regular at the Four Star Grill at 6818 Hollywood Boulevard. He described an encounter different than the others to police, saying, “when she came in on January 10, she looked like she had slept in her clothes for days.” “Her black sheer dress was stained, soiled, and otherwise crumpled.” He went on to say, “I’d seen her many times before and always she wore the best nylons, but this time she had no stocking on.” He said, “Her hair was straggly and some lipstick had been smeared hit-and-miss on her lips. The powder on her face was caked.” La Gore lived at 6769 Yucca Street, two blocks from work. His apartment was just two and a half blocks from Beth’s room at the Chancellor. She may have walked past his address on her way to the Four Star Grill.

Waitress Gloria Hattenberg, of the Four Star Grill, remembered seeing Beth there many times, but she never came in with a man. La Gore said he had seen her many times, too, but accompanied by other women.

* * *

Christenia Salisbury, aka “Princess Whitewing,” told police she had seen Beth Short and two other women in a black coupe along the curb at the 7200 block of Sunset Boulevard some time after 10 pm on January 10. Salisbury said she, “ran into Elizabeth as she and two other women were coming out of the Tabu Club on Sunset Strip in Hollywood.”

* * *

In late January, according to the Daily News, a man, whose name was withheld by authorities, came forward and told police that he overheard Beth and two women talking in a coupe on Sunset Boulevard on January 10. He was standing on the sidewalk in the 7200 block when a coupe pulled up to the curb. He said he overheard parts of the conversation between the three women. According to the newspaper article, the man understood that the girls were living together on Ventura Boulevard in a motel and that they were on their way to the Flamingo Club on La Brea Avenue.

Captain Jack Donahoe, according to the newspaper report, said photographs of Elizabeth Short were shown to the unidentified man who recognized them as the girl he had seen. The other girls were identified as “uncommonly attractive” in the article. One was about 27 years old with jet black hair and about 5’6″ tall. The third girl was “also a woman in her 20’s, and wore her light brown hair in a short bob.”

* * *

In January, 1947, hair stylist and bit player Alex Constance was living at the Stanton Hotel on Western Avenue in Hollywood. He was interviewed by authorities about the murder of Elizabeth Short. He knew her when she lived at the Hawthorne Hotel on Orange Drive, he said. He had done her hair for her. Constance said that he also knew Lynn Martin and Marjorie Graham. The last time he saw Beth was in the first part of December, 1946, he said.

He was interviewed again at police headquarters. His room and automobile were searched and inspected by the Scientific Investigation Division. Constance was cleared as a possible suspect.

* * *

C. G. Williams, the barman at the Dugout Cafe at 634 South Main Street, told police that Beth had frequented his place. According to the Los Angeles Times, Williams “recalled that someone with Miss Short’s appearance came in on January 11 or 12 with a blond girl.” He remembered that a male customer attempted a conversation , but was ‘brushed off’ by the pair.”

“I remember  that a fracas started when two men tried to move in at their table.  The blonde went into a rage, and we had quite a time calming her down.”

* * *

Beth’s room at  the Chancellor Apartments was repeatedly described  in the Daily News as “famed Apartment 501.” Her roommates, other residents and employees were interviewed by the police and the press. Paul Simone, a painting contractor, said that on January 11, 1947, at about 5 pm, he witnessed an argument between two women in a doorway at the rear of the Chancellor. The Daily News reported that he “overheard Beth and another woman arguing bitterly.”

“It was plenty hard language. I thought they were going to fight.” The article said the other woman was “cursing viciously at a pretty girl who he believes was Beth Short.” After seeing Simone, the other woman said, “Oh, nuts to you,’ and walked out of the building.”

* * *

On the evening of January 11, a taxi driver named I. A. Jorgenson said he drove her and a male companion from the Rosslyn Hotel in downtown Los Angeles to a Hollywood motel.

* * *

Also on January 11, another witness, a gas station attendant working at the Beverly Hills Hotel said he saw Beth about 2:30 am in Beverly Hills in a car with a male driver and another woman. “She seemed very upset and frightened,” he reported. The attendant described the automobile as a 1941 or 1942 tan Chrysler coupe. Police Officer R. L. Gray reported that the attendant said, “A man about 30 years old, 6 feet 1 in height and weighing 190 pounds, got out and asked for gas. In the back seat were two women. One could hardly be seen. But the other, the attendant insisted, was Beth Short. He identified her by various photos.”

* * *

On January 12, between midnight and one in the morning, the telephone at Mark Hansen’s house began ringing about every five minutes. When Mark answered, there was silence. The calls were annoying Anne in the other room, who said “Let me answer the phone.” Anne said she, “took it into my bedroom and then the same thing continued for about another half hour, so finally I was disgusted with it, I took it off the hook for a little bit and then I put it back again and it did [the same thing] again, and I picked it up and I said, ‘You so and so, whoever is on the other end of the line, I am going to report this to the superintendent of the telephone company and I will have this call traced immediately,’ so I took it off the hook, pretending I had been calling in the meantime, so they would get a busy signal and after I, oh I left it off about three minutes, I would say. So, when I put it back on the hook again I couldn’t hear a word after that. I either scared them or what, but there was no more.”

* * *

The Valley Times, a San Fernando Valley newspaper, reported that a man with red hair entered The Gay Way bar on Main Street in downtown Los Angeles on the night of January 12 and approached “dancer” Betty Blake. The article said, “Miss Blake said he asked for Miss Short who had been there earlier in the evening.”

* * *

John Jiroudek, described as a “one-time jockey,” knew Beth from her days at Camp Cooke. According to newspaper articles, Jiroudek said, “On January 13, I met Beth with this bossy blonde at Hollywood Boulevard and Highland Avenue. They were in a 1937 Ford sedan. The blonde kept insisting they drive off, and finally they did. She seemed jealous because Beth talked to me.”

The police were interested in finding the “bossy blonde,” and were encouraged when a taxi cab driver, Charles Beckham, told a similar story. He “reported he picked up a ‘big blonde’ and a girl he is certain was the ‘Black Dahlia’,” according to newspaper articles. He said he “drove the two girls to separate hotels in Hollywood.”

* * *

Another newspaper article reported that a Greyhound bus driver named Stagg recalled Beth boarding his bus in Riverside at 1 am on January 14. He said that she got off in Los Angeles at 4:15 am.

* * *

Perhaps the last claim of seeing Elizabeth Short was made by policewoman Myrl McBride at a downtown Los Angeles bus station on January 14.  Newspaper articles quoted McBride as saying the young woman, whom she later identified as Elizabeth Short,  was “sobbing with terror” when she first saw her. The officer said that Beth asked for protection from “her marine boy friend who once threatened to kill me if he ever found me with another man.”

Newspapers reported that McBride took her back into the bar.  According to the articles, Beth “talked with a woman and a tall man for a few seconds, then emerged.  When cautioned to go home, the girl was quoted as having refused, saying, ‘My daddy’s coming in two hours from now.'”

The articles said the encounter took place “some four hours before the murder.”

* * *

On February 3, newspapers reported that Los Angeles detectives left for San Diego, “for the purpose of checking out several new ‘leads” which they hope might place them on the trail of the killer. These ‘leads’ concern a man who was known to have associated with  the girl in San Diego.”

It was also reported that, “Police were combing the Santa Monica-Venice area for a battered, black Model A Ford believed to contain a possible suspect in the case.

“In an all points bulletin, the man was described as 5 feet 9 inches tall, between 25 and 30 years of age.

“He was said to weigh between 150 and 160 pounds, to have blonde hair and blue but bloodshot eyes. He was wearing a black and white plaid shirt.

“In the car, the bulletin said, was a gray wool blanket bearing dark stains, books and clothing. The information was furnished police by an unidentified woman.

“The description of the car was similar to that given of an auto that was seen at the Norton Avenue lot where Miss Short’s body was found.”

* * *

William “Sully” Sullivan, a Railway Express Agency clerk working at Union Station, told investigators that he talked with a young woman who identified herself as Elizabeth Short. On January 14, just before noon, she inquired about sending a trunk and suitcases to Ketchikan Hospital in Alaska, he said. She said they would be sent to her and she gave her name. She was accompanied by a red haired man. She did not have the baggage with her, saying she was only interested in the rates at that time. Sully later recanted his story when another young woman, who resembled Beth, proved to be the customer who visited the R.E.A. office on January 14.

* * *

Just when press coverage of the murder was winding down, an envelope addressed to “Los Angeles Examiner and other Los Angeles papers” was sent anonymously from downtown Los Angeles and intercepted at Terminal Annex.

Lead detective Finis Brown later told 1949 grand jury members:

“The–on the 24th of January, shortly before seven o’clock, we received a call in the Homicide Division from Mr. Low and postal inspectors that they had a letter that had come in the mail.”

“Officer Cummings or Sergeant Cumming and myself went to Mr. Low’s office. We found there a letter which was improperly addressed to the Los Angeles Examiner and other newspapers, if I recall. ‘This is the Dalia[sic] belongings. Letter to follow.’ This was on the outside of the envelopes.[sic] The envelope, Mr. Low stated, had bursted open. In the envelope was numerous cards–the birth certificate of Elizabeth Short, the address book, some snapshot photographs and a telegram.”

Among the contents of the gasoline soaked envelope was a business card for Brandt Orr. In 1949, Detective Brown asked Anne Toth,

“You don’t recall any numberd[sic] down around the Axminister[sic] or Inglewood area?” He also asked, “See what, Ann[sic], I am trying to figure is if there is some possibility of someone she might have called down in that area there. She ever talk to Brant[sic] Orr?”

Anne replied, “No, not that I know of.”

Brandt Orr worked for Dressen Realty Company, with main offices on Market Street in Inglewood. He lived at 1018 1/2 Kingsley Drive, the same street where Beth’s father, Cleo Short, lived at 1020 South Kingsley Drive.

* * *

On January 18, the Los Angeles Herald Examiner reported that a cab driver, Glen Chanslor, told newspaper reporters that Elizabeth Short “came to my hack stand last December 29. Her clothes were torn. She told me a man she worked with had tried to attack her. It was about 7 pm when some people dropped her off at my stand. She looked wild-eyed and hysterical. Blood came from her knees. I didn’t know if she was cut or bruised.” He said he drove her in a cab to a hotel at 512 South Wall Street.

She told Chanslor, according to the newspaper account, “that a well-dressed man she worked with wanted to take her to Long Beach and cash her weekly pay check for her. Instead, the girl said, he parked his car on a lonely road south of Garvey boulevard near Garfield avenue and tried to attack her.”

The article said that after the taxi driver dropped her at the hotel, he “waited for her to come back down and pay her fare, but, “When she came down she was all dolled up. She said she didn’t have the money and I figured then that I wouldn’t get it.”

* * *

Phyllis Jean Cyr, a woman newspapers described as a 20 year old brunette “model,” lived in West Los Angeles at the time of the murder.  Cyr was brought to Long Beach police for “questioning in another case,” a minor traffic violation in late January, 1947, according to newspapers.

As she was leaving the station, she said, “I am surprised that the police haven’t questioned ‘Lee’ about the Short girl’s murder.  They used to run around a lot together.” Cyr said she told Long Beach police that Lee and Beth were friendly last February and March. The newspaper article reported that Cyr said Lee took Beth to a hillside rendezvous and tried to attack her. She also claimed that Lee tried to induce Beth to join him in an illegal black market scheme, but that Beth refused.

Cyr described Lee as a black market nylon salesman, whose district  was Sunset and Gower in Hollywood, where Brittingham’s and Columbia Square were located.

Cyr said that she and Elizabeth Short posed nude for a photographer she knew simply as “Price.” Cyr said that Price tried to molest both of them.  She also said she had not seen Elizabeth Short in almost a year.

* * *

In late January, 1947, Detectives Harry Hansen and Jess Haskins questioned Red Manley and  Elvera and Dorothy French for two hours. They compared notes and offered what help they could to the detectives. Red and Dorothy both found their names in Beth’s address book. Manley identified his name, “Red Morris,” his nickname and middle name. He told reporter Agness Underwood, while under arrest, “She wrote my name and business address in her notebook, so she could write to me.” Manley further cleared up the confusion made by witnesses that saw them at Pacific and Balboa in San Diego. Two waitresses and a service station employee claimed they saw Red and Beth on January 14. He told detectives it was January 8.

Not long after Manley was eliminated as a suspect, police asked him to identify a shoe and a patent leather purse that were found in a trash dump at 1819 E. 25th Street in Los Angeles.   Robert Hyman reported to police that he had seen the items in a trash can at the Wilbar Cafe at 1136 Crenshaw Boulevard. Authorities were unable to locate the items before trash collectors picked them up and took them to the dump.

Red went to the University Police Station and looked through a number of shoes and purses from the dump, before exclaiming, “This is it! I’m sure of it.” He had identified a shoe with double taps and told police that Beth had asked him to have the extra taps put on her shoes, which he did. He also recognized the purse by the scent of her perfume.

As late as 1954, when Red was 32 and a patient at the Veteran’s Administration Hospital in Brentwood, California, he was still being asked by authorities to submit to testing. Newspapers reported that he suffered from “paranoid schizophrenic” disorders while he was in the facility. Captain James Hamilton, of the Police Intelligence Division of the LAPD, said Manley volunteered to take a truth serum, which substantiated his claims of innocence in the Black Dahlia murder.

For Red, it must have seemed the interrogations would never end.

3 Responses to “Chapter 24 ~ Leads & False Leads”

  1. Sheri Says:

    This changes EVERYTHING ! I am new to the Black Dahlia research, but not to research on old mysteries. I’ve solved a few successfully.

    I became interested in the Black Dahlia recently after watching a late night show on some cable channel. I once before saw a special on the Black Dahlia and I thought, “that is not the way I remember the details going in the other show.” So I started digging online to try to understand the mystery of the Black Dahlia. I can certainly see why this mystery has taken so long to solve since so the facts were not even clear. But, everytime I came across what seemed like a fact that was inconsistant with other facts, I asked myself, Why.

    So many people claimed that Red Manley was the last person to see Beth alive. But, that story didn’t make any sense to me. If she had really been planning to go to visit her sister and that is why she left her belongings at the bus station, then why did the sister not come forward with testimony in regard to the visit that didn’t happen. Why did she not go to see the sister if she said she was going to and why did the police not question the sister more on this issue. It took a while before enough bits of information came forward to indicate that Beth never really was going to visit her sister. It was a lie she told Red Manley when he helped her check her things at the bus station.

    Then, there was the problem of the Bitlmore hotel. If she checked into the hotel but never checked out, why didn’t someone search her room or why didn’t hotel staff wonder when she didn’t pay for her room or check out. Too many questions there. It wasn’t until I came across your info on Myrl McBride. Wow! The pieces really do fit if you can identify what the pieces really are.

    Beth wasn’t staying at the Biltmore hotel and planning to go to visit her sister. She really had been seen in the week prior to her disappearance. This one fact alone has caused so much confusion that it is likely it is the reason why the case wasn’t ever closed. When you withhold the facts, you aren’t going to fit the pieces together. Hearing about Myrl McBride answers every Why leading up to the time of death for Beth. And, even as I put these pieces together, I wonder if anyone else has ever seen how they fit.

    Understanding that Myrl really did see Beth just hours before her murder clears up a lot of confusion. It tells me that Beth really was around that whole week prior to her death and Myrl’s account also explains why nobody could figure out why Beth could go a whole week without her clothing. She didn’t!

    Myrl’s account places Beth “going to meet her father at the bus station”. Obviously she wasn’t really going to meet her father, but she was going to the bus station. Why? That is the key to understanding the entire unaccounted for week of Beth’s life. I finally understand!

    Beth did have access to her clothing. She wasn’t staying at the Biltmore hotel! She was living out of a locker at the Bus Station! Red had paid to leave her things there. It wouldn’t have been hard at all for Beth to get access to her things at the station and change clothes as often as she liked. She could easily have hung out with friends, gone to parties, and socialized while living out of a locker at the bus station.

    So I wonder, did anyone ever look into the possibility that Beth came and went from that locker at the bus station retrieving clothing as needed?

  2. BostonRob Says:

    There is no evidence that I am aware of that Beth “lived out of a locker” at the bus station. Had she done so it would have been noticed. And it has always been known that Beth did not rent a room at the Biltmore. She was just hanging out in the lobby making phone calls until she left. As for Myrl McBride, based on the autopsy, Beth may already have been dead by the time McBride says she saw Beth. According to the autopsy the coroner stated that Beth was killed either on the 14th or the 15th.

  3. John Emmering Says:

    A movie producer approached a friend of mine who owns a 1936 Ford Convertible Sedan. One of only about 26 that remain. The producer claims that a 1936 Ford Convertible sedan was located that bore evidence of the crime. I have a copy of a photo of the car. Have you ever heard of such a car being involved and being in police custody?

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