Elizabeth Short was born in Massachusetts in 1924. She was the daughter of Phoebe and Cleo Short. At the age of five, her father left his car on a bridge and disappeared. Many believed he had committed suicide, but he had relocated to California. Cleo later wrote his wife to apologize for leaving, but she never allowed him to come back.
Elizabeth enjoyed going to the movies with her mother and desired to grow up to be an actress. As she grew into a young adult, she started to go by the name Beth. She looked older than her actual age and was a very beautiful young lady.
At age 19, Beth went to stay with her father in California. Cleo ended up asking her to leave, saying that she was lazy. Beth went to Santa Barbara and was arrested for underage consumption, where police then ordered her to return to Massachusetts. Beth later returned to Hollywood, to pursue an acting career.
In January 1947, Beth left the Biltmore Hotel. It was the last time anyone would see her alive. Her nude body was found by a passerby in the Crenshaw District, severed in two pieces. Reporters would later call her 'Black Dahlia', after a current movie playing titled 'Blue Dahlia'. Others believe the name came from her dark hair and the fact that she mostly dressed in black.
It is rumored that Beth loved servicemen, and that she knew Marilyn Monroe. She spent several years working odd jobs, and was considered to be a drifter. It was stated that she had a genital defect that prohibited her from having intercourse, but later believed to have been possible. The murder was very gruesome, and she was beaten and reportedly sodomized.
Several men and women came forward and confessed to the murder. It is reported that around 50 people confessed, but police could not verify anyone's story. One of the original suspects was Joseph Dumais, a soldier. He stated that "It is possible that I could have committed the murder. When I get drunk I get rough with women." Police found several newspaper clippings about the murder in his belongings, but was not believed to be the murderer and was sent to a psychiatrist.
Over the years many theories have came about, but as of this time the murderer has not been identified. Several books and movies have been published about Beth. Universal Pictures released a movie titled 'The Black Dahlia' in 2006. It is based on the fictional book by James Ellroy.
Some claim that investigators knew who killed her, and that the department received three letters from the murderer. Some believe the killer was Ed Burns, who police had in custody at one point but lacked enough evidence to charge him. It was printed later in the LA times that Harry Hansen, one of the investigators, cried at his retirement party because he never solved the case. It was stated that he 'found the killer, but he couldn't close the case, and he had to keep it hush hush. It was the '47 truth.'
Elizabeth Short is buried in Mountain View cemetary in Oakland, CA.