Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Your Daily Creepout: The Body of the Black Dahlia

On January 15, 1947, the dismembered nude body of Black Dahlia Elizabeth Short was found in a vacant lot in Los Angeles’ Leimert Park area. Despite publicity and public outrage at the brutality of the murder, it was never solved. Even today, a clinically dispassionate description of the condition of the body as it was discovered still shocks the mind, begging the questions: Who could do such a thing, and why?

Most striking was the fact that she had been sliced in half at the waist, and the two parts were carefully placed in a linear alignment about 10 inches apart. She was sexually posed on her back, arms raised over her shoulders, elbows bent, and legs spread wide apart. Rope marks on her wrists, ankles and neck indicated that she had been bound.

It was officially determined that cause of death was from “hemorrhage and shock due to concussion of the brain and lacerations of the face,” but because there was so little blood in the body, the idea that the victim could have been cut in half while still alive could not be dismissed.

There were deep lacerations on her face and breasts, multiple lacerations on the mid-forehead, right forehead, and top of the head, and there were deep cuts from her mouth running horizontally along both sides of her face.

Her pubic hairs were pulled or cut out. There were multiple crisscross lacerations in the pubic area, and stab wounds into the intestine and both kidneys and the stomach was filled with feces.

Short was vaginally and anally penetrated after death. Accounts vary as to what was found where, but according to the the pathologist, inside the vagina there was a piece of skin with subcutaneous tissue attached; on it were several crisscrossing lacerations. In the anal canal was a tuft of brown curly hair, which bore similarities to Short’s pubic hair. According to will Fowler, a local reporter who arrived at the scene, the pubic hair was found in Short’s vagina and the hunk of flesh, which bore a rose tattoo, was inside her rectum.

It bears mention that the fact that such a beautiful young woman could come to such a horrific and ugly end has probably done much to keep the case alive, not only in the public’s memory, but in books and film as well.

The Black Dahlia Profiled

Feature story: The Black Dahlia

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