Dark Dreams
Was The Black Dahlia Avenger the Red Lipstick Killer?

Devan Sagliani | 10 Jul 2015 13:15
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Her real killer, on the other hand, did come forward once. He reached out to the editor of the Los Angeles Examiner on January 23, 1947 to express his concern that news of the murder was tailing off and offering to mail items belonging to Short to him. The following day an envelope arrived containing Short's birth certificate, business cards, photographs, names written on pieces of paper, and an address book with the name Mark Hansen embossed on the cover. Hansen, an acquaintance at whose home she had stayed with friends, was cleared as a suspect in her death shortly afterward. Although police still suspect several men of possibly being her killer, the murder remains officially unsolved to this day.

Unlike quiet and secretive Elizabeth Short, Jeanne Thomas French had lived an outgoing life reminiscent of a romance novel heroine. She'd been an aviatrix, an airline stewardess, a Hollywood movie extra, an Army nurse, and at one time the doting wife of a wealthy Texas oil tycoon.

A few weeks after the 'Black Dahlia' murder a construction worker walking to work around eight in the morning along Grand View, in a lover's lane type area popularly known as 'the Moors', spotted a small pile of women's clothing in the weeds a few feet from the sidewalk. Curiosity got the better of him and he lifted up the discarded fur trimmed coat to discovered French's nude body.

French had been savagely beaten to death. She'd suffered blows to the head and face, which most likely knocked her unconscious, as well as multiple fractured ribs and damaged internal organs. The appearance of heel prints on her chest lead police to believe she'd been viciously stomped to death by someone with a nasty grudge and a terrifying temper. Jeanne slowly bled to death, succumbing in the end to hemorrhage and shock, but in all likelihood did not regain consciousness after the initial blows to the head and face. It was a brutal, animalistic murder that, like the Black Dahlia murder, would produce a laundry list of possible suspects, a series of confessions, and in the end no convictions.

After her death the killer used French's red lipstick to scrawl a note on her desecrated and broken body: "Fuck You, P.D. - Tex." The media originally reported the initials as "B.D." trying to establish a link to the Black Dahlia killings, but later it was confirmed that the initials were in fact "P.D." - most likely a taunt for the "police department" since the area was near a station. A range of suspects from her former husband to her current one were questioned and cleared. Her own son was under suspicion at one point but he, too, was found to be innocent.

But French and Short weren't the only women murdered in that period in Los Angeles in brutal ways by unknown killers living among the decent people of the city. In fact in the 1940s the unsolved slayings of Laura Trelstad, Georgette Bauerdorf, Ora Murray, Jeanne French, and Elizabeth Short shocked, frightened and enraged the public to the degree that in 1949 an L.A. Country Grand Jury was assigned to investigate the failure of law enforcement to crack these ghoulish cases. This was no easy task, considering that by the winter of 1941 Los Angeles was awash with a flood of transients that included military personnel, army rejects, and the dishonorably discharged. Many of them were drawn to the same nightlife culture, increasing the chances that the victims may have died at the hands of total strangers, further complicating investigations already compromised by the media. Despite the best efforts of some of the finest and brightest minds the city had to offer, these haunting murders were never solved and continue to be the subject of speculation for many inside and outside of law enforcement.

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