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On January 15, 1947, Betty Bersinger pushed her daughter in a stroller past a vacant lot in Los Angeles, California. She was on her way to pick up a pair of repaired shoes for her husband when she saw the body of Elizabeth “Betty” Short lying just off the sidewalk. Bersinger initially mistook the body for a mannequin, but upon closer inspection, realized it was the body of woman. She immediately contacted the police and touched off one of the most notorious unsolved cases in the history of the United States.

Immediately the gruesomeness of the crime caused a sensation. Betty Short’s torso had been severed in two and there were slash marks from the corners of her mouth to each ear. She’d been drained of blood, cleaned and then posed with her arms bent at right angles. Her arms and legs showed signs of being tied up or hung upside down and she had injuries from blows to the head. The lack of blood led the police to determine she was killed elsewhere and dumped in the vacant lot. They also concluded that she’d been left sometime after 2:00 a.m. because there was no dew on her body.


The initial investigation was hindered by the fact that the media and gawkers were on the scene before police and damaged the crime scene. The police had difficult time piecing together the events from the time Short was last seen on January 9th at the Biltmore Hotel and when her body was found on January 15.

However, a full-out effort was made to find the killer. The police canvassed the neighborhood, talked to the last person known to have seen Short, Robert Manley and interviewed all her old boyfriends. The clean cut of her wounds led the police to suspect the murderer was someone with surgical skill and went so far as to get a list of medical students from the nearby University of Southern California.

As many as 50 people confessed to the crime and many more indicated they’d seen Short during the time she’d last been seen alive and found on January 15. However the confessions and sightings were dismissed. Several men were interrogated, but no arrest was made.

Nine days after her body was discovered, the local newspaper, the Examiner received a call and documents in the mail presumably from the murderer. The package contained Short’s birth certificate, social security card, photographs, Major Matthew Gordon’s obituary and an address book with Mark Hanson’s name embossed on it with the names of several men listed in side. All the men were contacted and cleared. The men reported having met Short and bought her a drink or dinner, but lost contact with her when she let them know she wasn’t interested in a physical relationship.

A day after the package with Short’s belongings arrived at the Examiner, her handbag and one of her shoes was found near a dumpster several miles from where her body was found. None of these items helped the police find her killer.

Over the last sixty-five years, old suspects have been revisited and new suspects have been postulated, but the official status of the crime remains unsolved.

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Biographies & Memoirs
February 12
Directebooks Ltd

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