Manage episode 279903512 series 2781331
The caretaker of Lincoln Park, East of Downtown Los Angeles discovers the body of a middle aged woman at 9 a.m. on December 10th 1946. The woman has been hit in the head with a 5 inch bolt, her half nude body lay in the shrubs adjacent to the public men’s room. Hers is a slow painful death in the darkest night. She has no money or jewelry. The implication is that she has been robbed and did not go quietly. The woman has multiple sets of clothes with her and the police describe her as a transient hitchhiker. The Herald Express comes up with a moniker, the Red Hibiscus Murder, based on the flower bushes near the body. No one cares about the Red Hibiscus Murder.
It’s one month before the Black Dahlia headlines. Naomi Tullis Cook, age 52, is identified by her brother, who has not seen her in 20 years. A homeless person whose body is 4 feet from the public park men’s toilet is a sad story, a tragedy that captures little public interest. the Naomi Cook story lacks empathy; the public perceives homelessness as an indication that the victim has given up on life.
A flower headline alone can not capture the imagination of the public. The Naomi Cook story appears again in the newspaper a few days later when an Hispanic youth gang is arrested on December 14th; a 15 year old, 16 year old, two 17 year olds and 18 year old boy, collectively known as the Happy Valley gang. Police report the boys confessed to hitting Naomi with an object then running away.
The third time the Cook murder story is referenced is on Feb. 18th 1947 when the charges are dropped against the boys. Two months have gone by without a mention. The confessions do not hold.
The primary interest of the LAPD in the death of a transient is their attempt to fit to crime to this Mexican youth gang, who’s 18 year old leader has the correct nickname of “babyface”. No other newspaper picks up on the ‘Red Hibiscus Murder’ moniker. The Los Angeles times mentions the name is for the only time in 1999 when Larry Harnish writes an article about the myth and mystery of the Black Dahlia and offers the moniker as an example of how newspapers commonly used flower names to describe the murders back in the day. The Red Hibiscus Murder was a dud as a name. It demonstrates how little it matters when a crime is assigned a name, flower or otherwise, by the press when a transient woman sleeping on a public bench has died.
There are few developments in the Black Dahlia case at the end of February and the beginning of March 1947. In contrast to the Red Hibiscus Murder, the police remain active and the press reports anything it can on any Black Dahlia lead. Following up on a telephoned tip called in from a bar, Police arrested a Glendale machine operator who was overheard talking about his Short girlfriend. He is released on Valentine’s Day when it is realized his Short girlfriend is 5”3’ and not named Elizabeth. Bartender Charles Durant was arrested on suspicion after he requested his blonde hair be dyed black in a Hollywood Beauty Salon.
Phillip Smalley twice-divorced electrician from Tennessee is arrested in San Francisco and brought to Los Angeles to be confronted with witnesses in both the Dahlia and Jeanne French cases," Detective Sergeant William Cummings declared." "We can connect him with both cases. He denies knowing either of the two women, but on the basis of our investigation in Los Angeles, we're convinced he is lying. When taken to Los Angeles Smalley is identified by bartenders as a companion to the Black Dahlia, and he admits, when shown photographs of Elizabeth Short, “That could have been the girl” he met on January 9th, at the Circle Bar in Ocean Park section of Santa Monica.
Smalley changed his story a multiple times, setting on how they meet in Santa Monica and she drives him the 20 miles to Long Beach, picking up two sailors along the way "She dropped me off at a hotel and drove off with the sailors," and He picked up another girl, he said, and couldn't remember what he did from then to January 26 "I went on a drunk," he said.
This is an odd story, I have never heard of Beth driving.
Police check Smalley’s movements through five California cities and his tale of 12 lost days after his night with the Black Dahlia. In time it is discovered that Smalley met Phyllis Jean Cyr. Not Beth in Long Beach. It is noteworthy how often the police exaggerate the culpability of a current suspect as he is paraded before the press.
The variance in press coverage between local and out of town papers is worthy of our consideration. In the SF examiner, Smalley is an electrician. In the accompanying photo, citizen Smalley dresses as typical business man on the street in a tweed jacket, vest and stripped tie. By all appearances Smalley is trustworthy person getting out of a cab or walking into a bank.
In The Los Angeles Times Smalley is listed as transient laborer. The photo in the Los Angeles Examiner is shot from below while Smalley is being interviewed by the police and allows the bright police light to frame him. Smalley looks like Boris Karloff’s stand-in. Comparison photos on my web page to amuse you.
The L A County Sheriff’s office finds bloody clothing in a canyon run-off culvert. Police Chemist Ray Pinker said the clothing was covered with human blood but "we have examined more than 100 such pieces since Elizabeth Short's death." Donahoe said the articles probably were left by "someone who tried to commit suicide."
On Feb 16th The Los Angeles Times reports that the LAPD expressed with certainty that the murderer of Elizabeth Short is no longer in the city. Detectives admitted that their last hope for a solution to the gruesome crime is the possibility of the killer's arrested elsewhere on some other charge.
Not sure what to make of this notion presented as it certainly when it is not a certainty. Likely this is a shout out in the local papers in an attempt to get the Black Dahlia Avenger to communicate with the police.
In the Red Hibiscus Murder, when there is no news, there is no story in the papers.
The Black Dahlia murder investigation has significant coverage when there is no news. As the police investigation becomes quiet; the citizens volunteer in surprising numbers as if the whole town has a Black Dahlia fever.
Marvin Hart, 35 year old Hollywood fitness trainer, volunteers he lived in the same building as Elizabeth Short to a cab driver. He is arrested and released after police conclude he is just drunk bragging.
David Hughes, 23, a car thief, told police he was tired of running away from the cops. I didn’t kill her, Hughes volunteered, but I know the cops would want to question me. Hughes is dismissed as a suspect when officers realize he claims to have met the “Black Dahlia” on January 19th four days after her mutilated body was discovered. Hughes dismissed as a suspect and handed over to San Diego police on grand theft auto charges.
John Andry. 30-year-old Navy man begins his night out with celebrating with his wife. The evening ends with the sailor, alone in jail, booked on suspicion of murder. Andry is arrested after drunk boasting to woman he just met in a bar in Long Beach that the Black Dahlia murder wasn’t such a big deal; the sailor volunteers that he knows all about "cutting up a woman’s body.”
It is surprising- the number of drunk men who think a good way to break the ice is to brag about bisection.
An unnamed volunteer makes the newspaper when at the edge of the water at the base of Brooks Ave on Venice Beach, the LAPD finds a pile of men’s clothing at the shoreline. Inside a shoe is an unsigned suicide note written in pencil: “To whom it may concern: I have waited for the police to capture me for the Black Dahlia killing, but have not. I am too much of a coward to turn myself in, so this is the best way out for me. I couldn't help myself for that, or this. Sorry, Mary." Left on the beach; a tweed coat and trousers. a T shirt, white jockey shorts, tan socks and tan moccasins, size eight.
Was it the Black Dahlia Avenger? Not likely. Drowning in the ocean as suicide is a movie trope, a dramatic visual and cost effective trope. Drowning accidentally in the ocean can happen in rough seas or riptides, but suicide by walking into calm waters like Venice beach is not common or likely. Why would the concept of suicide occur to a psychopath who believes the killing of Beth Short is justified?
Black Dahlia fever reaches the California Legislature, as Assemblyman Richard Dolwig sponsors a bill permitting the sterilization of perverts and feeble-minded persons... There is palpable public dissatisfaction and outrage concerning the number sexual based crimes and the number of unsolved murders on the rise. In the previous year in Los Angeles there were 147 murders, all but 25 are solved in 1946. One out of six. It’s only March 11 of 1947 and the county and city have 13 unsolved murders out of 36 deaths. More than one in three murders are unsolved. Los Angeles newspapers reported the Police Department added 250 officers in efforts to crush (the) crime wave which started with the mutilation killing of Elizabeth Short. Roadblocks surprised motorists at seven main intersections on March 1st as police teams halted and checked all automobiles. “35 suspects are arrested on suspicion of burglary and police collected an assortment of pistols, knives and clubs found in cars or on persons who were "shaken down.”
Elizabeth Short’s death is not the beginning of a crime wave, any more that Naomi Cook’s death was; The gruesome Black Dahlia murder is the beginning of a panic associated with public consumption of headlines about sex killings.
The most mind boggling volunteer story is that of Schoolgirl Jacqueline Stang. She found beneath a railroad underpass, nearly nude, her body gashed and burned with a cigarette, Miss Stang a five-foot, 17 years old and blonde, claimed she was followed by a man as she was walking home from high school in Long Beach. "I ran. But he grabbed me when I was near an alley and that is all I can remember. It felt like he put a leather glove over my mouth. Doctors treated lacerations across her chest and a burn of her wrist. She had been bound with strips from her underwear. "I think he had chloroformed me when he put the glove over my mouth. When I came to, I had no clothes on. The man was scratching me. He blew cigarette smoke into my mouth and laughed fiendishly. He burned my left wrist with his lighted cigarette. "Then a little stray dog came running up and barked. This scared the man and he beat it in his car.”
You heard correctly, she claims her attacker blew cigaret smoke and laughed like a fiend however she is saved by the aggressive bark of a small stray. The reason her story is packed with movie cliches is because Jacqueline made the whole thing up. The 17 year old girl refused to give any reason for perpetrating the hoax. Friends said she had been fascinated with details of the Black Dahlia murder and had wondered “if I'd be expelled from school if I should be attacked?" She has burned herself with a cigarette, scratched herself and tied herself with her own underwear and expected to be found by a Good Samaritan in order to get out of school. People are scarring themselves over the Black Dahlia hysteria. I said in the beginning of this podcast the Black Dahlia is the angel of death for the city of Los Angeles very evident here in the way the entire city and embraces this murder as an event in their personal life.
A small town newspaper, the Santa Clarita Signal has a unfortunate reaction to the Black Dahlia fever. A disappointing editorial choice in tone is made on Feb 27th 1947, the front page headline reads:
WOMAN’S CORPSE IN FAIRMONT RESERVOIR;
NO BLACK DAHLIA CASE
QUOTE The only chance the unincorporated territory of Los Angeles County has had to get in on some of the juicy Black Dahlia type of crime fiction went blooie this week when autopsy surgeons decided the female remains discovered in the Fairmont reservoir was caused by drowning and not beating. picnickers thought of the Black Dahlia case they discovered the partially nude body.
The deceased, Mrs. Mary Muldoon, age 37, a stenographer, disappeared from her place of residence at the Rosslyn Hotel in downtown Los Angeles on Jan. 14. Her husband had made out a missing persons report. - With nothing more to go on and the big Black Dahlia case still being nursed along, the officers and the newspapers quietly dropped the matter of Mrs. Mary Muldoon.
What an outrage to diminish the life and memory of Mary Muldoon with this inappropriate attempt at humor. “Blooie?” Shameful.
Mary Muldoon had a husband and home she was missed. Note the date that she disappears—Jan 14th. The same time frame as Beth Short. Other newspapers offer more traditional reporting and it is stated that Mary had been arrested twice for public intoxication in the month she lived in Los Angeles. Her husband hoped she would return and waited three days before reporting her missing. The body was not naked. Mary was wearing a man’s t-shirt and man’s pullover sweater. It was estimated she was in the water for 10 days. She had been missing and alive for a month. Police made efforts to trace her movements. And failed. However, this is not a podcast on Mary Muldoon. Her non-news death illustrates the power of real estate in reporting and policing. Location location. location. The Black Dahlia is a dump site in a quiet residential area where children ride bicycles and a mother strolling with her three year old daughter finds a woman cut in half. The message to the citizens of Los Angeles for this suburban crime is “you are not safe”.
On the morning of March 12th there are reports that two women have been killed and both bodies are dumped in vacant areas on the same day .
Evelyn Winters partially nude body was found sprawled near a line of freight cars east of downtown Los Angeles. Her dress had been drawn up to her neck. She had been bludgeoned; on the left temple, left eye and her skull fractured. - Multiple cuts on her back indicated Evelyn Winters had been dragged over the ground before being left in the rail yard.
The partially nude body of Mae Preston seen by Japanese truck farmers on a river bank in Norwalk before 9 a.m. . She was clad only in a blue and white dressing gown. The red-haired woman's face was cut and badly swollen. She is identified quickly by the FBI; Mae Preston, 46, worked for Bethlehem Steel in 1943, was living at 115 Burton Street, Bellflower. Sheriff’s deputies belief the woman had been strangled in her bed after a fight with her assailant and then taken to the river in an automobile where her body was dragged up a bank at the side of the road and dumped into the high grass. A pillow and some bed clothing had been tossed above her onto the bank. The Mae Preston murder is a crime the 1947 police are prepared to solve Mae had a lover who is brought in for questioning. Police identified a father and son who came to the Preston house to feed her chickens. They are questioned. Frank Funk, 52, a cement contractor. Myron, his 23 year old son, confesses.
The Evelyn Winters murder presents some similarity to the Jeanne French and Elizabeth Short Murders in that these are the crimes the 1947 police struggle to solve. Winters is homeless, like Naomi Cook and Beth Short. Evelyn Winters, a Vassar graduate and a legal professional for the motion picture industry would be the most intellectual of the “Lone Women” victims. However, her whip-smart prime is behind her, and she has spiraled into a life of alcoholic depression and addiction. Like Jeanne French, Evelyn is murdered then her body is dragged a short distance to the dump site. Found clothing, one shoe and undergarments, at the corner of Center Street and Banning Ave suggests Evelyn Winters is raped and beaten there. Her body dumped two blocks north, east of Center off Ducommun Street in a Pacific Railroad right of way lane. Her body discovered at ten minutes after midnight by George Wicklifee, 28, a railroad section hand. George sees the naked woman lying on the ground and kisses her on the lips. Only to realize this night is his unlucky night, the woman is dead.
Officials find lipstick and blood on his face and George is arrested, photographed by the press for maximum humiliation, then released.
The blows struck upon Evelyn would not normally be fatal except for the high level of alcohol in her system. .28 is high. Indeed, if it were a little higher level of alcohol .35 That would cause death on its own.
The Winters murder is only on our radar only because it happens after the Short murder. Otherwise it would disappear in the same manner as the Naomi Cook murder. There are few ties between the Evelyn Winters tragedy and the Black Dahlia mystery; the primary commonality; the vulnerability of homelessness and the difficulty for police to trace movements when the victims have no place of residence and are not likely to be missed.
The Black Dahlia lust killer was organized and premeditated. Elizabeth Short, sober and young, was tortured, bisected and displayed. Evelyn Winter’s situational killer was opportunistic and disorganized. Winters, weak, older, drunk to the point of oblivion was already near death when raped then dragged to an obscure location where she dies.
The Hollywood success of Winter’s past provides pathos, however, the criminal investigation stalls very soon after it starts. Homeless for six months at the time of her death, Winters has no sense of order or pattern in her life other than a suitcase of her belongings behind the counter at a liquor store, She spends her days at the library and has occasional scheduled meetings with her mother.
As police trace her final steps they discover Winters’ excessive consumption of alcohol on her last night put her on a deadly path before she met her rapist killer four hours later. Winters was intoxicated when she left James Tiernan at his room in the Albany Hotel on W. Sixth near Central, woozy when she left. Evelyn found a new drinking partner in 23 year old Grover McCubrey then staggered onward into the darkness.
Neither Evelyn Winters or Mae Preston are mutilated. Evelyn Winters was raped. Similar to Georgette Bauerdorf, it is likely the crime of rape involves the quieting of the witness.
There is a famous death In Manhattan, on May 1st 1947 Evelyn McHale thoughtfully places her a make-up kit with family photos and a black purse against the observation deck wall on the 86th floor of the Empire State Building. Inside the purse is a with a suicide note. She neatly folded a cloth coat over them both and waited until the guard was distracted before jumping. She clears the setbacks of the Empire State Building and falls 1,050 feet to her death; an act that requires an excessive amount of depression and certain amount of courage. McHale lands with significant impact, crushing the roof of a United Nations Cadillac limousine parked on 34th street, Robert Wiles, a young photography student crossest the street and catches this moment.
The photo will be printed in Life Magazine and is given a title, the most beautiful suicide. Evelyn McHale has landed on her back, her face and body appear to be untouched but if one looks closely one stocking has fallen to her ankle.
Evelyn McHale is serenely posed, clutching her pearls, creating an impression that she has found peace. Her suicide note suggests otherwise. The outside image doesn’t match what she felt inside. She had spent the previous day with her fiancée, Barry Rhodes, who told reporters, “When I kissed her good-bye she was happy and normal as any girl about to be married.”
Everyday in the newspaper, violent acts are rained upon the vulnerable. Naomi Cook, Jeannie French, and Evelyn Winters, these women have made choices resulting in a chain of events that they were not likely to survive?
These unplanned murders of high risk victims are crimes of opportunity, the killer, is hungry like a spider. Is it fair to assign a percentage of blame to the victim? There are occasions where death is an unconscious suicide. Our society thinks drug overdose carries a stigma of suicide because the risk of death is accepted when the needle is placed in the arm. Evelyn Winters and Naomi Cook are victims engaging in high risk behaviors. Fueled by depression and alcohol, choices are made that make the victim helpless to escape the brutal violence. Is suicide an unconscious desire when life holds so little value? Not that suicide is a victimless crime. Returning to the Evelyn McHale story, her fiancé never married and the young photography student never published another photo.
On May 2nd, in south Los Angeles the body of Dorothy Montgomery is found under a pepper tree in a vacant field at the end of a dirt road on Grape Street two miles from her Firestone Park home.
Her head bludgeoned with a heavy object, her breast slashed with a knife, her clothing shredded and stripped from her body. She has been strangled. There is a small butterfly broach under the naked body and local Hearst papers refer to the killing as the Butterfly murder. As in the Naomi Cook murder, no other newspaper picks up on the moniker. One shoe is near the body. The other is found near the family car five miles away. There is blood on both shoes. Comparisons to the Black Dahlia dominate the headlines but this crime bears more similarity to the Gertrude Landon Murder. Nude, housewife, dumped in an isolated site, no robbery and no car jacking, but the car plays a role in the investigation and something is wrong. Because of their quiet and steady lifestyles Montgomery and Landon are both categorized as low risk victims. Everything is normal and routine until something mysterious and deadly happens. Dorothy Montgomery has three children and a second husband; her life is her daughters and church. She doesn’t get into cars with strangers or go dancing. or drink alcohol. She thinks less of those who do. Her husband is a refrigerator repairman who drinks.
The Los Angeles Daily News offers a typical representation of the murder...“Examination of the area near where Mrs. Montgomery’s nude and mutilated body revealed no trace of the weapon used to beat her on the head before she was strangled to death…investigators had found a small golden butterfly pin under the body of the 36-year-old mother. Missing, however, were a gold wristwatch, a diamond-ruby engagement ring, a gold-ruby wedding ring she was wearing at the time she was slain, and her coin purse which contained a green plastic sales tax token from Missouri. Left behind was $35 in currency inside the handbag. Authorities said the murder of the respectable mother, wife, and church worker had none of the sordid overtones of the "Black Dahlia cycle of mutilation slayings. One common characteristic, however, existing between all four murders was that in each case the bodies were mutilated and none was raped. Endquote. Not true. Winters was raped and not mutilated. I am not sure I would categorize French murder as a mutilation. Returning to the news, QUOTE “The sheriffs office said Mrs. Montgomery had left her home Friday night to pick up her daughter Maycille, 15, at the Slauson Ave. playground.(Apparently her assailant entered the car, forced her to drive to the vacant lot at 91st and Grape Sts., killed her, stripped and mutilated her, and returned her car to the Hooper St. address, opposite the playground. The sheriffs office said an investigation into all sex crimes in the last several months would he made to tie the identification of Mrs. Montgomery's suspected murderer. (Detective) Sutton said Thomas Montgomery, the husband, was cleared of any suspicion.
The murder must have been the act of a sadist, Sutton said, "the type, that hangs around, play grounds and molests children“
Newspapers report the findings of the autopsy saying Mrs. Montgomery met death by the choking fingers of a human hand which apparently gripped her throat from behind.
There is some melodrama in that statement, “death by the chocking fingers of a human hand;” it reads like a movie poster tag line.
The autopsy reporting continues: her “scalp was severely lacerated at the back of the neck back of the head but the skull was not fractured and no concussion was apparent.” The Los Angeles Times concludes with “the fact that her clothes were ripped from her body in shreds however, led detectives a hold to the theory that the murder was a sex fiend.
From the beginning Dorothy Montgomery is introduced as “the fourth victim of the series.” This impression may have had significant impact on the jury when Dorothy’s husband is brought to trial.
A Sheriff Department lab technician finds blood …stains on the steering wheel of Montgomery's car, on small pieces of gravel beneath the clutch pedal, and in the nail holes of his shoes.” However, the blood stains on Thomas Montgomery’s shoes matches the blood stains on Dorothy Montgomery’s shoes. It is rabbit blood. The family harvests bunnies in the backyard.
The man living closest to the dump site, G. W. Thomas age 54, auto mechanic, saw something white from a distance at 10:25 in the morning while working on his car. Thomas lives on a Grape street an area with remnants of an agricultural past. The body is found under a tree, thirty feet from a dirt road that runs through the vacant lot. If Thomas doesn’t find the body, no one else will; it is that isolated of a location. Mr. Montgomery has two German Shepards. He likely knows this field as place he could let his dogs run.
At the inquest, Thomas Montgomery denied killing his wife but admitted to a jury he had three violent arguments with her prior to her slaying. Montgomery says he last saw his wife alive when he accompanied her to their car. "The next time I saw her was when I identified her body under the pepper trees," Montgomery told the jurors. "I don't know who could have killed her. I didn’t.”
Maycille Montgomery testified at the inquest that she waited for her mother more than 45 minutes at the playground and then walked home with friends. Her father was at the house at that time.
Friends of Dorothy Montgomery expected to see her before she was to go Slauson Park. Mr. and Mrs. Harry Berry of 7011 S. Broadway said Dorothy was to stop at their home Friday night before continuing on to pick up her 15-year-old daughter Maycille.
The purpose of the visit was to discuss plans for a shower for (Mrs Montgomery’s) newly married daughter, Mrs. Rosella Jones, 18, of 8741 Hickory St. Dorothy Montgomery never arrived.
Everything about this crime that doesn’t make sense does so in a way that it serves to eliminate the prospect that a stranger, a sex addict and maniac who hangs around playgrounds has committed the crime. The evidence points to the husband. On the first day of the newspaper says that the killer drops the body off and then returns the car to the playground on Slauson.
That makes no sense. Why would a stranger risk being seen in the death car twice, coming and going back? The vacant lot is a very isolated. 92nd street doesn’t go through Alameda, its a dead end. Elizabeth Short’s body is two feet from the sidewalk. Jeanne French’s body is 15 feet from the road. There is no road to the lot where Dorothy Montgomery is found. A dirt path runs thru the lot next to G. W. Thomas’ house and the body is found 30 feet from that “rough trail” There’s no way you would know that that little pepper tree grove existed unless you lived within walking distance.
Dorothy was due at the Berry household and did not show and did not call. That doesn’t make sense unless she was dead before 9:30. Because she was due there before picking up Maycille. They would need an hour to talk about the party plans. The rabbit blood on her shoes? Why not clean up before she goes to some else’s house? I made that point about wearing bloody shoes to a social visit to a friend of mine who is a farmer and she said, “you obviously don’t know anything about people who raise rabbits.” Point taken. I don’t. But thinking about it, I wonder if Thomas Montgomery killed a rabbit after slicing his dead wife’s breast, then the murder weapon is disguised in plain view.
Why would a stranger take the rings and leave the cash? The jewelry would be traced. Not the cash. Of course, It’s not a stranger. Jewelry is personal. Strangulation by hand is personal
The non-Dahlia body dump sites are impersonal and degrading. Winters is dragged from a car and left in the dirt. French dragged from a car through mud. Rosenda Mondragon is thrown from a car into a gutter. Naomi Cook is rolled into the bushes. Ora Murray rolled into a landscaping bed at the edge of parking lot. Landon was dumped in gravel pit. Laura Trelstad was dumped in an El Cerrito oil field access dirt road. All these women are discarded to the margins of the city.
Dorothy Montgomery lies under the shade of a tree, as if this vacant lot is a cemetery.
I believe the car and body are staged. I believe the cutting of the breast is staged. Thus Thomas Montgomery hides her body in two ways, first, hides it in a vacant field, then he hides it again by the cutting across the breast, with the “multination” Dorothy is not Thomas Montgomery’s wife anymore but victim of the Black Dahlia Avenger.
This is not a copy cat killing, it is very much a "notional” copy cat killing as the newspapers point the finger of suspicion at a notional Werewolf.
Montgomery was strangled from behind. Consider how this compares to the other murders. The killer of Georgette Bauerdorf watched as she choked to death. The killer of Elizabeth Short watched her bled to death. The killer of Jeanne French watched as she collapsed under his feet. Dorothy Montgomery was hit in the back of the head and choked from behind; the killer doesn’t want to watch her die.
Why slice with a knife from the front when she is dead? If the killer has a knife at Dorothy’s breast, why choke her at all, Stabbing her in the heart is quicker and easier. The knife is in the killer’s hand.
If this is a carjacking, the killer hits her over the head, strangles her and cuts her, then returns the car to Slauson Park, then where are the knife and heavy object? They were not left at the vacant lot and not left in the car. Are we to think the killer parked the car and took a bloody knife and the bloody blunt weapon with him on foot? There is no blood at the vacant lot. The blood in the family car is on the left front door, running board, steering wheel and on the rear seat. Importantly, Sheriff Inspector Noris Stensland did not believe she slain in the car. Was Dorothy Montgomery slain in the family garage? Thomas Montgomery says he took one of his dogs for a walk after his wife left in the car. Did he dispose of the bloody knife and heavy object when walking the dog?
Thomas Montgomery is arrested for his wife’s murder on May 12th. He is acquitted on Aug 1st after an hour and a half deliberation by the jury. This is a surprise to me. Evidence provided to the court is powerful. Horace Stanford, who lives next door to the Montgomery home testified he was listening to a 9 o'clock radio broadcast when he heard the first scream which he described as "being that of a woman or a child”.
"I ran out into the yard and heard another scream. It seemed to come from the front hear the Montgomery home. I ran to the street and heard another scream which seemed to come from the back yard. I returned to the alley and searched the vicinity but could find nothing." A few minutes later, Stanford testified, he heard the Montgomery car being started and being driven away from the garage.
Thomas Montgomery has said he last saw his wife at 9:30 p.m. If Dorothy was going to visit the Berry household, she would have left an hour earlier because they are planing a celebration.
In court Maycille testified that her mother was expected at 10:00 pm. As she waited, Maycille saw the family car come toward her then make a U-turn.
Witness James W. Kennedy identified Thomas Montgomery as the man he saw park the automobile at 10:30 and walk away from the car before returning to extinguish the headlights.
Maycille testified she and her sister found two zippers and a few Missouri green plastic sales tax tokens which had been in her mother's wallet and coin purse. The zippers were in a box of Loquats in the family garage, she said. Maycille said she gave the zippers to her stepfather, Thomas Montgomery, who promised to turn them over to authorities but told police he burned them.
The step-daughters come to believe Thomas Montgomery is responsible for their mothers death.
The jury of 12 strangers, five men and seven women find him not guilty.
ONE MORE THING
In the last episode I spoke of John Douglas and his work with the FBI and I presented him as an expert but this week I will point out some issues with his conclusions in the black dahlia mystery. First, it is fair to point out that Douglas did not study the Black Dahlia mystery with the same level of intensity as he did the Zodiac or the Jack the Ripper murders. Douglas relies heavily on Severed, a book written by John Gilmore. Gilmore’s original intent was to write a screenplay, but with no buyers he presented his script for publication in a true crime format. The book has the integrity of a historical movie. Characters are condensed, situations are invented, historical timelines ignored and facts are tweaked for the sake of a telling a salacious story. From Gilmore, Douglas gets the idea that Elizabeth Short worked with Georgette Bauerdorf and the Black Dahlia Avenger killed them both. Elizabeth Short was not in town when Bauerdorf was alive. Gilmore’s book is a filled with mountains of conclusions based on molehills of research. He is to be ignored as a source of truth in the Black Dahlia murder.
Let’s talk about profiling with an eye to the limitations of the skill. As Douglas states, “A profiler isn’t going to look at a crime scene and come up with an address and phone number” The usefulness of profiling is strongest when there are multiple suspects and the profile serves to exclude the innocent. This is a skill enhanced by experience and intuition. I have no experience so let me quote someone who does:
Mary Ellen O’Toole, an ex-FBI profiler, said…a profiler can look at a crime scene and draw conclusions about how much planning was involved, whether it was a crime of opportunity or a targeted attack, how sophisticated the offender was about cleaning up forensic evidence, and if injury patterns show evidence of sexual sadism — these are conclusions that help form a picture of the offender.
To apply this to the Montgomery murder, it can only be a crime of opportunity if she was car-jacked. I dismiss the carjacking because …
1)Maycille sees the family car come toward her at the park then make a U-turn.
2)the car is brought back to the scene of the abduction.
So if that means this is a targeted attack, there are no suspects other than Thomas Montgomery.
On the surface this crime appears to be an example of a type of killer the FBI would call “organized”. Thomas Montgomery is careful and it appears he makes every effort to thwart detection. The weapon absent from the crime scene, the body transported to safe location and hidden. However, what is lacking is a level of sophistication that Mary O’Toole speaks of. Notice the number of times the killer acts like a husband instead of a stranger; He doesn’t want to watch her die, her body is placed under a shade tree, the engagement and wedding rings removed because the marriage is over, the car is returned to the playground area because that’s where she was supposed to be, After he gets out of the car, he sees the headlights are still on and walks back to turn them off.
Thomas Montgomery was punished even though the jury found him innocent, he spent the rest of his life being suspected by his step daughters.
Until next time.
Pasadena Star-News Feb 14th
Wilmington Daily Press Journal, 5 Feb 1947, Wed • Page 1
Los Angeles DA files
Razor blade found at site. Los Angeles Times 20 Feb 1947, Thu Page 2
Los Angeles Times 16 Feb 1947, Sun • Page 10
Sacramento Bee 14 Feb 1947, Fri • Page 14
The San Bernardino County Sun 12 Mar 1947, Wed • Page 1
Wickliffee a recent arrival from Joplin Missouri where he was arrested 17 times for vacancy and loitering, as well as window peeping and begging.
Criminally attacked. Petaluma Argus-Courier 11 Mar 1947, Tue • Page 1
Los Angeles Daily News, 5 May 1947, Mon • Page 2
Los Angeles Times May 5th 1947 page 2
Wilmington Daily Press Journal 29 Jul 1947, Tue • Page 1
San Bernardino Sun 15 May 1947, Thurs. Page 2
Los Angeles Times 31 Jul 1947, Thu • Page 26
Daily News, 03 May 1947, Sat • Page 8
Los Angeles Times May 4th 1947 Sun • page 3 “battered…heavy weapon”
Los Angeles Times May 4th 1947 Sun • page 3 “at some yet-undisclosed place.”