The Black Dahlia Suspects

Welcome to part two of the Black Dahlia series, in our last installment, we discussed the life, and gruesome death of Elizabeth Short. When Short’s body was discovered in a vacant lot in January 1947, the entire City of Los Angeles immediately became obsessed with the details of the grizzly crime. The LAPD had little to no leads, and the press coverage made their jobs even more difficult. As with many high profile murders, mentally deranged people from all over the country turned themselves into the LAPD confessing to the killing. The crime is still unsolved to this day, but there are a few quite unusual, and possible suspects. For the sake of brevity, and for my sanity, I have decided only to discuss the two suspects many historians and I believe to be, the most likely suspects.

One must remember the facts of the case; it was apparent that the murderer had some sort of medical training, the body was cut in half, drained entirely of blood, and had been transported to the location for the express reason of being found quickly. With all that in mind, let’s dive into the two top suspects.

walter bayley

Photo Courtesy of

Los Angeles Surgeon Walter Bayley
Walter Bayley is my pick, but from outside appearances, he would be the last person people would suspect. Bayley was in his mid-60s at the time of the murder. But, underneath the respectable demeanor and years of upstanding citizenship, there was a dark side to Bayley. In late 1946, Bayley’s marriage was falling apart; he lived with his soon to be ex-wife just a block away from where Short’s body was found. Bayley also had a degenerative brain disease that was reaching a boiling point in January 1947. The brain disorder is known to cause people to have psychotic breaks and take reasonable, sane individuals, and turn them into incredibly violent people prone to outbursts.
Bayley had a mistress on the side that said later in life that Bayley left her everything in his will to keep a deep, dark secret under wraps. To add another twist, Bayley’s daughter knew Short’s older sister, serving as the Maid of honor at her wedding. Bayley had an opportunity to meet Short, had the medical training, and had the mental disorder that led to violence. To add yet another wrinkle, it is believed that Bayley dumped Short’s body just one block from his wife’s house as a message. In my humble, amateur opinion, Bayley is the most likely suspect.


Photo Courtesy of the London Sun

Bellhop and Former Mortician’s Assistant, Leslie Dillon
The Leslie Dillon story is bonkers and is almost impossible to follow to please bear with me as I attempt to take an amateur’s explanation of the twisted tale. First off, Leslie had the training; he spent a few years as a mortician’s assistant in the city. Nobody had ever heard of Dillon until 1948 when he began writing to an LAPD psychiatrist named Paul De River. Dillon wrote to De River about the murder, saying that he believed that his friend was the killer. Soon, De River began to suspect that Dillon’s “friend” didn’t exist and this was simply a deranged man, possibly the killer, writing to someone close to the killing. It is common for killers to visit the scenes of their crimes, or to contact people investigating the crime; it is their way of “getting off” on the crime over and over again.
In December 1948, De River convinced Dillon to travel across the country and meet in Las Vegas, as a huge red flag Dillon refused to meet in Los Angeles. De River brought an undercover LAPD detective along with him, and the men met with Dillon over the course of a few days. While the men were meeting, Dillon talked about intimate details of the Dahlia murder that weren’t produced in any press; this was enough for Dillon and the LAPD officer; the men took Dillon into custody and brought him back to Los Angeles. The officers held Dillon in a hotel when he threw out a piece of paper begging for help. A person on the street found the plea for help and turned it into authorities. With their cover blown, Dillon was brought in for official questioning, and a Grand Jury was eventually convened, but Dillon was not charged with the murder. Somehow Dillon was released and was never charged. Dillon is a solid number two suspect for me based solely on the fact that, while he did produce some information, he was a proven liar and it is impossible to take his word for any of the actions. I sincerely believe that either of these two men could have possibly killed Elizabeth Short, but I also firmly believe that we will never know.



Published by TheOddPast by Matthew A. Perry

Writer, teacher, broadcaster, and podcaster from West Virginia. I write about and discuss the wacky and weird side of history on my website and my podcast "The Odd Past Podcast" available everywhere

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