Note: This is an encore post from 2006.
I’m blogging in real time as I read Donald H. Wolfe’s “The Black Dahlia Files: The Mob, the Mogul and the Murder That Transfixed Los Angeles.”
At this point in the story, Elizabeth Short’s body has been discovered in Leimert Park, and it has been taken to the morgue and identified. However Elizabeth Short has virtually disappeared as Wolfe bogs down in an explanation of competition between the Los Angeles newspapers in the 1940s.
Good grief. It’s hard to believe anybody could make such a major error and state it with utter confidence:
“However, many Angelenos were aware that the identification story had already appeared in the Examiner on the previous day, and Richardson had his revenge by running an interview with FBI Bureau Chief J. Edgar Hoover the following day, congratulating the Examiner for assisting the FBI in the “spectacular identification achieved under extraordinary circumstance.”
The Los Angeles Examiner, Jan. 17:
GIRL TORTURE VICTIM
IDENTIFIED BY EXAMINER, FBI
Los Angeles Times, Jan. 17:
Sex Fiend Slaying Victim Identified
by Fingerprint Records of FBI
Does Wolfe give any citation for this incredible error or did he make it on his own?
Not in the end notes. He did it on his own. I really wonder if the man is capable of reading what is put in front of him.
And while we’re on the subject, one thing that’s revealed in Elizabeth Short’s FBI files (don’t buy them for $23 on ebay; they’re free from the FBI’s website) is the bureau’s sophistication in dealing with the news media.
Hm. This looks worse than I thought.
Now here is what’s in the Examiner, Jan. 17, 1947:
“Praising the Examiner’s enterprise and the clarity of the INP [International News Photo] Soundphotos, the FBI said it considered the identification ‘an outstanding achievement.’ ”
But Elizabeth Short’s FBI file, (uncatalogued, but probably part of document 62-82627-39) includes a tear sheet of the Examiner’s story by Ray Richards, Jan. 17, 1947, that indeed quotes Hoover:
“The action of the Los Angeles Examiner in transmitting to the FBI the fingerprints of the unidentified murder victim was an excellent illustration of cooperation of the press with law enforcement.
“It is such cooperation that aids law enforcement in curbing the increase in crime.”
The article concludes: “In the FBI’s Washington records the case was [illegible] as a ‘spectacular identification’ meaning one [made] under extraordinary circumstances.’ ”
Note: That quote isn’t attributed to Hoover. Now what’s really curious is why this story ran somewhere in the Hearst empire, (we know that because we have the tear sheet) but not in the final, microfilmed edition of the Los Angeles Examiner. How incredibly odd.
Let’s press ahead. Wolfe’s talking about Aggie Underwood. The big thing in the Dahlia case is that as told in her autobiography “Newspaperwoman,” Underwood was pulled off reporting partway through the coverage to work on the city desk and then put back on the story. Let’s see of Wolfe mentions that.
Aha, the Black Dahlia nickname. It’s about time. Wolfe gets Aggie’s version from “Newspaperwoman,” (she said she got it from homicide Detective Ray Giese), but misses Jack Smith learning the name from the drugstore in Long Beach and even worse says Underwood sent Bevo Means down to Long Beach to investigate. She was a fellow reporter at that point and wouldn’t have been sending Means anywhere.
For the record, Underwood, Means and Smith got the nickname and both afternoon papers, the Herald Express and the Daily News, used it Jan. 17, 1947.
The important thing, missing in “Mogul,” is that the Herald had come up with its own nickname, “the Werewolf Murder,” and continued favoring “Werewolf” over “the Black Dahlia,” although it used both.
End of the chapter, time for my walk.
Shout out to:
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