False Confessions and Unlikely Suspects

In every sensational murder there are always weirdos who come out of the woodwork to claim they are the murderer, even though it is quickly proven they are not. Who knows what makes such people tick? It’s their fifteen minutes of warped fame, I suppose. There were 50 people who “confessed” to Short’s murder. Four of these included:

Max Handler – a film bit player, Handler was the 25th mmax_handler_00010435an to claim he murdered the Black Dahlia. During a lie detector test
he admitted that his confession was false and that he “wanted to get away from a gang of men who have been following me constantly”. It would appear that Handler belonged in a mental institution, not a prison cell. In the picture on the right he looks more like a homeless man than an actor.

Daniel S. Voorhies – a 33-year-old army vet, also confessed to killing Short. He said that he’d had an affair with her in L.A. — the problem with his story was that at the time he claimed that he and Short were having a torrid affair, Beth was a very young teenager living on the east coast. Clearly, Voorhies lived in a bizarre fantasy world where Short was concerned.

minnie_sepulveda_00010465A woman named Minnie Sepulveda said she killed the Black Dahlia. She hadn’t.

Mrs. Marie Grieme said that she had heard a Chicago woman confess to the Black Dahlia’ murder. Her story didn’t lead anywhere. 

Joseph DuMais – a Frenchman who claimed to have murdered Short, his story was quickly proven false. On February 8, 1947 the Herald-Express announced that the Black Dahlia case had been solved. They had found the killer!

Dumais, a combat veteran, had returned from leave wearing blood stained trousers with his pockets crammed full of clippings about Short’s murder.  Dumais made a 50 page confession in which he claimed to have had a mental blackdumais_00010481out after dating Elizabeth Short. He told the cops that “When I get drunk I get pretty rough with women.” Unfortunately, when police checked his story against known facts the solider’s confession didn’t hold up. Dumais was sent to a psychiatrist. A fine idea although I doubt very much the shrink was able to help this client.

Even though none of the women who had confessed had been guilty, the cops were beginning to think that it wasn’t out of the question that Short’s slayer had been a woman. The
Herald-Express ran side-by-side photos of thrdahlia_herald_16_women_killersee infamous homicidal women who had been busted in L.A., Louise Peete (one of four women to have been executed by the State of California) was a serial killer. She was arrested for murder in the 1920s, did eighteen years, and following her release from prison committed yet another murder for which she paid with her life. Whether any of these women committed sex crimes and dismembered their victims didn’t seem to be a consideration. None of these female criminals had tortured and murdered in the same manner as Short’s killer.

Clara Phillips was known as Tiger Girl. Phillips was a former chorus girl and film extra. She murdered her husband’s mistress on a sort of revenge mission. On the day of Alberta’s murder, Phillips purchased a hammer, and spent her phillipsafternoon on  Long Beach with a friend, another ex-chorine, Peggy Caffee. Phillips told Caffee she’d heard that hinted at an affair between her husband, Armour, and an attractive widow, Alberta Meadows. By the end of the day Phillips formulated a plan to eliminate her rival.

Fabricating a story of needing a lift, Phillips and Caffee caught a ride with an unsuspecting Meadows. On a secluded stretch of Montecito Drive, Phillips asked Meadows to pull over for a conversation; she brought the 15-cent hammer down on Meadow’s head and battered her until the weapon broke. Phillips rolled a 50-lb boulder onto her victim’s chest. She was dubbed “Tiger Girl” by the media for the brutality of the attack. Nasty, yes. Torturous and involving dismemberment, no.

Winnie Ruth Judd –  a pretty medical secretary found guilty of murdering her friends Agnes Anne LeRoi and Hedvig Samuelson over the affections of Jack Halloran. Her trial was marked by sensationalized newspaper coverage and suspicious circumstances; the sentence she received raised winnie-ruth-judddebate about capital punishment. The two victims were killed with a .25 caliber handgun in their bungalow at 2929 (now 2947) N. 2nd Street. Judd dismembered the body of Samuelson after the murders and stuffed the head, torso, and lower legs into a black shipping trunk. LeRoi’s body was stuffed intact into a second black shipping trunk. The murder was reported in headlines across the country and Judd came to be referred to in the press as “Tiger Woman” (what is it about tigers?) and “The Blonde Butcher”. Eventually, the case was known in the media as “The Trunk Murders.”The dismemberment seems to make Judd a strong possibility except for two facts: there is no evidence Short and Judd knew each other and Judd was careful to hide both bodies of her friends after the murders, not proudly display them for an unfortunate passerby to find.

Louise Peete – one of America’s most infamous”black widows”, was louise-peete-1the daughter of a prominent newspaper publisher. She made her living as a hooker making house calls. Eventually Peete met a man named Denton.  After several weeks of torrid sex, Peete asked Denton to marry her, but he refused. It was a fatal error and Denton was soon buried in his own cellar with a bullet in his head. Why the police would attempt to connect Peete with the Dahlia murder is a mystery. Peete preyed on men and none of the murders was even remotely similar to Short’s. Perhaps desperation will drive even the police to consider any avenue possible.




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