Jeanne French

An interesting parallel with Short’s murder is that of Jeanne Thomas French. Two days after Matt Dumais’ false confession that he’d killed Elizabeth Short, (see False Confessions and Unlikely Suspects), the Herald put out the headline: Werewolf Strikes dahlia_herald_27_werewolf-strikes1Again! Kills L.A. Woman, Writes B.D. on Body”. The victim of the “Werewolf Killer” was forty-five year old Jeanne French. Her nude body was discovered at about 8 a.m. on February 10, 1947 near Grand View Avenue and Indianapolis Street in West L.A. Jeanne Thomas French had been an aviatrix, a pioneer airline hostess, a movie bit player and an Army Nurse. And at one time she had been the wife of a Texas oilman.

A construction worker named H.C. Shelby was walking to work around 8 o’clock that morning along Grand View Blvd. when he saw a small pile of woman’s clothing in weeds a few feet from the sidewalk. Curious, Shelby walked over and lifted up a fur-trimmed coat and discovered French’s nude body. French had been savagely beaten, and her body was covered with bruises. She suffered blows to her head, probably administered by a metal blunt instrument. As bad as they were, the blows tjeanne_french_scene_00057603o her head had not been fatal. Jeanne died from hemorrhage and shock due to fractured ribs and multiple injuries caused by stomping. Ick. She had heel prints on her chest. It took a long time for French to die. The coroner said that she slowly bled to death. Ouch. Mercifully, Jeanne was unconscious after the first blows to her head. Her killer took a deep red lipstick from her purse and wrote on her torso: “Fuck You, B.D.” (later determined to be P.D.) and “Tex”. Naturally when police first thought the initials written on French’s torso were B.D. they made a connection to the Black Dahlia but this was soon determined to be incorrect.

French was seen in the Pan American Bar at 11155 West Washington Place. She was seated at the first stool nearest the entrance and a smallish man with a dark complexion was seated next to her. The bartender thought they were a couple because he saw them leave together. Jeanne’s estranged husband, Frank was booked on suspicion of murder. The night before she died Jeanne went to the apartment where Frank was living and they’d quarreled. Frank said his wife had started the fight, hit him with her purse and left. He said that was the last time he saw her. He told the cops she’d been drinking.

David Wrather, Jeanne’s twenty-five yejeanne-french_husband-lie-detectorar old son from a previous marriage, was brought in for questioning. David confronted Frank and said: “Well, I’ve told them the truth. If you’re guilty, there’s a God in heaven who will take care of you.” Frank didn’t hesitate, he looked at David and said: “I swear to God I didn’t kill her.” Frank was cleared when his landlady testified that he’d been in his apartment at the time of the murder, and when his shoe prints didn’t match those found at the scene of the crime.

Cops followed the few leads they had. French’s cut-down 1929 Ford roadster was found in the parking lot of a drive-in restaurant, The Piccadilly at Washington Pl. and Sepulveda Blvd. Witnesses said jeanne-and-frank-picthat the car had been there since 3:15 the morning of the murder, and a night watchman said it was left there by a man. The police were never able to find out where Jeanne had been between 3:15 a.m. and the time of her death which was estimated at 6 a.m.

Scores of sex degenerates were investigated, but each was eliminated as a suspect. Officers also checked out local Chinese restaurants after the autopsy revealed that French had eaten Chinese food shortly before her death. French’s slaying, known as the “Red Lipstick Murder” case, went cold. Three years later, following a Grand Jury investigation into the numerous unsolved murders of women in L.A., investigators from the D.A.’s office were assigned to look into the case.

bd doeFrank Jemison and Walter Moragan worked the French case for almost eight months, but they were never able to close it. They came up with one suspect, a painter who painted the French’s house about four months prior to her death and had dated her several times. The suspicious thing about the painter was that the day after Jeanne’s murder he burned several pairs of his shoes and he wore the same size shoes as the ones that had left marks on French’s body. Jemison and Morgan thoroughly investigated the painter, but he was eventually cleared. To this day French, like Short, is a cold case, unsolved.

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