Chapter 29 ~ Jimmy Richardson

When James H. Richardson, retired city editor of the Los Angeles Examiner, wrote his autobiography, which was published in 1954, he wrote about the biggest news story of his long career, the murder of the Black Dahlia. Richardson believed he talked with the killer of Elizabeth Short when he received a telephone call and was asked, “Is this the city editor?” He remembered the nameless voice saying, “Well, Mr. Richardson, I must congratulate you on what the Examiner has done in the Black Dahlia case.” Then, according to Richardson, the caller said, “I’ll send you some of the things she had with her when she, shall we say, disappeared?” Richardson said he felt a “shiver up my spine.”

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City editor Jimmy Richardson was usually a step ahead of the LAPD investigation of the murder of Elizabeth Short. It was the Examiner that arranged to have Elizabeth’s fingerprints sent by Soundphoto to the FBI in Washington, D.C.; and it was Richardson who made the deal with the police department for exclusive information on the true identity of Jane Doe Number One. It was the Examiner that learned of Elizabeth’s unclaimed trunk at the R. E. A. offices. Richardson told Captain Jack Donahoe that he would tell him where the trunk was if he brought it to the Examiner and opened it there. He also found the two suitcases and the hat box at the Greyhound Bus Station and made another deal with Donahoe.

Richardson had rewrite man Wain Sutton call Phoebe Short in Medford and lie to her, saying her daughter had won a beauty contest. Mrs. Short gave Sutton information about her daughter before he told her the truth. Richardson dispatched reporters to San Diego to discover the identities of  Red Manley and Elvera French. They also found the motel records of Manley’s motor trip with Beth to Los Angeles on January 9. He sent reporters to Red’s home, where they broke the news to his wife, Harriet.

The Examiner stayed ahead of competing newspapers and the LAPD.

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“I have my own idea about the killer, pieced together from everything that is known about the case. I believe he is an egomaniac who deliberately planned the murder to prove to himself that he was a superman who could outwit and outhink the whole world. He chose his victim, persuaded her to go with him to wherever it was he tortured and slew her and carefully placed her severed body where it would be quickly found. He made it all as horrible as possible to attract the greatest attention and cause the most intensive search for him. He would be one against the world, the perpetrator of the perfect crime. He would revel  in the satisfaction of his insane and all-consuming ego. To feed that satisfaction he had taunted me and the police with his phone call and the return of those things the Dahlia had with her.

“I am convinced that his mad ego will cause him to commit another crime and in the same manner. Either that or he will come forward again with taunts about the Dahlia murder. He may even furnish a clue that will start the search all over again. Eventually he will make the mistake that will result in his capture. It may be that what is written here will do it.  He knows my name and he has talked to me. If he knows about this book, he’ll read it. If he does the warning about his eventual mistake won’t stop him because he believes himself the superman incapable of making a mistake.”

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