Letters 10-24-2016

It’s Obama’s 1984 Several editions ago I concluded a short letter to the editor with an ominous rhetorical flourish: “Welcome to George Orwell’s 1984 and the grand opening of the Federal Department of Truth!” At the time I am sure most of the readers laughed off my comments as right-wing hyperbole. Shame on you for doubting me...

Gun Bans Don’t Work It is said that mass violence only happens in the USA. A lone gunman in a rubber boat, drifted ashore at a popular resort in Tunisia and randomly shot and killed 38 mostly British and Irish tourists. Tunisian gun laws, which are among the most restrictive in the world, didn’t stop this mass slaughter. And in January 2015, two armed men killed 11 and wounded 11 others in an attack on the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo. French gun laws didn’t stop these assassins...

Scripps’ Good Deed No good deed shall go unpunished! When Dan Scripps was the 101st District State Representative, he introduced legislation to prevent corporations from contaminating (e.g. fracking) or depleting (e.g. Nestle) Michigan’s water table for corporate profit. There are no property lines in the water table, and many of us depend on private wells for abundant, safe, clean water. In the subsequent election, Dan’s opponents ran a negative campaign almost solely on the misrepresentation that Dan’s good deed was a government takeover of your private water well...

Political Definitions As the time to vote draws near it’s a good time to check into what you stand for. According to Dictionary.com the meanings for liberal and conservative are as follows:

Liberal: Favorable to progress or reform as in political or religious affairs.

Conservative: Disposed to preserve existing conditions, institutions, etc., or to restore traditions and limit change...

Voting Takes A Month? Hurricane Matthew hit the Florida coast Oct. 6, over three weeks before Election Day. Bob Ross (Oct. 17th issue) posits that perhaps evacuation orders from Governor Scott may have had political motivations to diminish turnout and seems to praise Hillary Clinton’s call for Gov. Scott to extend Florida’s voter registration deadline due to evacuations...

Clinton Foundation Facts Does the Clinton Foundation really spend a mere 10 percent (per Mike Pence) or 20 percent (per Reince Priebus) of its money on charity? Not true. Charity Watch gives it an A rating (the same as it gives the NRA Foundation) and says it spends 88 percent on charitable causes, and 12 percent on overhead. Here is the source of the misunderstanding: The Foundation does give only a small percentage of its money to charitable organizations, but it spends far more money directly running a number of programs...

America Needs Change Trump supports our constitution, will appoint judges that will keep our freedoms safe. He supports the partial-birth ban; Hillary voted against it. Regardless of how you feel about Trump, critical issues are at stake. Trump will increase national security, monitor refugee admissions, endorse our vital military forces while fighting ISIS. Vice-presidential candidate Mike Pence will be an intelligent asset for the country. Hillary wants open borders, increased government regulation, and more demilitarization at a time when we need strong military defenses...

My Process For No I will be voting “no” on Prop 3 because I am supportive of the process that is in place to review and approve developments. I was on the Traverse City Planning Commission in the 1990s and gained an appreciation for all of the work that goes into a review. The staff reviews the project and makes a recommendation. The developer then makes a presentation, and fellow commissioners and the public can ask questions and make comments. By the end of the process, I knew how to vote for a project, up or down. This process then repeats itself at the City Commission...

Regarding Your Postcard If you received a “Vote No” postcard from StandUp TC, don’t believe their lies. Prop 3 is not illegal. It won’t cost city taxpayers thousands of dollars in legal bills or special elections. Prop 3 is about protecting our downtown -- not Munson, NMC or the Commons -- from a future of ugly skyscrapers that will diminish the very character of our downtown...

Vote Yes It has been suggested that a recall or re-election of current city staff and Traverse City Commission would work better than Prop 3. I disagree. A recall campaign is the most divisive, costly type of election possible. Prop 3, when passed, will allow all city residents an opportunity to vote on any proposed development over 60 feet tall at no cost to the taxpayer...

Yes Vote Explained A “yes” vote on Prop 3 will give Traverse City the right to vote on developments over 60 feet high. It doesn’t require votes on every future building, as incorrectly stated by a previous letter writer. If referendums are held during general elections, taxpayers pay nothing...

Beware Trump When the country you love have have served for 33 years is threatened, you have an obligation and a duty to speak out. Now is the time for all Americans to speak out against a possible Donald Trump presidency. During the past year Trump has been exposed as a pathological liar, a demagogue and a person who is totally unfit to assume the presidency of our already great country...

Picture Worth 1,000 Words Nobody disagrees with the need for affordable housing or that a certain level of density is dollar smart for TC. The issue is the proposed solution. If you haven’t already seen the architect’s rendition for the site, please Google “Pine Street Development Traverse City”...

Living Wage, Not Tall Buildings Our community deserves better than the StandUp TC “vote no” arguments. They are not truthful. Their yard signs say: “More Housing. Less Red Tape. Vote like you want your kids to live here.” The truth: More housing, but for whom? At what price..

Home · Articles · News · Books · Who Killed the Black Dahlia?
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Who Killed the Black Dahlia?

Robert Downes - December 15th, 2005
The gruesome torture slaying of Elizabeth Short, infamous as the “Black Dahlia,” is one of the most spectacular unsolved mysteries in the history of crime in America.
A beautiful, poverty-stricken 22-year-old who aspired to become a movie star, Elizabeth Short wore her hair in black curls and dressed in chic, stylish black.  Friends in the sleazy L.A. underculture she frequented during the 1940s called her the Black Dahlia after a popular movie of the time, “Blue Dahlia.”
It’s a name that has resounded for decades in American criminology since   January 15, 1947, when the Black Dahlia’s tortured body was found posed in a trash-strewn field in Los Angeles, a “Joker” style grin carved in her face from ear to ear, half her blood drained from her body and her torso literally cut in half with surgical precision.  Other things were done to Short which are too gruesome to describe here -- sexual things of a necrophiliac nature -- she was literally strung up with wire and abused in extremely bizarre ways before being bisected.
The death of the Black Dahlia was followed by six similar murders along with a series of taunting notes to the police and local newspapers.
The killing was so sadistic and cruel that it sent shock waves resonating through popular culture: it influenced the hard-core, tough-talking detective fiction of Raymond Chandler, Jim Thompson, Dashiell Hammett and Mickey Spillane in the 1950s.  It upped the ante on Hollywood’s film noir movement, which painted the human heart a shade darker for shocked filmgoers.  It sparked a lurid genre of L.A. fiction and films such as “Chinatown, “ “L.A. Confidential,” and an upcoming film on the Black Dahlia herself by crime novelist James Ellroy which will star Hilary Swank as the ill-fated femme fatale.
Who killed the Black Dahlia? Traverse City attorney William Rasmussen thinks he knows the answer to a crime that has plagued armchair detectives and real ones too for the past 58 years.

Rasmussen has published a new book, “Corroborating Evidence: The Black Dahlia Murder” (Sunstone Press, $22.95) which traces the eerie links between Short’s murder and many others ranging from Ohio and Pennsylvania to Chicago and Los Angeles.
A Traverse City attorney who specializes in real estate law and some criminal cases, Rasmussen, 57, began working on his book in 2002 while tracking down information on another investigation into the Zodiac Killer of the San Francisco area.  His new book has been called a “detective masterpiece” by a British organization called the New Criminologist and it’s piqued the interest of detectives in the Los Angeles area where the Black Dahlia’s murder is still an open case.
   “This is an ongoing murder investigation, but I think the only way it will ever be solved is by people like me who keep investigating it because the police don’t have the time,” Rasmussen notes.  
“I’ve always been interested in historical cases and unsolved crimes have always fascinated me,” he adds.  “I always wonder, why couldn’t they solve them?”
In that regard, Rasmussen has pursued the Black Dahlia case with the diligence of a detective, tying threads together from across the country to link similar killings and suspects.
“It had to have been someone with the same skills, which were close to surgical precision, and someone who disposed of the bodies in the same way and sent the same taunting letters to the police,” he says.  

Ironically, Elizabeth Short also had a fascination with unsolved murders and it’s possible that she got too close to the suspect or suspects for her own good.
“She was cut ear-to-ear the same way that low-level crooks were cut who talked too much,” Rasmussen says.  “I think that’s what happened to Elizabeth Short.  She knew who killed (other victims) Georgette Bauerdorf and Suzanne Degnan and these guys caught her because she was talking too much to the press.”
Who was Short talking about? Possibly Jack Anderson Wilson, a sexual deviant, all-around criminal and trained butcher from Canton, Ohio, who shows up again and again at the scene of horrific serial killings, including Los Angeles in 1946-’47.
To follow Wilson as a suspect, you have to go back to the turmoil of the Great Depression in the mid-1930s and a series of killings called the Cleveland Torso Murders.

At the time, Rasmussen notes, millions of Americans had been thrown into poverty.  Countless men became hobos and rode the rails in search of work.  “Some of these hobos, along with other unfortunates that fit a similar profile, became targets of one of the most horrific killers in the history of the United States,” Rasmussen writes.
“From September, 1934, to August, 1938, a total of 13 torso murders were committed in Cleveland, Ohio, by a psychopathic killer who became known to some as ‘The Mad Butcher of Kingsbury Run,’” Rasmussen adds.    
People were tortured and literally cut into sections -- arms, legs, head, torso -- with the body parts stuffed and tossed into sewers, lakes and other hiding places.  Drained of blood and expertly cut around the joints, police at the time theorized that only a surgeon or skilled butcher could have performed the dismemberments.  Rope burns on one victim’s wrists indicated that he may have been conscious while being decapitated.
Similar killings occurred in Pennsylvania, then Chicago and Los Angeles.  “On December 23, 1938, someone in Los Angeles mailed a letter to Cleveland’s Chief of Police claiming, among other things, to be the Butcher.”
Coincidentally, the Ohio killings stopped in ‘38, but resumed elsewhere, including Los Angeles.

Rasmussen believes that the Butcher, or Cleveland Torso Murderer, was Jack Anderson Wilson, who shows up repeatedly at similar murder sites across the country.  Constantly in and out of jail, Wilson’s cell companions linked him to various murders through the years, such as the killing of a prostitute named Flo Polillo, whose face was slashed in the same manner as the Black Dahlia, or to a headless “Tattooed Man” in Cleveland.
According to Rasmussen’s book, police dismissed the connection between the Black Dahlia murder and the Cleveland Torso killings because certain “signature” aspects of the killings differed.  But through a process of comparitive research, Rasmussen has been able to show that Wilson was closely connected to the Torso killings in terms of time, place, witness accounts and inclination.
Described as a “sodomist” by police, Wilson was arrested numerous times for robbery, grand theft and lewd behavior.  Everywhere he went, bad things seemed to follow in his wake.
On January 6, 1946, for instance, a six-year-old named Suzanne Degnan was “kidnapped from her first floor bedroom of her parents’ apartment on North Kenmore Avenue in Chicago, strangled to death, dismembered, and herr body parts discarded in a Chicago storm sewer system.”
Police arrested a 17-year-old burglar named William Heirens who was beaten and tortured in a Chicago jail for more than a month before signing a confession to Suzanne’s killing.
But Rasmussen, among others, believes that Heirens was framed and the real killer was Jack Anderson Wilson, who was on the drift at the time.  Heirens is still in prison for the crime and Rasmussen has interviewed him for his book.

Significantly, a number of witnesses claimed that Elizabeth Short was also in Chicago after the child’s murder, posing as a reporter and inquiring into the crime.  One reporter who met the Black Dahlia in Chicago said she was “obsessed  with murder cases.”
“Less than six months later she gets killed expertly and her body is severed in half in Los Angeles,” Rasmussen says.  She was also an acquaintance of Georgette Bauerdorf, a beautiful young L.A. socialite who was killed shortly before the Black Dahlia.
Did the Black Dahlia follow Wilson to Los Angeles?  Did she know him and his possible accomplice?  She was reportedly a party girl who hung out with a rough crowd; a woman with congenital sexual problems that led her into kinky situations; a woman so poverty stricken that she had to pack the untreated cavities of her mouth with wax because she couldn’t afford a visit to the dentist.
By 1982, Wilson had gelled as a suspect in the case.  Unfortunately, he died in a hotel fire in Los Angeles before a detective could interview him on the case.
We’ll be hearing more about the Black Dahlia in the year ahead when the film directed by Brian DePalma comes out in 2006.  In the meantime, Rasmussen’s book, “Corroborating Evidence,” offers an intriguing rundown on the similarities between her death and the Cleveland Torso Murders, not to mention the grisly details and crime scene photos.
Rasmussen did much of his research through the newspaper accounts of the times which were packed with information planted by police reporters in search of clues.  He also scoured university libraries in Ohio, where a remarkable series of coincidences gradually took shape.  
What does Rasmussen hope to accomplish with his findings in a case that’s attracted scores of researchers through the decades?
“I’m really interested in getting the police to pay attention to what I’ve learned so they’ll pay attention to the first book I started writing on the Zodiac Killer,” he says.  He adds that the book he set out to write initially is about the Zodiac serial killer who claimed to have killed 37 people in and around San Francisco in the late ‘60s.  While researching that book, he stumbled on the path of the Black Dahlia killer.
“I hope to get enough evidence to get the police interested in taking a look,” he adds.  “In the Black Dahlia case, people think it can’t be the same person involved in these different cases, but there are so many similarities that deserve a look.”

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