Episode 2: Gateway Murders
Updated: Nov 1, 2018
In Episode 2, Brittany and Tyler introduce the cases that first drew them into the world of true crime: Patrick Sherrill and The Black Dahlila. See wine and episode notes below.
Limited edition, only released this summer
Red wine blend infused with cold brew coffee
Notes of red fruit, toasted oak, and coffee
Definitely not on the cheap side at $13 (at least for us)
Sounds like a great red wine for the summer
Tyler's Patrick Sherrill Notes:
Was first introduced to this murderer since its the town I grew up in. Specifically remember seeing statue in front of the post office downtown and asking mom “what is that and what is it for?"
Sherrill was a former marine and and expert sharpshooter. He was a postal worker in Edmond Oklahoma, our hometown, back in the late 80s. He was a fairly normal guy who mostly kept to himself. On August 19th, 1986 two supervisors reprimanded him, Sherrill told a local steward for the American Postal Workers Union that he was being mistreated. "I gotta get out of here," he said. He was definitely an average guy at the office if a little bit on the weirder side, but nothing really sticking out. Mostly people either ignored him or hassled him at work.
In person, he was honestly a pretty weird guy. He would speak at length about Vietnam and even wrote on his resume that he served there but had never actually been startioned outside of the US while in the marines. He would think that kids laughing around the neighborhood would always be laughing at him and was known by neighbors as “Crazy Pat.” He was in a lot of ways a loner. He wasn’t the kind of guy to go out to happy hour or hang out with his coworkers.
Little bit of background on his work, he was a postal worker who didn’t have an assigned route, so not a ton of job stability or security. Reports differ on whether he was really shit at his job and needed to be reprimanded, or was actually really good and his supervisors were thinking that reprimanding him would motivate him to be even better and push more mail out. Who knows. Either way, two bosses chewed him the fuck out on the 19th and he was put in a position where not only was he angry and feeling targeted, but he thought he was about to lose his job.
After being reprimanded, he reportedly asked a coworker who was nice to him if she would be at work the next day. Of course she said yes like she was everyday and he told her that it might be best if she stayed home the next day. Lil' bit of foreshadowing for you.
The next day, August 20, 1986, shortly after 7AM, Sherrill walked into the post office where about 100 other people worked and sought out his two supervisors who had chewed him out the day before. He found one of them, Richard Esser, whom he immediately shot with one of the pistols he brought to work. Esser had been talking with Mike Rockne at the time who was also killed. The other supervisor had actually overslept that day and arrived an hour late to work at 8AM. By then, the shooting was over.
After killing Esser and Rockne, Sherrill proceeded to go around the office and lock the doors to the outside. At this point many of those in the building had begun to realize what was going on and started to flee for their lives as Sherrill continued his rampage through the building. Jerry Pyle made it out to the parking lot before being gunned down. Sherrill walked back towards a corner of desks where Patty Husband, Betty Jarred, and Thomas Shader were hiding. Moments before Husband had yelled to coworkers to get down. Sherrill then killed the trio.
He then strode to another area of the office where Patty Chambers, Judy Denny (who had only very recently moved to Edmond and started the job), Patricia Gabbard, newly wed Patti Welch, and Joanna Hamilton were all hiding. They would all be killed.
Walking through the building he ran into Ken Morey, just a few weeks shy of his birthday, and shot him.
Sherrill then made his way towards the break room where on his way he gunned down 30 year old William Miller. As he entered the break room he encountered and killed Leroy Phillips, his 14th and final murder of the day.
While the chaos was happening inside, Edmond police officers and SWAT team members were outside the building. They tried for over an hour to talk to Sherrill via bullhorn and telephone, but he never responded. After not hearing from him, SWAT members rushed into the building and found him dead by a gunshot wound to the forehead. In all 14 people were killed and 6 people (William Nimmo, Gene Bray, Michael Bigler, Steve Vick, Judy Walker, and Joyce Ingram) were taken to the hospital where they survived their injuries.
Brittany's Black Dahlia Notes:
On the morning of January 15, 1947, a mother, Betty Berlinger, taking her child for a walk in a Los Angeles neighborhood stumbled upon a gruesome sight: the body of a young naked woman sliced clean in half at the waist. The body was just a few feet from the sidewalk and posed in such a way that the mother reportedly thought it was a mannequin at first glance.
Took the police and FBI only 56 minutes to identify the body. The young woman turned out to be a 22-year-old Hollywood hopeful named Elizabeth Short—later dubbed the “Black Dahlia”
It was common practice for newspapers to give interesting names to female murder victims and their killers during the 1940s. Elizabeth Short was no exception. The Los Angeles Times reported that customers at a drug store in Long Beach dubbed Elizabeth Short the “Black Dahlia” as a joke in reference to the film noir murder mystery, The Blue Dahlia, which was released nine months prior to her murder. Elizabeth Short had frequented the drug store when she first lived in Long Beach, and the customers remembered Elizabeth for her black hair, black garments, and fair complexion.
Before “Black Dahlia” caught on, Elizabeth Short’s killing was dubbed the “Werewolf Murder.” However, a reporter found out about the nickname “Black Dahlia.” The newspapers adopted the nickname shortly after, and the case of the “Black Dahlia” was born. Even after “Black Dahlia” became more prominent, some sources still referred to her killer as the “Werewolf.”
Five siblings, mom was left to rise them all – she was born in Massachusetts. Moved to California to be a star, and she wanted to fall in love – don’t we all?
In Los Angeles, Elizabeth met a pilot named Lieutenant Gordon Fickling and fell in love. He was the type of man she had been searching for and quickly made plans to marry him. However, her plans were halted when Fickling was shipped out to Europe.
Elizabeth took a few modeling jobs but still felt discouraged with her career. She went back east to spend the holidays in Medford before living with relatives in Miami. She began dating servicemen, marriage still on her mind, and again fell in love with a pilot, this time named Major Matt Gordon. He promised to marry her after he was sent to India. However, Gordon was killed in action, leaving Elizabeth heartbroken once again. Elizabeth had a period of mourning where she told others that Matt had actually been her husband and that their baby had died in childbirth. Once she began to recover, she attempted to return to her old life by contacting her Hollywood friends.
One of those friends was Gordon Fickling, her former boyfriend. Seeing him as a possible replacement for Matt Gordon, she began to write to him and met with him in Chicago when he was in town for a few days. She was soon falling head-over-heels for him again. Elizabeth agreed to join him in Long Beach before she moved back to California to continue pursuing her dream of being in the movies.
While Elizabeth was in San Diego, she befriended a young woman named Dorothy French. Dorothy was a counter girl at the Aztec Theater and had found Elizabeth sleeping in one of the seats after an evening show. Elizabeth told Dorothy that she left Hollywood because finding a job as an actress was difficult with the actor’s strikes that were going on at the time. Dorothy felt sorry for her and offered her a place to stay at her mother’s home for a few days. In reality, Elizabeth ended up sleeping there for over a month.
Her Final Days
Elizabeth did little housework for the French family and continued her late-night partying and dating habits. One of the men she became enamored with was Robert “Red” Manley, a salesman from Los Angeles who had a pregnant wife at home. Manley admitted that he was attracted to Elizabeth yet claimed that he never slept with her. The two of them saw each other on-and-off for a few weeks, and Elizabeth asked him for a ride back to Hollywood. Manley agreed and picked her up from the French household on January 8, 1947. He paid for her hotel room for that night and went to a party with her. When the two of them returned to the hotel, he slept on the bed, and Elizabeth slept in a chair.
Manley had an appointment in the morning of January 9 and returned to the hotel to pick Elizabeth up around noon. She told him that she was returning to Massachusetts but first needed to meet her married sister at the Biltmore Hotel in Hollywood. Manley drove her there yet did not stick around. He had an appointment at 6:30 P.M. and did not wait for Elizabeth’s sister to arrive. When Manley saw Elizabeth last, she was making phone calls in the hotel lobby.
Manley and the hotel employees were the last people to see Elizabeth Short alive. As far as the Los Angeles Police Department could tell, only Elizabeth’s killer saw her after January 9, 1947. She was missing for six days from the Biltmore Hotel before her body was found in a vacant lot on the morning of January 15, 1947.
The Crime Scene
Officers Frank Perkins and Will Fitzgerald arrived to the scene within minutes. When they noticed the naked body of a woman who had been cut in half, they were able to confirm Betty Bersinger’s story and immediately called for backup.
The Los Angeles Police Department noted that the woman’s body seemed to have been posed. The woman was lying on her back with her arms raised over shoulders, and her legs were spread in a twisted display of seductiveness. Investigators believed she had been tied down and tortured for several days due to the rope marks on her wrists, ankles, and neck.
Short's severely mutilated body was completely severed at the waist and drained entirely of blood, leaving its skin a pallid white. Medical examiners determined that she had been dead for around ten hours prior to the discovery, leaving her time of death either sometime during the evening of January 14, or the early morning hours of January 15. The body obviously had been washed by the killer.
Her face had been slashed from the corners of her mouth to her ears, creating an effect known as the "Glasgow smile". Like The Joker – tell Joker story, how he always changes it.
Short had several cuts on her thigh and breasts, where entire portions of flesh had been sliced away. The lower half of her body was positioned a foot away from the upper, and her intestines had been tucked neatly beneath her buttocks.
There was no blood present on the woman’s body, and there was none on the grass beneath her either. Investigators determined that she must have been killed elsewhere, cleaned of blood, and then dumped in the vacant lot overnight.
Part of the intrigue came from the unprecedented brutality of her murder. Before she was killed, Short had been forced to eat feces. Flesh and pubic hair had been shaved off her body and inserted into her vagina and rectum. Short’s uterus was removed.
They lifted her fingerprints and needed to safely send them to the FBI headquarters in Washington, D.C. However, severe winter storms at the time had the potential to delay the identification request for up to a week. That was far too much time to waste for a homicide investigation.
Identifying the Victim
Warden Woolard, assisting managing editor of The Herald-Express, was willing to assist the LAPD in their investigation. The newspaper had recently purchased new technology called a “Soundphoto” machine. Woolard believed he could use the “Soundphoto” equipment to send the woman’s fingerprints to the FBI. When Woolard spoke with LAPD Captain Jack Donahoe about his idea, it was promptly set into motion.
When the fingerprints were first transmitted to the FBI, they could not be read. Russ Lapp, a Herald-Express photographer, suggested that they reverse the lab process and use the prints as negatives before sending them to the FBI again. Lapp also blew the prints up to 8×10, which made them large enough for the FBI specialists to clearly read. With these readable prints, the FBI identified the victim as twenty-two year old Elizabeth Short. As far as they knew, she had last resided in Santa Barbara and had worked as a clerk at Camp Cooke.
Short’s prints actually appeared twice in the FBI’s massive collection (more than 100 million were on file at the time)—first, because she had applied for a job as a clerk at the commissary of the Army’s Camp Cooke in California in January 1943; second, because she had been arrested by the Santa Barbara police for underage drinking seven months later. The Bureau also had her “mug shot” in its files and provided it to the press.
Autopsy and Telling Family
The autopsy revealed multiple lacerations to the face and head. There was no sperm present on the body because the killer had washed the body clean. There were numerous cuts in a criss-cross pattern over her pubic area. Most of the damage done seemed to have been postmortem, including the severing of the victim’s body at her waist. The official cause of death was “hemorrhage and shock” due to “concussion of the brain and lacerations of the face.”
Wayne Sutton, a herald express writer was tasked with calling her mom, phoebe to tell her what happened. He had to get info first so he chatted her up and then told her the news.
Phoebe Short did not believe him. She could not fathom that her daughter was dead, let alone murdered. The LAPD had to contact local Medford cops and send them to the Short residence to tell Phoebe the story in person before she would accept the news.
Who Killed Elizabeth Short?
Due to the many mutilations on her body, investigators believed she knew her killer beforehand.
FBI criminal profiler and author John Douglas believed the killer must have known Elizabeth well and had some emotional attachment to her. The horrific violence inflicted upon the body and leaving the body on public display would indicate that the killer wanted the world to see Elizabeth Short and the wrongdoings that he believed she had done to him.
On January 23, 1947 The Examiner received a call from a man claiming to be Elizabeth Short’s killer. He told the editor, J. H. Richardson, that he was upset with the way the story was being told in the papers. He offered to mail Elizabeth Short’s belongings to the paper to prove his claim. The Examiner received a package and letter formulated from magazine clippings from an anonymous sender the following day. This package included Elizabeth Short’s birth certificate, business cards, photographs, and an address book with the name “Mark Hansen” on the cover. Mark Hansen, who had allowed Elizabeth Short to stay with him in the past, became a prime suspect in her murder.
Elizabeth Short’s handbag and shoe were found in a trash can the same day that The Examiner received this package. These items were found only a few miles away from the vacant lot where Elizabeth’s body had been dumped. The items were identified by Robert M. “Red” Manley before the LAPD no longer saw him as a suspect. This could have been a major mistake on the killer’s part. He likely did not assume the items would be linked to Elizabeth Short’s murder, yet they were. The location of the items revealed that the killer was most likely within walking distance of both the vacant lot and the area where the belongings had been dropped.
Letters poured in, many had false info.
Due to the way Elizabeth Short was cleanly cut in two, the LAPD was convinced that her murderer had some sort of medical training. According to an FBI letter on February 25, 1947:
“The manner in which ELIZABETH SHORT’s body was dissected has indicated the possibility that the murderer was a person somewhat experienced in medical work. The Los Angeles Police Department has undertaken to develop suspects among the medical and dental schools in the area, as well as among other students who have anything to do with human anatomy.”
Due to the complexity of the Black Dahlia case, the original investigators treated every person who knew Elizabeth Short as a suspect. By June 1947 police had processed and eliminated a list of seventy-five suspects. By December 1948 the detectives had considered 192 suspects in total.
About sixty people confessed to Elizabeth Short’s murder, but only twenty-two people were considered viable suspects by the Los Angeles District Attorney.
Steve Hodel, came out in 2016 staying that he felt he has sufficient evidence that his father. Dr George Hodel killed Elizabeth short. Steve is a former police department detective
This case remains unsolved and one of the most famous unsolved murders in American history.
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