Janice Knowlton was ten years old and living in Westminster when Elizabeth Short’s naked, beaten body was found in southwest Los Angeles on January 15, 1947. In her book, Daddy Was The Black Dahlia Killer, published in 1995, Janice came out to say that she was convinced that her long-dead father, George Knowlton, had killed Elizabeth Short.
Janice said that she had witnessed her father beat Elizabeth to death with a claw hammer in their garage in Westminster. She also said that her father had been having an affair with Elizabeth Short and that Elizabeth had used the garage as her bedroom. Apparently her father forced her to join him when he disposed of the body.
Janice claimed to recall her childhood traumatic experiences after her mother and stepmother died in the late 1980s. She said that she remembered her father molesting her. She remembered seeing her father with a dismembered infant and burying a woman in their basement. According to Janice, he threatened to throw her into the furnace and kill her mother if she ever told anyone what she witnessed. While going to therapy, Janice allegedly began seeing mental images of Elizabeth Short.
Janice alleged that she had often accompanied her father to Elizabeth Short’s apartment. She supposedly became close with Elizabeth and referred to her as “Aunt Betty.” George Knowlton had allegedly used his daughter as a “cover” when he disposed of Elizabeth Short’s body. Janice said that George first tried to dump Elizabeth’s body into the ocean by the Seal Beach pier, but he later disposed of her body in Los Angeles when it would not sink into the water.
In her book, Janice stated that she turned up circumstantial evidence, including the LAPD’s initial search for a suspect named George who drew a tan car. According to Janice, George Knowlton had driven a tan LaSalle. Janice also stated that Ted Driscoll, who claimed to have dated one of Elizabeth Short’s roommates, remembered meeting a man named “Georgie” at Elizabeth Short’s apartment.
“The physical description he gave to several of his neighbors before he passed on fits George Knowlton to a T, right down to the fact of the compulsive deer hunting, the work in a foundry, and having come from a New England town near where Short was born,” Janice’s co-author, Michael Newton, told The Los Angeles Times in 1993. “To have another George who fit that description to me would be almost coincidental beyond the realm of possibility.”
In 1991, Janice convinced the Westminster police detectives to search for evidence of the murder by excavating a vacant lot where her home had stood years before. However, the police found no significant evidence of the crime.
Janice Knowlton died at the age of sixty-seven on March 5, 2004 in her home. The Orange County coroner’s office classified her death as a suicide from the combined effect of five drugs. Her stepsister, Jolane Emerson, told The Times in late 2004 that she did not believe Janice meant to kill herself. Janice had been taking various prescribed medications, and Jolane believed she had accidentally overdosed.
Jolane told The Los Angeles Times that Janice’s alleged memories had put a strain on their family. “Her book was trash, and it wasn’t even true,” Jolane stated. “She believed it, but it wasn’t reality. I know because I lived with her father for sixteen years.”