Twenty-seven-year-old Leslie Dillon worked as a bellhop, was an aspiring writer, and had previously been a mortician’s assistant. In October 1948 Dillon wrote to LAPD psychiatrist Dr. J Paul De River about the Black Dahlia case. Dillon, writing from Florida, told De River that he had heard about Elizabeth Short’s case from a “true detective” magazine where De River spoke on the case. He wanted to hear De River’s theories on the case because he had an interest in sadism and sexual psychopaths and wanted to write a book on those subjects.
Dillon never confessed to the murder. He instead claimed Jeff Connors, a friend of his, was Elizabeth Short’s killer.
As De River and Dillon wrote back and forth from Florida to Los Angeles, De River started to believe that Connors was not a real man. He believed Dillon himself had murdered Elizabeth Short and had developed Connors as a figment of his imagination to cope with the gruesome act. In December 1948 Dillon agreed to meet with De River, and De River offered three potential locations: Phoenix, Los Angeles, and Las Vegas. Dillon expressed reservations about Los Angeles and chose to meet De River in Las Vegas instead. De River and undercover LAPD officer Sergeant John O’Mara met Dillon in Las Vegas. De River interrogated Dillon and O’Mara acted as his body guard. De River recorded his interviews with Dillon, and the following is a segment from one of his recordings.
De River: “What do you think the killer did with the hair he shaved off the private parts of the body of Elizabeth Short?”
Dillon: “I think the killer such as he was would probably have thrown the hair into a toilet and flushed it.”
De River: “What do you think a killer such as he was would do with the piece of flesh with the tattoo on it after he cut it off her thigh?”
Dillon: “Well, I think he would probably have thrown that down the toilet and flushed it.”
The following was from another recording.
De River: “You are the one who murdered Elizabeth Short.”
Dillon: “Dr. De River, the trouble with [this] is that you first reach your own conclusions about this case and then you try to dig up things to prove that your conclusions are correct.”
De River: “What do you think I am, a child? What do you mean by talking to me that way? I’m a person who has been around.”
The undercover officer also remembered Dillon talking about bleeding a body prior to embalming by making an incision on the “upper thigh” and “inserting a tube to drain the blood.” Dillon had this medical experience when he worked as a mortician’s assistant.
Dillon had hoped to return to California with De River and O’Mara to show them his friend Jeff Connors. When they arrived in San Francisco, they searched for Jeff Connors but had difficulty locating him. The LAPD confronted Dillon, trapping him with the purpose of getting a confession out of him. Dillon eventually offered the police intimate details about Elizabeth Short’s murder that the investigators had even struggled to explain. Dillon had been held against his will at a hotel near Los Angeles and had been denied his constitutional rights. An undercover officer handcuffed Dillon and officially took him into custody at the Highland Park station on January 10, 1949.
Detectives Finnis Brown and Harry Hansen questioned Dillon the evening of January 10. The following night, January 11, the LAPD received a call from San Francisco police saying that they had found Jeff Connors. His real name was Artie Lane. Lane had lived in Los Angeles at the time of Elizabeth Short’s murder and worked as a maintenance man at Columbia Studios, a favorite hangout place for Elizabeth. There has been speculation that Artie Lane and Leslie Dillon could have been the same man. The LAPD never confirmed this theory.
By the end of 1949, Finnis Brown was no longer interested in Dillon. The LAPD concluded that Dillon was most likely in San Francisco when the murder took place; however, they could not conclusively place him there. In fact, the police could not account for Dillon’s whereabouts between January 9 and January 15, 1947 – the days when Elizabeth Short had still been considered missing.
Dillon later filed a $100,000 claim against the City of Los Angeles for how he was treated in the case, yet the lawsuit was dropped when the LAPD discovered that he was wanted by the Santa Monica police for robbing a hotel while working as a bellhop there.
The scandal surrounding Dillon and De River’s involvement in the Black Dahlia investigation aided in triggering a 1949 Grand Jury investigation into the Elizabeth Short case and police cover-up and corruption in Los Angeles.