Walter Bayley was a Los Angeles surgeon who lived one block south of the vacant lot where Elizabeth Short’s body had been dumped. He moved from this location when he left his wife in October 1946. During January 1947 Bayley’s estranged wife still lived with him. Bayley’s daughter, Barbara Lindgren, was a friend of Elizabeth Short’s sister, Virginia, and brother-in-law, Adrian West. Barbara had been the matron of honor at Virginia and Adrian’s wedding.
Bayley died in January 1948, and his autopsy showed that he had been suffering from degenerative brain disease. Bayley’s widow claimed that Bayley’s mistress, Dr. Alexandra Partyka, had known a “terrible secret” about him, which was why he listed his mistress as his main beneficiary.
The LAPD never considered Bayley a suspect in the Black Dahlia case. However, many theorists believed he could be linked to Elizabeth Short’s murder due to the man’s medical expertise. Detective Harry Hansen told the 1949 Grand Jury that the killer had to be a “top medical man” and “a fine surgeon.” Bayley was sixty-seven years old at the time of Elizabeth Short’s death and had no known history of violence or criminal activity. He likely had not even known or met Elizabeth Short even though his daughter was a friend to Virginia Short.
Larry Harnisch, a copy editor and writer for The Los Angeles Times, started studying the Black Dahlia case in 1996. He eventually concluded that Bayley could have been Elizabeth Short’s killer. While some critics of this theory say that Bayley would have been too old and weak for the crime, the original investigators believed the body could have been cut in half for easier transport. Harnisch believed this would have made it possible for Bayley to transport and dispose of Elizabeth Short’s body. Harnisch also believed that Bayley’s neurological deterioration could have contributed to his violent ways against Elizabeth. He claimed the neurological condition was known to illicit violent behavior in otherwise calm individuals.
Harnisch contacted John E. Douglas, retired FBI profiler, to help devise his theory. Douglas advised two things to Harnisch. The first was that the public location dumping site had to have some significance, as the killer could have just as easily dumped the victim’s body privately. The vacant lot was only one block away from the property owned by Ruth Bayley, Walter Bayley’s estranged wife. The second was that the facial lacerations indicated that the killer had to have some sort of personal anger toward the victim. Elizabeth Short had a period of time where she would falsely tell others that she had a child who died from a tragic incident. Walter Bayley had a son who was struck by a car and killed when he was eleven. The son’s birthday was January 13, and Elizabeth Short’s body was discovered on January 15. Harnisch believed that Bayley could have been trying to compensate for his son’s death.
Some theories have suggested that the “terrible secret” Bayley’s mistress knew was that Bayley had been performing abortions on women, which was a crime in the 1940s. However, there is no evidence of this being true.
Other theorists believe Bayley’s mistress, Dr. Alexandra Partyka, could have been the one to kill Elizabeth Short. There is little evidence to support this theory other than her ties to Ruth and Walter Bayley.