January 12, 1925
San Francisco, California
16-year-old Dorothy Ellingson shoots her mother Anna to death following an argument
Anna confronted Dorothy regarding her delinquent behavior, including her habitual patronage of speakeasies — illegal bars established during the Prohibition of the United Stated. An argument broke out culminating with Dorothy shooting her mother and taking $45 (approx. $660 in today’s economy) before she casually fled the home. Anna’s body was later found by her son, Earl.
Dorothy was arrested within days of the murder, and the press latched onto her story immediately. She was dubbed “The Jazz Slayer” due to her love of the musical genre and the media’s apparent disdain for the rambunctious youth the music allegedly produced. Articles went so far as to place the burden of guilt of Anna’s murder on a “fit of ‘jazzmania.’”
The Buffalo Evening Times suggested their own theory in the matter. “The rising generation is a starved race — getting hungrier and hungrier. The more we taken [sic] the nourishment out of our food — the whiter we make our bread and flour — the more we may expect neurasthenia [an outdated term used to describe a mental condition including symptoms such as headache and fatigue, often associated with depression], perversion, murder, irritability and incorrigibility among our young.” The paper further blamed a “lack of phosphorous in her food” and a diet “consisting mainly of spineless, worthless carbon.”
Dorothy herself attempted to shift blame elsewhere though she eventually confessed. During an interview, Dorothy warned other girls to “obey your parents,” “never touch liquor,” and “avoid the automobile sheik [slang for an attractive man],” among other sage bits of wisdom. Additionally, she criticized the scandalous movies of the 1920s, stating, “Many of the movies being shown have bad effects on growing girls. If they were less suggestive and contained less hugging and kissing there would be fewer petting parties after the shows are out.” She ended her advice with her own cautionary tale: “None of these things have I done. And now I am here.”
Whether Anna’s murder was the result of kissing in movies, jazz music, white bread, or the poor impulse control of a rebellious teen, Dorothy was brought to stand trial. She demonstrated erratic behaviors in court and was temporarily taken to a mental health facility to evaluate any possible underlying mental illness. Once she was declared sane, Dorothy was returned to court to complete her trial. She was convicted of manslaughter and sentenced to the maximum term of 10 years imprisonment, though she was granted an early release after six and a half years. Dorothy died in 1967 at the age of 59.
“Mother Murder.” Captures and Exposed. June 14, 2017. Accessed: January 12, 2020. https://capturedandexposed.com/2017/06/14/mother-murder/amp/ (image source)
“Guilty of Slaying Dot Calls Verdict ‘What I Expected’.” Tampa Morning Tribune. August 24, 1925
“Efforts to End Ellingson Trial Come to Naught.” Albany Evening Herald and The Albany Democrat. March 28, 1925
“To Spend Little on ‘Jazz Baby’s’ Defense.” Buffalo Evening Times. January 20, 1925
“Marry Young, Is Advice of Girl Slayer.” The Anniston Star. January 17, 1925