The Del Amo Files
In an effort to confirm the identity of Michael Anthony Otero, as well as his connection to the Del Amo Foundation, I arranged to obtain copies of documents contained in the inventory of the Del Amo Foundation Collection from the California State University, Dominguez Hills, Archives and Special Collections Department.
The file contains some 25 pages, centering primarily on Otero’s application for a grant in 1948-1949. His objective was to travel to Spain to study the late 18th century, which he believed to be a turning point in Spanish culture.
Once again, here’s what we know about Otero from the list of District Attorney Suspects:
“Michael Anthony Otero, lived at the time of the murder at 3940 Marathon Street, Normandy 2-3632, with Albert Rodriguez. Shortly after the murder, he left the United States and resides in Barcelona, Spain. Approximately, on September 1, 1950, he returned to New York and is now residing there at an address known only to his brother. He has admitted going out with victim Short, twelve times and at least on one occasion Ann Toth took victim to the Biltmore Hotel to meet this suspect whom she referred to as her Spanish teacher. His Spanish book was found in her effects. He was with victim on December 6, 1946, the day before she left for San Diego. He is the only known boy friend who was meeting her at the Biltmore Hotel where she was last seen alive. Albert Rodriguez still resides at 3940 Marathon, Los Angeles, and has not been questioned. See Robert Manley’s statement in which he states that two days before he left San Diego with victim to bring her up to Los Angeles, that the victim had specified in requesting him to take her that she would like him to take her to the Biltmore Hotel in Los Angeles.”
Larry Harnisch, a leading expert on the Black Dahlia case, had this to say about Otero in his blog:
Taking these items into consideration allows us to make some comparisons. Is this the Michael Anthony Otero who admitted going out with Elizabeth Short twelve times? .
Regarding his employment at Santa Monica High School, it turns out that this was actually “St. Monica’s High School” in Santa Monica. The time period given would be correct, 1946-1947. Otero was born in 1919, which would make him roughly 5 years older than Elizabeth Short and a suitable dating age.
This is from one of my previous posts. It shows Otero’s bachelor’s degree from UCLA in 1942, the same as indicated on the announcement.
The District Attorney statement indicates that Otero left the United States “shortly after the murder” and resided in Barcelona, Spain. Based on information contained in the Del Amo files, Otero remained in Los Angeles for 2 years following the murder. The terminology “shortly after the murder” appears to be a mischaracterization of sorts-but is not problematic. While in Spain, Otero traveled a lot and stayed in several places, one of which was Barcelona. This generally fits the profile of what we know about Otero.
The DA list also states Otero returned to New York on approximately September 1, 1950. According to the final letters in the Del Amo files, Otero was running low on funds and had planned to return to Los Angeles in July of 1950. This tends to concur with the DA’s timeline as well.
In summation, we have:
Michael A. Otero, who obtained a bachelor’s degree from UCLA in 1942 (with the confirmed middle name of “Anthony”, and an address on Marathon Street, in the University of California Register) , who left the country after the murder, stayed in Barcelona, returned on approximately September 1, 1950, and was an instructor at a High School in Santa Monica from 1946 to 1947.
In my opinion, this is sufficient to make an identification, with a high degree of certainty, that this is, in fact, the Michael Anthony Otero associated with the Black Dahlia case.
So how does all this relate to the Investigation of the Communist Infiltration in Hollywood? In March of 1949, literally one month after Otero arrives in Spain, University of California Board of Regents began their crusade to adopt loyalty oaths, which required UC employees to sign statements declaring that they were not members of the communist party.
As it turns out, several of the Professors named in Otero’s file (Caughey, Zeitlin, Barja, Westergaard,) were on record as opposing the measure. John Caughey was fired for his failure to sign the oath. In retrospect, it seems entirely possible that Otero may have been planted as a mole in the Foreign Language Department of the University. His presence there and the timing of his departure are an indication that Otero may have been involved in anti-communist activities.
Otero had some magnificent timing. He just so happens to be out of the country at the onset of both the Grand Jury investigation into the Dahlia case and the Loyalty Oath Controversy.
The Del Amo Foundation eventually became disenchanted with the student exchange program and blamed another individual named in the Otero file, Dr. Cesar Barja, for this.
The file indicates that, shortly after his arrival in Spain, Otero took up employment with the Intstituto de Cultura Hispanica. The Institute was founded by Alfredo Sanchez Bella, a Spanish politician, who held government posts under Franco, was a member of Opus Dei, and eventually became the head of European operations for Spain’s Secret Service. A letter to Otero from Eugenio Cabrero, Secretary of the Del Amo Foundation, seems to indicate that this position may have been prearranged.
Otero also visits Jaime Del Amo while in Suances, so not only is his connection to the Del Amo Foundation confirmed, but the files reveal the personal relationships that existed between himself, Eugenio Cabrero, and Jaime Del Amo.
Michael Anthony Otero appears to have gotten a pass from law enforcement officials, even though he remained in Los Angeles for 2 years after the murder. He received no publicity and no further mention. All we know about Otero is contained in a vague description and statement from the District Attorney investigation. Otero seemed beyond reproach. Red Manley got the third degree, crackpots got headlines, but Otero walks between the raindrops – and this is a man who was known to have dated Elizabeth Short twelve times, and was meeting her down at the Biltmore! Think about that.
How did Elizabeth Short come to know Michael Anthony Otero? What was the true nature of their relationship? The Del Amo files not only allow us to identify Otero by comparison with previously known facts, but they go a long way towards establishing a connection between Elizabeth Short and ultra-right wing Spanish groups.
Equally as interesting is the fact that, by her association with Otero, Elizabeth Short moves into the realm of academics and intellectuals, where you were more likely to find communists and progressive-minded people. For instance, one of Otero’s Professors, John Caughey, who wrote a letter of recommendation for him to the Del Amo Foundation, was a friend of Carey McWilliams and Jake Zeitlin, whose bookstore was a favorite gathering place for artists and writers.
From there, it’s a short walk to Schindler.