Fritzie Mann’s mysterious death was reported on the front page of The San Diego Union on Jan. 17, 1923.
Sensational details would follow. Mann’s body had been clad only in “silk undergarments.” The coroner said she had suffered a severe blow to the head before drowning. The autopsy also revealed she was pregnant — the newspaper only referred to it as a “delicate condition.” Letters disclosed she had been preparing to undergo an “illegal operation.”
Frieda Mann, a 20-year-old dancer who used “Fritzie” as her professional name, had left her San Diego home on Sunday afternoon, Jan. 14, 1923, carrying a small suitcase. Around 5:15 p.m. she telephoned her mother and brother to say that the house party she was going to would be held at La Jolla and not at Del Mar as previously planned. That was the last time her family heard from her.
At 6:30 that night, a girl identified as Fritzie Mann, in company with a man, checked into the Blue Sea cottage at La Jolla, signing the registry as, “Alvin Johnston and Wife, L.A.”
On Monday afternoon, Mann’s body was found on Torrey Pines beach by children playing in the sand.
A Los Angeles movie director and a young Army doctor were accused of murder. Neither was ultimately convicted.
From The San Diego Union, Wednesday Jan. 17, 1923:
Beautiful Dancer’s Death on Beach Puzzles Police
MEN FRIENDS OF GIRL ARE QUESTIONED
Blow Inflicted Over Right Eye, Police Say, Gives Some Credence to Theory Of Murder
TANGLED threads, pointing first to a motive for suicide in the case of beautiful Fritzie Mann, dancer, whose body was found on the beach near the Torrey Pines grade Monday, kept the police of San Diego at work yesterday. At times it seemed that these threads might lead to a motive for murder of the young girl, and the fact that she had been admired by a number of men and that some of them are supposed to have been friends of the girl led to the questioning of several who are said to have known her.
One of these threads led the police to make inquires in the vicinity of Los Angeles, where Miss Mann had been recently. The local police and the coroner kept silent regarding these clues last night.
WORK APPLAUDED HERE
The young dancer, whose work has been applauded by crowds in San Diego and at other places, left San Diego about two months ago, saying that she was going to fill a dancing engagement in the north. Some conflicting reports concerning this engagement reached the police yesterday. One was that she went to Los Angeles, or some nearby town. Another was that she had signed a contract to dance at a theatre in San Francisco. At any rate, she returned home about 10 days ago and remained with her parents at 2923 Spruce street until Sunday. She is said to have told her mother on Sunday that she was going to a house party that evening. Her mother walked out with her Sunday afternoon to a street car, and that, as far as the police know, is the last time any member of her family saw her alive. Where the house party was to be she apparently did not say, nor have the police learned that she went to any.
While in the north Miss Mann is said to have lived with a friend, Miss Bernice Edwards, at 506 Loma avenue, Long Beach, through whom she became acquainted with several young men. One of these is said to have come to San Diego to see her on Saturday, but the police have not been able to verify this report.
Although the cause of Miss Mann’s death is give by Dr. John J. Shea, autopsy surgeon, as drowning, the fact that a severe blow had been inflicted over the right eye prior to her death by drowning led the city and county authorities to give credence to the murder theory. This and the unexplained fact how the slain girl, carrying a suitcase, got to the spot where her body was found, were points which puzzled the authorities.
When found the body was clad only in the underclothing, stockings and black satin high-heeled slippers. In that dress it would have been practically impossible for her to have walked to the spot from the nearest public conveyance.
The girl went from home with a suitcase. That was picked up some 500 yards from the spot where her body was found. In it were her kimono, a dress and some other personal effects. The fact that she was found some distance from the suitcase and other belongings was one that puzzled the police yesterday. They also were unable to throw light on the manner in which she went to the beach. Evidently she was taken there in an automobile, but whose automobile it was and where the owner now is, formed another problem for the police, they said.
An autopsy performed yesterday showed, the coroner said, that she was in a delicate condition. The police were busy yesterday and last night in an effort to question men who ad been friendly with her in recent months.
The dancer, whose real name was Frieda, but who used the professional name of Fritzie, was a great favorite at social gatherings where she danced her interpretative dances, mostly of an Oriental character. She specialized in those of a Chinese or Hindoo type, but also did Russian, Spanish, Grecian and other dances of esthetic character.
Miss Mann was 20 years old, having been born in Austria, of Polish-Hungarian parents. She came to this country about 10 years ago, first going to Denver. She remained in that city until about two years ago, when she came to San Diego with letters of recommendation to prominent persons here. Her dancing soon attracted attention, and she was much in demand. Her last public engagement here was at the Barn, near Grossmont. Miss Mann received her early instruction in dancing under Domina Marina, premiere danseuse of Pavlowa’s ballet.