Steve Hodel brought his message that his father was the Black Dahlia murderer to the South Pasadena Public Library recently. Photos by Steve Whitmore

It’s arguably the most famous, or infamous for that matter, unsolved murder in the history of Los Angeles and startling revelations were presented last week at the So Pas Public Library that finally could answer the question: Who did it? 

Dr. George Hill Hodel did it, or so says his son, Steve Hodel, a well-respected, retired Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) homicide detective.

It’s known as the Black Dahlia murder, where a young, beautiful 22-year-old woman named Elizabeth Short was killed, surgically bisected and then posed naked in an open lot about six miles south of Hollywood in 1947. 

Over the years, scores of people have confessed to the murder only to have them all officially discounted for one reason or another.

That is until a 24-year-veteran of the Los Angeles Police Department, 17 years as a homicide detective, now retired, was tipped by a family member that the killer could be his father, Dr. George Hill Hodel, a graduate of South Pasadena High School, class of 1923.

George Hodel then entered Caltech as a “boy genius” at age 15 after scoring a 186 on an IQ test, reportedly one point higher than Albert Einstein. Dr. Hodel became a physician and socialized with the likes of novelist Henry Miller, Surrealist artist Man Ray, and Beat poet Kenneth Rexroth.

Meanwhile, Steve Hodel, adult son of Dr. Hodel and New York Times bestselling true crime author, presented his latest findings at the So Pas Public Library last Thursday night in front of a packed house of attentive So Pas residents. Hodel was on hand also to introduce his latest book, “Black Dahlia Avenger III.”

Hodel has written five books on the subject and it all started after his father’s death in 1999 by way of a chance encounter with a half-sister.

“It came to me, I didn’t go to it,” Hodel said during a 20-minute interview just prior to the formal presentation. “I was happily retired, living in Bellingham, Washington. My father died and certain things came into my possession. A photograph that looked very much like her (Elizabeth Short) and probably is her in one photograph. There were two. And then I talked to my half-sister, Tamar, she was the victim of incest and there was a big trial with my dad as the suspect in L.A. He’d been arrested in ’49. She said, ‘you know he was a suspect in the Black Dahlia murder.’ I said, ‘what are you talking about, Tamar?’ Now, she was my half-sister and we hadn’t talked in 50 years, maybe for 20 minutes. I thought where is this coming from? So I started out to prove and show my dad had nothing to do with it. I just followed the evidence. The doors kept opening and here we are five books later and you know, it’s now way beyond any reasonable doubt. He did it.”

As convincing as his evidence is, which is endorsed by deputy district attorneys and current LAPD homicide investigators, not everyone shares his views. During Hodel’s presentation Thursday, a dissenter messaged The Review and it was from a longtime, well-respected crime reporter with one of the largest newspapers in the country. This dissenter said Dr. Hodel did not kill Elizabeth Short, that his argument is off, and his own homicide colleagues disagree with his findings.

This letter was new evidence in the Black Dahlia murder-mystery. Photo by Steve Whitmore

That was not the prevailing thought, however, Thursday night at the library. Most, if not all, thought Hodel’s research and evidence pointed to only one conclusion that his dad was the killer and possibly killed many others in a similar fashion, including the serial killer in San Francisco during the late 1960s and early 1970s known as the Zodiac Killer as well as many others.

The latest evidence presented at the library Thursday has to do with a hand-written letter penned by a police undercover informant, W. Glenn Martin.

Sandi Nichols, 62, of Indianapolis, Indiana, Martin’s granddaughter, found the letter, tucked in her mother’s belongings after her mother’s passing. Unfamiliar with the murder cases detailed in the letter, Nichols turned to the internet for answers and found Steve Hodel, according to a press release issued at the time of the release of Hodel’s latest book, “Black Dahlia Avenger III.”

Martin’s letter not only names “GH” as the Black Dahlia killer, but also identifies him as an acquaintance of and the likely suspect in a second Dahlia-related murder that occurred two years after Short’s death, according to the same press release. The victim was Louise Springer, who was kidnapped and strangled just two blocks from where Elizabeth Short’s body parts were found displayed on a vacant lot five miles south of Hollywood.

The 77-year-old Hodel acknowledged the Dahlia investigation has changed his feelings dramatically toward his father, but that he still loves him, at least, in part.

“I was very close with my dad,” he said before the formal presentation. “I’ve always loved my dad and still love him, parts of him anyway, even today. He was my dad.”

Steve Whitmore
Author

Steve Whitmore is the editor for the South Pasadena Review. Steve has spent more than four decades as an award-winning print and broadcast journalist with a 16-year stint as the senior media advisor for the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department. Steve comes to us from the Keene Sentinel in Keene, New Hampshire, where he covered politics and was a columnist.

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