The brutal murder of Elizabeth Short (AKA "The Black Dahlia") has captivated true crime buffs since 1947. That year, Short's body was found severely mutilated in a vacant lot in South Los Angeles. No one has ever been formally brought to justice for her death. The specific way she perished, however, suggests her assailant must have been someone with medical knowledge.
Enter Dr. George Hodel. Decades after the incident, Steve Hodel (George's son and a former LAPD detective) found what he believes is evidence that his father slayed Short - as well as several others. As the Black Dahlia case continues to grip the collective consciousness, the Hodel family secrets - in all their sordid detail - have been revealed on the popular podcast Root of Evil: The True Story of the Hodel Family and the Black Dahlia, and the limited TV series I Am the Night, both of which were created with the blessing and assistance of the Hodel family. Here are some of the reasons Steve Hodel and his family believe George was the Dahlia's killer.
George Hodel Probably Knew How To Perform A Hemicorporectomy
Short's body was found cut in half at her ribs. She was drained of all blood, which led investigators to believe that her assailant had a background in medicine. Hodel would have known how to do this, according to Steve, because of a specific technique that was taught during the time his father was studying medicine:
The killer had performed a hemicorporectomy on her. It's a unique procedure that was taught at medical school in the 1930s, when he was there, where you cut between the second and third lumbar vertebrae. It's the only way you can divide a body without cutting through bone.
A Photo Of Elizabeth Short Was Found In George Hodel's Things After He Passed
After the elder Hodel passed in 1999, Steve found photos of two women who looked like Short among his father's belongings. The first woman was found to be a friend of the family; the identity of the second woman, however, was not known. Steve, believing it to be the Dahlia, sent it to a facial recognition specialist who said there a 90 to 95% probability that the unidentified woman was indeed Short. The photos led Steve down a rabbit hole filled with evidence that led him to believe his father is responsible for Short's murder - and that of various other women in the LA area.
Elizabeth Short's Murder Has A Connection To The Surrealist Man Ray, Whom George Hodel Idolized
George Hodel was an art fanatic with an extensive collection, and he was close friends with famed surrealist Man Ray. Steve believes the positioning and mutilation of the Dahila's corpse was a twisted homage to Ray's depictions of women, most notably in the works Minotaur and Observatory Time: The Lovers.
"This is dad's surrealistic masterpiece," Steve said. "His scalpel being his paintbrush and her body being the canvas."
George Hodel Was Allegedly Abusive Toward His Only Daughter, Tamar
Steve's half-sister, Tamar, claimed to have been sexually abused by her dad since childhood. She allegedly participated in his orgies starting at 11 years old. Tamar ran away at 14, and when police found her, she told them of George's abuse. The case was brought to trial. Despite two eyewitnesses claiming to have seen the assault, the charges were dropped, possibly due to George's smear campaign against his daughter's reputation. Tamar was placed in juvenile hall.