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.
A Dog Sniffed Out Human Remains At Hodel's Former Residence
In 2013, a cadaver dog found markers for human decomposition in the alley behind the Sowden House, where George and his family lived at the time of the murders. Just a few months later, chemical analysis of the soil also confirmed what the dog had found.
While those findings can't narrow things down much further, and they don't point directly to the Dahlia (who was found several miles away), Steve believes they are directly linked to his father. During the time of Short's passing, there were nine different women murdered in similar fashion. Steve believes his father was responsible for those crimes, which have been dubbed the "Lone Woman Murders."
- Video: YouTube
Police Bugged George Hodel's House And Heard Suspicious Screams
The LAPD put George under surveillance at the Sowden House in 1950 and captured a few days of Hodel on audio. Most of it was not incriminating in any real way, but on one tape, police hear a woman scream twice. The next day, George is heard saying:
Realize there was nothing I could do, put a pillow over her head and cover her with a blanket. Get a taxi. Expired 12:59. They thought there was something fishy. Anyway, now they may have figured it out. Killed her.
At another point, he's heard saying:
Supposin' I did kill the Black Dahlia. They couldn't prove it now. They can't talk to my secretary anymore because she's dead.
Steve believes the authorities caught his father on tape committing a crime, but failed to intervene. George fled the country soon after, and the tape wasn't discovered until the early 2000s.