Sixty-two-years after they were written, documents preserved at UCLA’s Special Collections Department, literally establish a “paper trail” connecting Dr. George Hill Hodel to the Elizabeth Short “Black Dahlia” crime-scene at the vacant lot, 3815 S. Norton Ave.

Background:

On January 22, 1947, an Inquest Hearing into the death of Elizabeth Short was held at the downtown Hall of Justice. The purpose of the hearing was to formally establish a, “cause of death.” After hearing the testimony of sworn witnesses, as well as the Deputy Coroner, the jury found that the victim died from “blunt force trauma to the head and face caused by person or persons unknown.”  Elizabeth Short was brutally murdered.

One of the witnesses testifying that morning was Lt. Jesse Haskins, from LAPD’s University Division, one of the first officers to arrive at the crime-scene. He testified in general about the condition of the body and informed the jurors that the murder had been committed elsewhere and body parts after being placed on top of 50 lb empty paper sacks were then transported by car to the vacant lot. [Apparently the sacks were used to prevent spillage in the car and to then transfer the body parts from the car to the curbside.] These investigative findings as originally reported and testified to by Lt. Haskins have never been in doubt and have always remained a part of the factual record, as supported by the original crime scene photographs.

 

LAPD photo showing empty 50 lb. cement sacks used by suspect to transfer body parts from his car to curbside.  Portion of victim’s upper body seen posed at bottom of photo.

body cement sacks.jpg

                          Elizabeth Short crime scene January 15, 1947 

 

                      

blood on sack.jpg

                                   Crime scene enlargement showing blood on cement sack  

 

Frank Lloyd Wright Jr. – George Hodel Letters UCLA Special Collections Library

In October, 2008, some five-years after the publication of BDA, I learned that famed architect; Lloyd Wright had his personal papers on file at UCLA. Among these papers were correspondences with my father covering the years- 1945 to 1947.

These remarkable documents establish the following:

1)  From 1945-1947 Lloyd Wright was engaged by George Hodel to oversee construction repairs and renovations at the Sowden/Franklin House. (Originally designed and built by Wright in 1926 for John Sowden, but purchased by Dr. Hodel in 1945.)  Most of the repair work was to be done during George Hodel’s temporary assignment as United Nations Chief Regional Medical Officer, Hankow, China. (Feb-Sept, 1946)

2) In an April,1946 letter from George Hodel to Lloyd Wright sent from China, father advises the architect that he, “has made inquiries into the possibility of your being brought to China for city planning work.” Father’s letter goes on to provide several names to Wright suggesting he contact them for further. [Due to its historic value, I have attached a copy of this letter as shown below.]

3) Included in these papers were receipts showing that cement work and repair was performed at the Hodel residence requiring ten (10) 50 lb bags of cement. The work was performed and completed on January 10, 1947. 

In my opinion, the significance of this document is one of the most important investigative findings to date! It circumstantially links Elizabeth Short’s murder to George Hodel and the Franklin House and from there directly to the crime-scene.  

According to LAPD and DA File reports, Elizabeth Short reportedly “disappeared” on January 9, 1947,  after meeting a man at LA’s downtown Biltmore Hotel. [5th & Olive, just three blocks from Dr. Hodel’s medical office]  Police surmise the victim was taken to an unknown private residence, held captive, tortured, then bisected by a man “with medical finesse”, who in their and the coroner’s  opinion, most likely was a skilled surgeon.  LAPD goes on to speculate her body parts were placed on top of several 50 lb. empty cement paper sacks at the murder location and then transported by car to the vacant lot where she and the cement sacks were found on the morning of January 15.

 

“J.A. Konrad to Dr. Hodel  Jan 9, 1947 Cement work completed at the above address. (5121 Franklin Ave.)”

cement bags final.jpg

 

In addition to the cement bag linkage I made a second interesting discovery related to the UCLA  Wright – Hodel Letters. Below is shown a scan of the envelope mailed to Lloyd Wright by George Hodel from China in April, 1946. The address is typed, however, George Hodel has hand printed the word “Registered” which I here identify as his handwriting.

Note his unusual letter “D” as compared to the letter “D” written in lipstick on the body of L.A. Lone Woman Murder victim, Jeanne French in 1947, just four-months after George Hodel’s return from China. The same identical characteristics are clearly visible in both. In the letter D we see the curved, overextended horizontal lines with the vertical line unconnected to either the top or bottom in both samples. These are the same characteristics that Questioned Document Expert Hannah McFarland used to positively identify George Hodel’s handwriting in other known samples –as well as in the Jeanne French, “Red Lipstick Murder.”

 

   George Hodel envelope mailed to Lloyd Wright from China in April, 1946

ghh letter D lloyd wright.jpg 

 

        George Hodel “referral letter” to Lloyd Wright mailed from China, May 1946


GHH ltr to Wright 1946.jpg 

 

                       Dr. George Hill Hodel’s  “Franklin House”  circa 1971

012463pr[1].jpg 
012470pr[1].jpg

    
 Sowden/ Dr. Hodel Franklin House  circa 1971 Library of Congress 18 photos

 

 For an independent analysis of the cement sack evidence prepared by author Mark Nelson [Exquisite Corpse: Surrealism and the Black Dahlia Murder, Bulfinch Press] see below link to his PDF.

 CEMENT SACK NELSON SUMMARY.pdf
 

 

 

 

28 Comments

  1. SSL on October 13, 2009 at 7:02 pm

    Lloyd Wright’s son, Eric Lloyd Wright did eventually do development consulting in China during the 1990’s with a company called CHI-AM

  2. Dean Grase on August 27, 2010 at 8:20 pm

    Hello Steve, the cement sack/Lloyd Wright connection is quite astounding. Equally astounding are the connotations of the Copley painting. I was thinking about the connection that L. Harnisch discovered between Virginia Short and Walter Bayley. I can no more dismiss it as coincidence than I can dismiss the eerie similarity between Man Ray’s Minotaure (sp?)and the posing of E. Short’s arms at the crime scene. My mind tells me that Harnisch’s discovery linking Bayley and E. Short (via Lindgren and V. Short) cannot be coincidence, and therefore must constitute an inset to the larger picture of G. Hodel as the murderer. My supposition is that there must be a connection between G. Hodel and W. Bayley. They must have known each other as members of the medical community. It would seem otherwise strange that the body was deposited in that location, where, Bersinger would actually first report the crime to Bayley’s (former by then?) residence. I think you should light a Harnisch candle rather than curse the Harnisch darkness, and find that connection. Just a thought (print). Keep up the excellent work, Dean Grase, N. Canton, OH

  3. Steve Hodel on August 28, 2010 at 9:24 am

    I mention in both BDA and my FAQs that I believe there was a reasonably good chance that GHH could have known Dr. Bayley as their offices were just six blocks apart. Further, since Bayley’s medical practice was in the same office building as Dr. Audrain’s (Head of the Abortion Ring) and indications (Dr. Partyka’s threats to expose him) were that Bayley was probably performing abortions. In Book II (Most Evil) I detail what and why I believe the actual reason for placing the body on Norton/Degnan Ave was, which had nothing to do with Dr. Bayley’s residence. See ME pgs 91-93.
    Here is a link to Dr. Audrain recent findings.
    http://207.56.179.67/steve_hodel/2010/08/post-1.html

  4. Donna W. on March 20, 2011 at 9:57 pm

    Hello Steve – You may remember me calling you at home a few years ago. This is Donna Weiger. I work at Princess Cruises. I am amazed at your continued work and the link with the 50 lb. cement bags. That is the smoking gun as far as I’m concerned. Awesome work! I’ve been curious if research has been conducted in the Franklin house with luminol? If not, would evidence be visible after all these years? Thank you.

  5. Steve Hodel on March 21, 2011 at 2:43 pm

    Hi Donna:
    Thanks for the support. Yes, the “cement bags” are huge and very important linkage, especially because LAPD in 1947 confirms they came from the actual murder location and were used to carry the body parts to the vacant lot. Not too many suspects walking around L.A. with 50lb cement bags in their back-pockets.
    The Sowden/Franklin House was completely retrofitted in 2002. Literally, everything including the kitchen sink torn out and all new materials installed. Even the basement was redone and cement floor added, so doubtful luminol would be of any help these many decades later.
    Best hope remains DNA on some of the other evidence, if LAPD will ever decide to look at it. If not we may get some from No.Calif cases? Keep the faith.
    Steve

  6. Trevor Brown on March 23, 2011 at 1:37 am

    The Last LOC image I looked at is somewhat Unsubstantial evidence, but Substantial in appearance, I am sure you have looked over “said” image, but I couldn’t help but ask, why the bottom right towel bar was completely broken in half? Also, there appears to be, a Dark Substance on the floor below the towel bar.
    Everything about, That bathroom, just seems Wrong, to me.
    Do you believe, that The bathroom, could be the room she was held captive in?

  7. Steve Hodel on March 23, 2011 at 8:58 pm

    Trevor B:
    The photo you sent me shows the master bathroom as it appeared circa 1970.
    The broken towel rack on the left really has no significance. This picture was taken around 1970 some twenty years after the house was occupied by George Hodel and some twenty-four years after the crime occurred. The house was empty for many years and had been vandalized from time to time.
    That said, I do believe that this master bathroom and the large tub is the location of the actual bisection and washing clean of the body parts before transporting to the vacant lot.
    All my best,
    Steve Hodel
    Los Angeles

  8. D. Grase on June 29, 2011 at 7:03 am

    Hi Steve,
    I’ve read both of your excellent books and I understand that you have developed your case well beyond the scope of the connection between E. Short and A. Bayley that was uncovered by Mr. Harnisch. That being said, I was still bothered a bit by your explanation for the killer’s choice of situs for the placement of the body. G.H. Hodel was a genius, former L.A. cabbie with a photographic memory, and he either didn’t know or forgot that Degnan split off and became Norton? Admittedly it’s a minor point in comparison to the excellent work you’ve done, but bothersome nevertheless. Keep up the great work.

  9. Steve Hodel on June 29, 2011 at 9:09 am

    Hi DG:
    Thanks for the kind words. Glad you enjoyed the reads.
    As to the Degnan Street address, I can see him not being that familiar
    with the street. That area (Liemert Park) was a brand new development
    back then with only a few homes spaced long distances apart. Doubt as
    a young taxi-driver in the 1920s he had many [any?} calls to that area. Even
    by the 1940s it remained a very quiet neighborhood.

  10. Kathy on August 7, 2011 at 12:39 pm

    Dear Steve, I also agree that the cement bags are the “smoking gun” as a vital piece of evidence in this case linking your father directly to the murder of Elizabeth Short. It’s more than compelling! In order to find anything at the Sowden house, the house would have to be excavated below the current structure in the basement down to several feet below or more. After so many years it is doubtful, but still possible, that some evidence may remain, such as handbags, shoes, or some other ephemera along those lines; however, in most of the missing women cases, your father provided the shoes and handbags to the police himself by leaving them where they would be sure to be found with his handwriting on or near them! No matter what I support your investigation and your continued good works. Best wishes and looking forward to your Book 3!

  11. PL on August 15, 2011 at 10:47 pm

    Great work Steve.
    The only thing I would suggest is to use cadaver dogs at the property, they can detect odour many, many years later and through layers of concrete.

  12. Steve Hodel on August 16, 2011 at 11:43 pm

    PL:
    Thanks. Guess your right.
    Guess we could take the dogs for granite! *s*
    skh

  13. Misty Clemente on September 7, 2011 at 3:02 pm

    Hello Mr. Hodel,
    I have a question for you. My grandmother (now deceased) was a roommate of BD or Beth as she was refered to by my grandmother. Up untill the mid 80’s my grandmother was Still afraid to talk about Beth. One day I was able to get a little info out of her. This info came during a doctor visit I took her on. While filling out the necessary paper work the question asking about abortions came up. My grandmother admitted to at least 3. She told me she had gone to a doctor a “Friend” told her about. And for some strange reason she went from that statement to talking about her friend Beth. My question to you is, Do you have Dr. Hodels Office Patient lists? My grandmothers link to beth happend twice in her life. Once at Camp Cooke,where they worked together at the PX. Then, Beth stood with my grandmother for about 3 days in Silverlake. If you can be of any help it would be very appreciated.
    Thank you

  14. Steve Hodel on September 9, 2011 at 4:26 pm

    Misty:
    No, no medical records remain from any of my father’s clinic or office records.
    All long gone.
    Best Regards,
    Steve

  15. kc on October 27, 2011 at 1:23 pm

    Hello Steve.
    It is well known that serial killers have often used their own homes for their crimes, but would a man as intelligent as dr Hodel use his family home for mutilation and murder. Isn’t it possible that he rented a another property that nobody else knows about, maybe under a another name. If so, would there be a any record of it today.

  16. Steve Hodel on October 27, 2011 at 2:00 pm

    Hi KC: It is possible, but in my opinion not probable. Especially with the new evidence I will be presenting in BDA II that adds much weight in support of the Sowden/Franklin house being the actual crime scene. Stay tuned, more to come.

  17. Linda Ophoenix on November 1, 2011 at 6:01 pm

    Hi Steve,
    This case has fascinated me since I was a little girl and my parents let me watch the Luci Arnez “Who Is the Black Dahlia?” I spent a good deal of my life wondering if my father…who told me he was traveling around as a young serviceman in his pre-Korean War army days when the murder happened…could have been a possible suspect. He was pretty obsessed with the killing…and he had other dark tendancies…but I don’t think he would have had the “gumption” to pull something like that off.
    Needless to say, having had those thoughts all these years, I was very empathetic to your situation when I first saw you on tv. I’ve been following your work casually, even though I haven’t set eyes on your books…yet. I intend to set that right soon…they sound like a great read! But I can’t help telling you how sorry I am that you had to grow up with a dad like yours.
    Just looked at the pics of the LOC images….Wow…to have been able to get your hands on even ONE of those bathroom tiles during the renovation to spray with Luminol….what a coup that would have been! Don’t suppose you had access to the rubbish trail from the renovation in 2002, eh?
    *Bright Blessings*
    Linda

  18. Steve Hodel on November 1, 2011 at 6:10 pm

    Hi Linda: No all the renovation material is long gone and disposed of. Even if we could get a trace sample we need something to compare it to and all the victim’s evidence has also “disappeared.” Be sure to get the updated July 2006 BDA book which has two updated chaps. I will soon be publishing BDA II which contains a lot of updated investigation. (2005-2011) so stay tuned. Best, Steve.

  19. rikyto on December 14, 2011 at 1:54 pm

    There`s a chance to find the book in spanish language? thanks

  20. Steve Hodel on December 15, 2011 at 6:30 pm

    BDA is not in Spanish yet, but love to see it translated. Maybe 2012?

  21. kimberly indiana on January 16, 2012 at 3:48 am

    steve…my name is kimberly and i am a young lady 25 who is very interested in crime/law and famous murder cases. i would like to say that what you have done is incredible and interesting…while viewing yur fathers ;letter to mr. wright, as i looked at the “d” at the end of his signature i couldnt help but notice the similarity between that “d” and the “d”‘s in the zodiac killers letters. you may have already noticed this or some of your readers may have….but i love playing detective and thought i might offer this insight to you. please email me back and let me know if this has already been discovered. i have been studying this case since i was 18 and just happened upon your sight today and have been on it for 4 hours now reading everything…thankyou so much for your bravery and quest for the truth..look forward to hearing from you! [email protected]

  22. Steve Hodel on January 17, 2012 at 10:58 am

    Hi Kimberly: Thanks for the kind words. Much appreciated. My second book MOST EVIL: Avenger, Zodiac, and the Further Serial Murders of Dr. George Hill Hodel examines all the possibilities and potential linkage to additional crimes including a Dahlia copycat murder in Manila, Philippines and the Bay Area crimes in 1968-9 known as “Zodiac.” Extensive examination of the handwriting is also included in that book. All Best, Steve

  23. Angelique on February 19, 2012 at 7:13 pm

    Hello Mr. Hodel
    My name is Angelique. I’am a new college student, and for my english class I’am to write an extensive paper in 3rd person on Dr. Bayley or Manley. I’am to Have undisputed facts of the case or mystery involved. I have to examine the theory I find most accurate or that I can most defend. I was not the luckiest when I drew these names in class, I was hoping for the obvious. I was wondering if you could still give me an idea of a good place to start. I’m having a hard time figuring out which one will have enough info so that I can make my case. Your work is amazing and thank you for your time. [email protected]
    Angelique

  24. Steve Hodel on February 20, 2012 at 12:44 am

    Hi Angelique: Well if you are forced to defend one of two theories rather than go by the facts, all I can say is that’s a tough assignment. I guess all you can do is go with what LAPD had on Robert Manley back then. (Dr. Walter Bayley was never a law enforcement suspect and his name does not appear in any files. His name has only been raised by one individual, a copy-editor for the LA Times who discovered the original witness (Mrs. Betty Bersinger) came to his home to report finding the body.) I’d use the newspaper reports and accounts on Robert Manley’s connections, but remember bottom line was he was cleared by LAPD by polygraph and a verified alibi that placed him out of town at the time of the murder.) Good Luck!

  25. Stuart Womack Virginia Bail Bondsman on May 15, 2012 at 11:32 pm

    It would seem relevant to examine the house. In general people who would commit this type of crime do not offend only once. I would bet there is some kind of evidence still existing in the home.

  26. Steve Hodel on May 21, 2012 at 9:59 am

    The entire residence was renovated and retrofit in 2002. Everything changed but the exterior walls. Basement turned into an office with cement floors, so doubtful that any sixty-year-old forensics would remain.

  27. Jeff Spell on July 4, 2013 at 12:16 pm

    It appears J.A. Konrad might still be in business. Have you checked with them for any info or records related to the work done?

  28. Steve Hodel on July 4, 2013 at 12:46 pm

    Jeff: I did do some checking on it about four/five years ago and am blanking on the exact result other than it was a dead-end. I think it switched families, but kept the same name and none of the old records existed from the 1940s. The receipt in the UCLA file was an original, not a copy. But, thanks, good observation. Steve

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