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.
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.
Elizabeth Short crime scene January 15, 1947
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.)”
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
George Hodel “referral letter” to Lloyd Wright mailed from China, May 1946
Dr. George Hill Hodel’s “Franklin House” circa 1971
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.