New DA Papers Show Basement Murder Suspected – McGrath-Morgan tail Dr. Hodel


New found documents from the original 1950 Hodel-DA File reveal that DA investigators in 1950 were actively conducting a follow-up investigation to what they suspected may have been an actual “murder-in-progress” committed by George Hodel and Baron Harringa on the evening of February 18, 1950. 

The DA transcripts for that 24-hour period clearly establish that an unidentified “sobbing” woman was “interrogated” by George Hodel as to what she knew about his incest trial, and his abortionist friend, Charles Smith. She is given drinks and there is mention by Hodel of “having an affair.” Detectives describe hearing “a crashing sound” and “objects falling to the floor.”

Later that afternoon a “crying woman” attempts to call the operator several times. At 8:20 P.M. Hodel and Harringa go to the basement and digging sounds are heard. A woman screams. Hitting sounds are heard. Woman screams again. Detectives describe sound of “a pipe being hit.” Woman goes silent. Hodel or Harringa overheard saying, “Not a trace.” 

(For original surveillance transcript pages of 2/18/50- Click Here- DA Transcript 2.18.50.pdf) 

As noted in prior summaries, inexplicably, no action or response was taken by the stakeout detectives (DA investigator James McGrath and LAPD detective Crowley) as the assault was in progress.

However, the below DA document (one of several received by me in 2009 which I apparently missed during my original 2003 review) establishes that the DA’s office, after the fact, took the Feb.18th actions very seriously and five days later, Lt. Jemison assigned his investigators James McGrath and Walter Morgan to follow Dr. Hodel’s movements to and from the residence. Here is the new document which is McGrath’s summary for Feb. 23, 1950:


 Scan of original McGrath & Morgan Surveillance Log on George Hodel for 2/23/50

mcgrath surveillance final da transcript.jpg 

 Diagram showing DA Investigators McGrath & Morgan’s movements in surveillance tail of Dr. Hodel in his 1936 black Packard sedan on February 23, 1950

DA McGrath - Morgan 2.23.50 surveillance.jpg 

1. 5121 Franklin Ave, George Hodel’s residence 

2. Western & Franklin Ave 

3. Western & 6th St. 

4. 3rd St & Union 

5. Hollywood Bl., & Sycamore Ave

6. Wilshire & La Cienega Bl.

7. Wilshire & Camden Dr.

8. Wilshire & Beverly Glen (terminated vehicle surveillance at 5:40 p.m.) 



This second DA document shows that the DA investigators took the February 18th assault of the unidentified woman seriously and went so far as to attempt to determine if a freshly dug grave had been seen in Dr. Hodel’s basement. As evidenced in the report, apparently a day or two after the Feb. 18 assault, George Hodel called a plumber to the residence to unclog a plugged drain. McGrath located the plumber (Mr. Stokes, an employee of Sonntag Co. 5156 Hollywood Blvd) and questioned him as to whether he had seen any evidence of fresh digging or anything unusual in the basement? The plumber responded that he had been in the basement, unclogged the drain, but really hadn’t looked or paid any attention other than to simply perform his work. While McGrath wrote both of these reports in late March, 1950 the investigations obviously occurred in the days following the suspected “foul play.” (McGrath’s surveillance log is dated Feb. 23.)

(SKH Note- For those thinking “forensics”, in 2002 prior to the publication of BDA, during major renovations of the Franklin House, much of the basement floor area was cemented over and a home office was constructed.)


mcgrath basement inv.jpg 


Original 2007 FAQ 33.1




  1. Bud White on June 22, 2009 at 1:37 pm

    This is compelling information.
    1. I wonder what Dorothy and Dr. Hodel discussed?
    2. I mean the utmost respect, but did Dorothy Hodel bury any personal suspicions she had about Dr. Hodel because he was giving her money?
    3. I wonder if any missing persons reports filed in the weeks after Feb. 18, 1950 contained the name of a woman who could be linked to Geo. Hodel?

  2. Steve Hodel on June 24, 2009 at 9:59 am

    1, It is clear from the DA Files that Dorothy shared everything with George, while at the same time “stonewalling” investigators. She flat out lied to Lt. Jemison claiming she didn’t know the nude model with George in the photos. ( Mattie Comfort) Then two days later reported back to George.
    2. Her knowledge about GHH criminality was much more than “suspicions.” Her silence was obtained not only because of her dependence, but under direct threats from George. She unwittingly had become an “accomplice to murder” in the OD of his secretary by responding to his call, taking the Spaulding papers from her home and destroying them as ordered. After that, George owned her under threat of sending her to prison too.
    3. In 1950, L.A. had become known as, “The Port of Missing Persons”. Lots of men and women simply turned up missing never to be heard from again. In the 1970s LAPD requested and the City granted them permission to destroy many archived reports with the sole exception of homicide investigations. So any reports are long gone.

  3. Kathie on June 24, 2009 at 7:44 pm

    What exactly was the basement used for at this time? Was it a fully furnished room, or just a regular basement? Was there a sink or bathroom, where was the clogged drain?

  4. Steve Hodel on June 24, 2009 at 9:38 pm

    During our residency at the Franklin House it was mostly an unfinished basement area. There was an area set apart where we three boys boxed tea in tins for father’s “5th Dynasty Tea Import Company.” Father also had a printing press there along with blank “proof sheet paper”. (In BDA Chap. 21 pg. 267, I refer to the linkage on this because some of the “Avenger Notes” were mailed by the suspect, using that unusual type of paper. No sink or bathroom. I expect the clogged drain referred to the plumber having to clear one of the large main pipes which crisscrossed through the basement.

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