1947 LAPD CONFIDENT THAT THE "BLACK DAHLIA AVENGER" WAS A SERIAL KILLER
Truth Lost In Mist and Myths and of the Past
The two major myths surrounding L.A.’s 1947 Black Dahlia murder were: 1) Elizabeth Short’s murder was a standalone. He never killed before or after.
2) “The Missing Week.” Myth has it that Elizabeth Short walked out the Olive Street door of the downtown Biltmore Hotel on January 9, 1947 and was not seen again, until her brutalized body was found six-days later- posed on an empty lot some six miles away at 39th and Norton.
We now know that both of these long-standing myths are factually untrue – We also know that LAPD at the time of their original investigations believed that many of these 1940s, “LONE WOMAN MUDERS” were committed by the same suspect. [The term “serial killer” would not come into the law-enforcement lexicon for another thirty-five years.]
As the publication date (Sept 22) of Book II, Most Evil: The Further Murders of Dr. George Hill Hodel (Dutton, N.Y., 2009) quickly approaches, I would like to here present a quick review of some of the original 1940s documentation proving LAPD knew and were looking for a serial-killer..
L.A. Lone Woman Murders 1943 – 1949
1950 headline featuring seven (7) unsolved L.A. Lone Woman Murders
All of the below crimes occurred within a 1/2 to 9 mile distance from Dr. Hodel’s Franklin House residence. Five (5) of the seven murders (circled in red) involved the suspect writing a taunting note to police. (An M.O., so unique that the 1947 detectives assigned to the investigations would have to have gone back in time some six decades, to London’s, “Jack the Ripper” (1888) to find a similar signature.)
Map showing relationship of Dr. Hodel residence (1) to L.A. Lone Murder victims:
Murray, Bauerdorf, Short, French, Kern, Boomhower and Spangler.
In March, 1947, LAPD informs the public they believe a number of the recent lone woman murders were committed by the same suspect, and release a written “11 Points of Similarity” summary to the daily newspapers in support of their belief. In the below Los Angeles Examiner, March 14, 1947 article they informed the public it was their considered opinion that the murders of Elizabeth Short (Jan. 15), Jeanne French (Feb. 10) and Evelyn Winters (Mar.12) were all committed by the same suspect and went on to publicly list their reasons WHY.
Killer uses same downtown mailbox to post both his Elizabeth Short (Jan.1947) and Gladys Kern (Feb.1948) notes to police. The box he used was across the street from the Biltmore Hotel and just 300 yards from Dr. George Hodel’s private medical practice.
On June 19, 1949, Black Dahlia detective Harry Hansen, after investigating the facts surrounding the brutal kidnap-strangulation murder of victim, Louise Springer, which occurred just two blocks from the Dahlia dump-site, informs the press and public:
“The murders of Elizabeth Short and Louise Springer might be linked. The same man may have committed both crimes.”
LAPD Sgt. Harry Hansen
June 19, 1949
Sgt. Hansen reviewing Dahlia files circa 1951
September 14, 1949
LAPD Chief of Detectives Thad Brown announces to public that out-of-state strangulation-murderer suspect who killed three Ogden, Utah women will be checked out by LAPD to see if he is responsible for the murders of: “Elizabeth Short, Jeanne French, Louise Springer, and Georgette Bauerdorf.”
1950 DA FILES REVEAL ACTIVE INVESTIGATONS ON SERIAL KILLINGS
Documents discovered by me in LADA Lt. Frank Jemison’s 1950 investigative files show that his detectives were actively investigating the following Lone Woman Murders:
Elizabeth Short, Jeanne French, Jean Spangler, Gladys Kern, Ruth Spaulding [George Hodel’s secretary] and the, Feb. 18, 1950, “Jane Doe” suspected assault and or possible murder heard being committed on-tape in the basement of Dr. Hodel’s, Franklin House.
BY THE NUMBERS
As I pointed out in my original 2003 investigation (below link) if one takes the mythological position that none of these 1940s crimes were connected, then statistically, at least half of the Lone Woman Murders should have been solved. How many were? NONE. The reason being they were not committed by 11 different sadistic sexual psychopaths all operating within the same locales and tripping over each other’s bodies. No! The reason none were cleared was because all were committed by the same suspect.
Despite the fact that sixty-years ago, law enforcement did not really think in terms of “serial killings”, LAPD (with a lot of help from the press) still managed to go public with their belief that many or most of these crimes were committed by the same suspect. I have presented only some of that documentation. The Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department also believed many of their crimes were connected. The fact that the Lone Woman Murders were jurisdictionally divided between the two agencies also was a factor that inhibited the investigations. Back then the two law enforcement agencies simply, DID NOT SHARE INVESTIGATIVE INFORMATION OR LEADS.
[BDA page 425-
Looking forward to the book (it’s on order).
The links are clear, but I’m curious about where Elizabeth’s case fits in the timeline. It’s not exactly tasteful to cite one murder as more spectacular than another, but what was done to Elizabeth’s body seemed far beyond the murders of the other women. It strikes me as a the peak of escalating mania rather than the third of seven crimes but obviously many factors could’ve led to that.
You are correct when you say, “…many factors could’ve led to that.”
Exactly so! When it comes to examining George Hodel’s motives for killing, one has to throw out the traditional text books. In Book II, MOST EVIL we will get a much clearer picture of and many more answers to–The WHY.
jasong writes: “it strikes me as a the peak of escalating mania rather than the third of seven crimes but obviously many factors could’ve led to that.” I think this is a very good point. I’ve been rereading BDA in anticipation of the new book. I recently read the chapter on the handwriting analysis by Hannah McFarland and, specifically, the graphology. McFarland describes the author to be highly intelligent, sophisticated, and impatient with others; she also says the author lacked emotional connection with a mother figure. It’s amazing how closely Ms. McFarland’s analysis matches GHH. This isn’t like astrology where everyone exhibits those traits at times. Indeed, she describes George Hodel to a T, and the earlier analysis said the author was musical. These experts are not describing an alcoholic vagrant or a Burbank lesbian: they are pointing to GHH.
I am really looking forward to your new book.
You may have been asked and answered this question already but have you researched whether Dr. Hodel continued killing women after he left the States for good? He was so obsessed with sexual violence and murder that would he have been able to quit? Do serial murderes ever quit? I’m sure his egomania was only fueled after the notoriety of the Black Dahlia murder and him “getting away” with it. Did his sexual appetites continue unabaited all his life?
As a rule, serial killers of his advanced degree rarely if ever, “simply quit.” They either get arrested, become too infirm to continue, or DIE. I have done some research into my father’s life in Asia and though foreign investigations are extremely difficult to conduct without the aid of law-enforcement or Interpol, I do expect to have some information, which I hope to be able to make public soon. (Probably through a blog right here.)
I retired as a police chief after 31 years of service with the Hapeville (Georgia)Police Department. Hapeville is located next to Atlanta Police Zone 3. I now am a full time college teacher At West Georgia Technical College. I assigned the Elizabeth Short case to my Police Procedures class. I gave them a list of references including your book “Black Dahlia Avenger” to use in researchig the case. One of my brightest students, Monty Hernandez identified Dr. George Hodel MD as the most likely murderer. I was proud of her perseverance,and success!
Thank you for having the true courage to write this book.I am sure that it was a very difficult task.
Leverett B.Butts, III
Well Chief, I have to agree if your student came up with that finding, Monty is definitely, “Top Ten Percent.” I suggest her immediate promotion to Detective I and lets assign her to the Homicide Table at LAPD Robbery/Homicide. Keep up the good work. There has to be a special place in heaven for a cop-turned-teacher.
I just have one question (I DO like your book btw and wish to purchase it), are there other photos in your father’s photo album who are the victims of Dr Geo. Hodel (Jeanne French for example)? I don’t understand why just the Dahlia’s photos (if those are indeed of her) would be in your father’s photo album.
Vicky- There are several other unidentified photos of women in the album. We don’t know who they are? Girlfriends? Victims? One identifies herself on the back of the photo only as “Gloria” and the other is a Filipina woman with no info. I have eliminated one of the two photos initially thought to be Elizabeth Short. See FAQ 20 for details on that. The second photo, possibly of Elizabeth Short, still remains in question.
I think that one reason why the Black Dahlia case went unsolved is that back in 1947, even many big-city cops may not have been as accustomed to serial killers as today’s officers are.
Of all these female victims–Was Eliz. Short the only victim whose belongings were sent to the police after the murder?
Also, Eliz. Short had her corpse “posed” and I can’t seem to find that out about the others even though they were nude and set right out in the open to be found also (like Eliz.))
Jeanne French, “Red Lipstick Murder” was posed. Shoes placed on either side of her body and lipstick writing on body. Coat carefully placed on top of nude body in vacant lot. Chicago victim Suzanne Degnan’s body parts were also a form of “posing”. Paul Stine’s bloody shirt sent to the police. Posing included in varying degrees in other Lone Woman Murders.
Steve, do you still own the house where the black Dahlia events may have happened? Seems to me someone actually living there might debunk a lot of crazy ideas and claims.. I am NOT a person who buys into the idea of ghosts and all that, but I do feel homes kind of hold personalities.