WE GET LETTERS – Fact Checking the "Leading Black Dahlia Expert"

Q:   Mr. Hodel I just read a blog from a copy-editor who bills himself as,”the Leading Black Dahlia Expert.” He claims that none of the notes and letters that were mailed in were actually written by the Black Dahlia killer, with the exception of just one- (see below) and that was cut-and-pasted, not handwritten. He says, “the rest were all from crackpots.” Your response?

Black Dahlia Avenger-“Letter To Follow” Note

Dahlia belongings.jpg 

 A:  I think I know of whom you speak.

Is he the same “expert” that is currently into his 12th-year of writing a book claiming to reveal the real Black Dahlia Killer as one – Dr. Walter Bayley? (Dr. Bayley, until having his character trashed and accused by this “expert” was a highly respected L.A. physician and surgeon. The first Dahlia witness, Mrs. Betty Bersinger after discovering the victim’s bisected body in the vacant lot, then ran south to his home where she used their telephone to place the emergency call to LAPD.) 

Is he the same “expert” that claimed it “was a myth and untrue that Elizabeth Short had cigarette burns on her body” despite the fact that I produced the actual original coroner’s photographs and medical testimony showing the eight cigarette burn-marks on her back?

Is he the same “expert” that has repeatedly used and abused his position as a staff blogger on a large metropolitan newspaper to advance his own personal agenda? The same blogger who recently ridiculed my identification of  handwriting comparisons in MOST EVIL of my father’s hand-printing to names written on Elizabeth Short photographs, stating they are not to be believed, “unless you think a grown man dots his “I’s” with little circles.”  (Unfortunately, and I’m sure most embarrassingly for him, because he had not reviewed the photographic evidence, he was unaware that the George Hodel/Zodiac/Avenger HW samples -all demonstrated, the same unique characteristic of dotting the I with a little circle.) 


Zodiac/Hodel/Black Dahlia HW samples showing circle dot over letter I 

circle dots all.jpg 


But, I digress.  Back to your original question. You want to know if this same “expert” is correct in his recent claim that NONE of the Black Dahlia mailings were actually written and mailed by the suspect other than the, “Letter To Follow”…” which was itself not written, but rather a cut-and-pasted note shown above. His claim being that “NO AVENGER HANDWRITING SAMPLES EXIST.”

My answer is an unequivocal- NO. Your “expert” is wrong again and needs to – recheck his facts.

Did the press and police believe some of the scores of letters were from crackpots? Yes, But, they also knew that many of the notes and pastings were written by and came from her killer. Here are the proofs, all of which were presented in BDA in 2003.

Again, I say your “expert” is wrong, at least according to: QDE’s (Questioned Document Experts) hired in 1947 to examine the writings as well as: the lead LAPD homicide investigator, Detective Captain Jack Donahoe and LAPD’s SID criminalist Ray Pinker, and the FBI, and my own privately hired QDE who did a “blind analysis” and comparison to known samples. (“Blind” is a term for having no prior information on the case. She was asked to examine all the questioned documents without knowing any names or having any information or details of the the actual crimes.)

I suggest you read BDA, chapter 13- “The LAPD and the Press: The Avenger Mailings (pages 167-188). Here are a few facts the “leading Dahlia expert” seemed to miss:

1)  In BDA I positively identified the below undisguised “Here it is…Turning in Wed..” hand-printed note as being written by my father, Dr. George Hill Hodel. LAPD Homicide Captain Jack Donahoe, referencing this same note on January 27, 1947, told the press:

“I believe the card is legitimate and might well be the ‘message to follow’. ..The fact that the postcard was printed rather than lettered with words cut out of newspapers, also supports the theory that the killer intends to turn himself in to the police and no longer needs to take pains to conceal his identity. ..By signing it ‘Black Dahlia Avenger’ he is indicating that he murdered Elizabeth Short for some avenged wrong, either real or imagined. So far we haven’t seen any evidence of that, but we hope that the killer who is writing these notes [emphasis mine] keeps his promise to turn himself in on Wednesday.”

Captain Donahoe had the press print the following message in response to the Avenger’s mailing, “If you want to surrender as indicated by the postcard now in our hands, I will meet you at any public location at any time or at the homicide detail office in the City Hall. Communicate immediately by telephoning MI 5211 extension 2521, or by mail.”

[SKH Note- To my knowledge, a photo of the  envelope used to mail the note was never made public, but LAPD revealed that the Black Dahlia Avenger had used “a new ballpoint pen” with blue ink to hand-address the letter to the L.A. Examiner. In 1947, ballpoint pens were new and expensive. They then cost $12.50 which would be approximately $125.00 in today’s dollars. Only professionals like doctors, lawyers and executives and military officers would be expected to possess and use such an expensive instrument. My father’s hand-printing on the four original Elizabeth Short photographs removed from her album was also written using a ballpoint pen with blue-ink. This was the primary reason why in February 2003; I entered the bidding on eBay in hopes of obtaining these photographs. In the final seconds of bidding I topped “the leading expert’s” bid of $7500.00 and obtained the four Dahlia photographs as forensic evidence at a cost of $7611.00. Perhaps this partly explains “the expert’s” unprofessional, vitriolic and most personal attacks against me these past many years? To add insult to his injury after his failure to obtain the Dahlia original photographs, BDA was published in April 2003, just two months later, which has apparently kept him in attack mode for going on seven-years now.]

2) Two court certified Questioned Document Experts examined the Avenger handwriting and each separately provided their opinion.  Expert Clark Sellers, an internationally recognized expert who testified in the Bruno Hauptmann/Lindbergh investigation examined the Dahlia Avenger handwriting and declared, “It was evident that the writer took great pains to disguise his or her personality by printing instead of writing the message and by endeavoring to appear illiterate.” But, “The style and formation of the printed letters betrayed the writer as an educated person.”

A second handwriting expert, Henry Silver told LAPD, “The sender is an egomaniac and possibly a musician. The fluctuating base line of the writing reveals the writer to be affected by extreme fluctuations of mood, dropping to melancholy. The writer suffers from mental conflict growing out of resentment or hatred due to frustration of sex urge.” (SKH Note- George Hodel’s profile includes all three of these characteristics: he was highly educated, a musician, and an egomaniac.)

3)  The FBI files on the Elizabeth Short confirm that dozens of handwriting examinations were made comparing the Black Dahlia Avenger hand-printed letters to possible suspects and medical students from USC. These comparisons [both handwriting and fingerprints) were conducted both by the FBI and by the LAPD SID (Scientific Investigation Division) headed by criminalist, Ray Pinker. (Complete FBI Records on Elizabeth Short for confirmation. Caution large files.)

4) QDE Hannah McFarland, a court certified expert performed a six-month analysis and comparison of the Avenger notes to known samples of George Hodel’s handwriting and found that he wrote at least four of the below mailings and possibly more or all.

“Here it is -Turning in Wed” 


here it is final.jpg 



 Personal Note to my Readers:

As many of you who have followed my investigation and writings know, it is not my style to respond to personal attacks. Basically, my position has been to simply IGNORE THEM and respond with facts and evidence. About five separate bloggers including the self-professed, “leading Black Dahlia expert” have continued their personal attacks on me for years. This is a free country and they have every right to their opinions and to state their beliefs. While many of their personal statements border on or are actual defamation and libel, I still have chosen to ignore them, having no desire to “shine a light” on that kind of negativity.

For the first time in over six-years, in today’s blog, I have chosen to respond to one of my critics on a more personal level. I do this not out of anger for him, but rather because in my opinion he is using and abusing his position as a blogger for a large metropolitan newspaper. 

As a paid employee, he is using the paper as his “soapbox” to personally attack me and to further promote and publicize his own personal agenda. As I see it, that is neither fair nor objective “reporting” and is a major conflict of interest, and most unprofessional.

For those reasons, and those reasons alone, I have decided to no longer ignore his attacks, but rather to “call him out” and respond factually, so that you my readers may have a fuller understanding of what is going on “behind the scenes.”

Most Respectfully Yours,

Steve Hodel

Los Angeles, California  


















  1. Bud White on November 10, 2009 at 1:41 am

    If I can just add one comment. You are a class act and are only pointing out the facts of the investigation and the “expert’s” position at a certain newspaper. The “expert” shows up in “Feast of Death,” a documentary on James Ellroy, esteemed novelist and Hodel supporter. While dining with Ellroy and half a dozen homicide detectives at the Pacific Dining Car, the “expert” lays out his theory. With much flare he concludes his story. He looks at the seasoned cops for approval and they shift around uncomfortably, clearly not impressed. It’s obvious to the viewer — and the cops, that it’s a shockingly undocumented theory, especially coming from big city journalist.

  2. Yvonne on November 10, 2009 at 4:13 am

    After reading the Daily Mirror, I immediately went to your website to see if you had a response. I think it’s great that you have responded to one of your detractors. I have read both books and as crazy as it seems, I believe your dad was the killer. What a trip it must have been to realize that he was the Zodiac killer. Also very sad. Does the guy that maintains the Zodiac info site believe you? I ask because I didn’t see anything proclaiming that you solved the case on his main page.

  3. Steve Hodel on November 10, 2009 at 10:24 am

    Yes, I saw the “Feast of Death” documentary. What many viewers don’t realize is that was made and shown at the Toronto Film Festival in 2001, two full years before my book was published. So when Ellroy is sitting there with “the expert” and say’s to the cop’s, “I think he’s nailed it” there was nothing else out there, other than John Gilmore’s theory that a transient, alcoholic “did it.” Then when my book BDA came along with the updated chapter showing that George Hodel was the DA’s prime suspect all along, Ellroy approached me and offered to and did write the poetic “case solved” Foreward to my 2004 paperback edition. This could not of have sat well with “the expert’s” hopes, dreams, and wishes for a pending book and movie deal. (Along with a nice part for his good friend and collaborator, LAPD detecitve, Dahlia gatekeeper, Brian Carr.) Carr, now retired, appeared in the documentary giving quasi-support to the “expert” and would appear with him in later Dahlia related interviews.

  4. Steve Hodel on November 10, 2009 at 10:33 am

    Thanks for your support. As you know from reading Book II, MOST EVIL, I’m not claiming
    that the Zodiac case “is solved.” My position is that based on the evidence I present, George Hodel needs to “go to the top of the suspect list” and let’s get some verified Zodiac DNA and get a definite answer and rule him IN or OUT. The webmaster at http://www.zodiackiller.com is Tom Voigt. His website, which I refer to in the sequel as, “Zodiac Central” has been a Godsend to my research. I am not aware of Tom taking a firm postion on any specific suspect. I believe he remains open to pursuing the evidence on all and any major suspect. He realizes it will ultimately come down to the DNA and maybe fingerprints.

  5. Leonardo on August 14, 2011 at 12:49 am

    Steve, what do you think about this site? http://blackdahliasolution.org/. It gives a lot of attention to the letters the killer wrote to the newspaper.

  6. Steve Hodel on August 14, 2011 at 7:34 pm

    The whole “Ed Burns”, “Unidentified Man” photo/suspect is a non-issue. The photograph they claim to be “Ed Burns” and the killer has been positively identified by me, and LAPD and the DA investigators. He was never in L.A., and met Elizabeth Short for a few hours in Indianapolis, Indiana where the photo was taken. I interviewed some years back and LAPD interviewed and eliminated him in 1947.
    Regds, steve

  7. me on December 29, 2012 at 3:58 am

    The position of the body, looks like Bull horns and the smile Bulls Lips. Cut like a display or trophy.

  8. me on December 29, 2012 at 4:18 am

    Makes ya ponder. They sure wanted it to be that guy Ed Burns to be the Killer!

  9. Mickey Chen on June 17, 2016 at 12:19 pm

    As recently as a few years ago, the moniker of Ed Burns has shown up in suspicious letters that have been located or sent in to cases. One of them involves a murdered little girl April Marie Tinsley. It’s curious. It maybe someone is trying to connect to that mysterious person. Which would be strange and perverse. IMO.

    • Steve Hodel on June 17, 2016 at 11:01 pm

      Thanks for the info. Not familiar with that case. Ed Burns as I’m sure you know is totally bogus info, but keeps circulating on the Internet, so maybe as you say someone has picked up on it to use in letter writing.

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