(Updated from 2007 blog)
Q: Lillian Lenorak identified Elizabeth Short as being a girlfriend of your father’s and also as being at parties at the Franklin House. Could you explain George Hodel’s connection with the policewoman who wrote the letter to LAPD about your father.
Yes. The policewoman, Mary Unkefer, was from Santa Barbara Police Department. Her letter (scanned below) was mailed to District Attorney Investigators, Lieutenants Jemison and Sullivan– not LAPD. It was dated, January 30, 1950.
SANTA BARBARA POLICE OFFICER MARY UNKEFER & THE UNKEFER-ELIZABETH SHORT-LILLIAN LENORAK- DR. GEORGE HODEL CONNECTIONS
From Black Dahlia Avenger: A Genius for Murder pg-479
On January 16, 1947, the day “Jane Doe Number 1” was identified by the FBI as Elizabeth Short, Santa Barbara policewoman Mary Unkefer was one of the first important witnesses contacted by LAPD in the Black Dahlia investigation. Why? Because Officer Unkefer had direct and extended contact with Elizabeth Short after Elizabeth’s September 1943 arrest for “minor possession.” The L.A. Daily News of January 17, 1947, under the headline: “Identify Victim as Hollywood Resident,” detailed Officer Unkefer’s connections:
She (Elizabeth Short) had been a clerk at the Camp Cooke post exchange near Santa Barbara and was picked up for drinking with soldiers in a cafe there.
Policewoman Mary Unkefer of the Santa Barbara police department took the girl to her own home to live with her for nine days…
“We put her on the train for her home, and several times later she wrote to me from there” Miss Unkefer recalled. One of her letters said: “I’ll never forget you thank God you picked me up when you did!”
Incredibly, from information contained in these DA documents, we only now discover that Officer Mary Unkefer—who in 1943 had been directly responsible for rescuing Elizabeth Short from a dangerous environment—in January 1950 drove from Santa Barbara to Dr. Hodel’s Franklin Avenue residence, and there removed another young female victim from harm’s way. Officer Unkefer, after safely returning the victim, whose name was Lillian Lenorak,* to Santa Barbara, typed a letter to Los Angeles DA investigators, describing and informing them of Dr. Hodel’s involvement in multiple crimes, including subornation of perjury and felony assault. Here for the first time is that remarkable letter, published in its entirety, exactly as it was typed*
*Through other DA documents, we know that Lillian Lenorak was a 1949 defense witness who testified at the Hodel incest trial, was an acquaintance of George Hodel’s, and when shown photographs of Elizabeth Short by DA investigators identified her as Hodel’s girlfriend. Miss Lenorak was preparing to recant her previous sworn testimony and admit she perjured herself at the incest trial. Lenorak’s perjury at the Hodel trial had to do with the fact that she was present at Dr. Ballard’s office with Charles Smith, when Tamar, George Hodel’s 14-year-old daughter was “examined” but no abortion occurred. She was now going to admit the truth of it, that in fact, an abortion was performed on Tamar.
SANTA BARBARA OFFICER MARY UNKEFER’S ORIGINAL LETTER
AS FOUND IN DA FILE
Below is Santa Barbara Police Department officer Mary Unkefer’s actual letter to the DA, as she typed it. In it she documents Dr. Hodel’s assault and drugging of the victim, and his “staging of her attempted suicide.” She additionally provides information re. Dr. Hodel’s “payoffs to police and DA through his attorney, Jerry Giesler.”
SBPD Officer Mary Unkefer mails letter “Special Delivery” to DA on January 31, 1950
(SKH Note- Franklin House witness/roomer, Joe Barrett, in a 2003, on-camera television interview for ABC’s DATELINE recounted witnessing an incident in early 1950, involving Lillian Lenorak at the Franklin House. He tells of returning home to find an excited Ellen (our maid) warning him that Lenorak was in George Hodel’s bedroom and was threatening to shoot Hodel when he came home.
Barrett entered the bedroom and found a hysterical Lenorak, armed with a rifle belonging to George Hodel. Lenorak was screaming, “He is going to pay for what he has done. He has to pay for it. I’m going to kill him.” Barrett claims he calmed her down and removed the rifle from her person. When asked in this interview by reporter Josh Mankiewicz, “What Lenorak was referring to?”, Barrett replied, “It was about the fact that Lillian knew that George had killed Elizabeth Short. Lillian knew Elizabeth and had met her at the house, and said that George had to pay for killing her.”
Barrett also stated that “When George came home, I told him about what happened, and that Lillian was going to shoot him, and George’s response was, “Why didn’t you let her?”
It is my belief that this “rifle incident” occurred in late-January, 1950, and is the event that immediately precipitated my father’s “staging her attempted suicide.” Lillian Lenorak was going to reveal to the DA what she knew, and he had to either kill her or try to discredit her. With Barrett as a witness, he couldn’t kill her, so he took the next best step. Try to set her up as a “mental case.” He then drugged her and staged her “attempt suicide” as described in policewoman Unkefer’s letter to the DA. (We even have the dramatic corroboration from Lillian’s three-year-old son, John, who witnessed George Hodel’s assault on his mother. In route to Santa Barbara with his mother and officer Unkefer, the child tells the policewoman, “He [Dr. Hodel] hit mommy hard and knocked her down.”
I expect the critics who claim Lillian was just a “mental case” would also have to include her child as well since he dramatically and immediately corroborates his mother’s assault.
May 7, 2016, UPDATE
Due to the strong interest, I’ve received on this subject, I am here adding an update to the life of Lillian Lenorak and her son, John. “The rest of the story” if you will. Unfortunately, there is no “happy ending.” Lillian’s three-year-old son, “John” was named after his father, famed film director, John Farrow, who had an affair with Lillian in the early 1940s. The full story of her life was added to Black Dahlia Avenger II, Chapter 4. I include excerpts from that chapter so that my readers may discover what followed the tragic events from 1950.
See attached PDF for further information on Lillian and John Lenorak’s lives post Dahlia.