Looking Back Fifty-Years-1968-69 Rookie Big City Detective Clewless In LA

February 10, 2017
Los Angeles, California








Rookie LAPD Detective Steve Hodel circa 1969 

Sleepless in Seattle?  How about Clewless in LA.

A friend of mine just sent me a fifty-year-old photograph his brother took of me driving us on a day trip somewhere in LA.
The irony of the photo is the fact that when it was taken, I had just transferred from LAPD uniform patrol to detectives. A new “Big City Detective” soon to be handling my first homicide investigations.
At about the same time this photo was taken, our Department was attempting to solve two horrific crimes with multiple victims, which would soon become known as “The Manson Murders.”  At the same time, up north in the San Francisco Bay Area, that community was being terrorized with serial murders committed by an urban terrorist calling himself, “ZODIAC.”
I often indicate in my writings that “I can hear the gods laughing” and it is not without good reason. This photo is Exhibit No. 1:
My father having just killed at least five victims as “Zodiac” and wounded two more, within months of when this photo was taken, will be “passing through” LA on his way to New York.  On this quick visit, his big city detective son will take him to lunch at the LAPD Police Academy, then give him an hour tour through “Parker Center” and show him the SID (Scientific Investigation Division) laborotory, Communications Division and proudly inform him “I’m now working homicide dad.”







  1. Patricia O'Neill on February 11, 2017 at 12:40 pm

    Feels like yesterday, Steve! I was pregnant & living in southern Illinois at the time. Spoke with my mom in SF agreeing with her on it probably best that she avoid her cherished Bingo nites at St Francis parish hall in North Beach until the killer caught. All of my aunts and cousins were paralyzed by these murders! As we discussed the Manson murders in LA my mom expressed how lucky I was to be “out of CA” in the safety of the Midwest! Small consolation to one who desperately missed her “Golden State”! Well, we now watch Charlie M as he ages along with “his girls” in prison and still wonder about Zodiac! To me, the revelations about your father and the Zodiac murders would be such a consolation to northern CA’s. The fact that no such confirmations are forthcoming is in itself disturbing. In the meantime the killings in CA during the late 60’s have become the gist of crime tales – true crime and fiction! My grandchildren (none born in CA) always wish they were from anywhere in CA and ask me “how could you ever leave it!” My answer is always the same: “You can check out anytime but you can never leave!” Cherish & keep on sharing your memories, Steve!

    • Steve Hodel on February 11, 2017 at 1:23 pm

      Patricia O. Thanks for the kind words. Much appreciated. Does seem like yesterday. Best Wishes.

  2. Dennis Effle on February 11, 2017 at 3:31 pm

    Steve: So young………the “Blush” of youth still present. Just months after man landing on the moon, the outright fear that gripped the city before we knew it was the “Manson Family” that did these deeds (which occurred during a rash of “Occult” and “Devil worship” gatherings around the L.A. area during that time) you transferred to eh Detective Division. Another trusty Detective begins his watch over the “City of Angels.” You went through your baptism and gained the tools you would need to bring the Dahlia Avenger story and the Zodiac Killer tale to fruition. Thank God someone still cares about the correct recording of history, even if the establishment refuses to see it. Every journey begins with one step and this picture captured you on your first step. Keep on Truckin’

    • Steve Hodel on February 11, 2017 at 3:35 pm

      Dennis E: Hi Dennis. Thanks for the kind words. Always appreciated.

  3. Jess Waid on February 11, 2017 at 3:34 pm

    “Clueless in L.A.,” a great line! I was working Hollywood patrol as a field supervisor in ’69. Didn’t know you, but our paths must’ve crossed if you were a detective working upstairs.

    • Steve Hodel on February 11, 2017 at 4:06 pm

      Hi Jess: I’m sure our paths did cross back then. Your name has a strong familiar ring to it. That’s right, back then we did have an “upstairs”. Quick war story.

      In ’67 I was working Day Watch Hollywood Patrol and got a call to a “Forgery Suspect There Now” at a local bank. Arrived and took the suspect into custody. He was very high on drugs and had attempted to cash a forged check. Cuffed him and took him to the station upstairs where the detective watch commander would provide the booking approval. Had him in one of the interview rooms seated in a chair but still cuffed behind his back as SOP. He stood up and mumbled, “Fuck it. Just go ahead and shoot me.” My partner and I smiled at each other and told him to “Sit down.” He turned and took a running dive out the large bay windows, which were open, and covered with just a thin wire framed screen. My partner and I ran and attempted to grab him, just as he got most of his body weight over the ledge. Couldn’t hold him and he went plunging down head first with his hands cuffed behind him, landing on the sidewalk, right in front of the Patrol Watch Commander’s and Patrol Captain’s offices. I was sure he was dead. Had to be. Couldn’t protect his fall with his hands, that was for sure. Ran downstairs out the front. There he was, not a scratch on him, no blood, just a sore shoulder. The only thing I can figure was that he was so damn high he must have “floated down.” We got him MT’d (Medical Treatment for you civilians) and Dr. said he was “OK for a normal booking.” To add insult to injury and our embarrassment, a witness across the street in the apartments went directly to the Watch Commander to report that he “Had seen the whole thing and saw the two officers throw the man out the upstairs window.” (A fair assumption from his POV. Only we were grabbing not throwing.) Fast forward two years and when I first started working detectives I was regularly introduced to my fellow detectives (jokingly) as, “This is Detective Hodel. He’s the young hothead who likes to throw people out of windows.” Enjoy your well-earned retirement. Best, Steve

  4. Laura on February 11, 2017 at 7:47 pm

    What a handsome young guy you were! I can see why older women went for you. I was a high school girl in a Midwestern city at that time, and I remember reading about the horrific Manson killers and the Zodiac killings. But they seemed distant because we had so many horrors of our own at hand in St. Louis- the horrific Halloween murders and, a year later, the blinding of Wilma Chestnut. It was a time of many senseless and horrific crimes across the country, not just in CA. At the time, it seemed that c.1060, someone opened the gates to hell and every demon in it was running loose in the U.S.

    Hope you are enjoying your retirement.

    • Steve Hodel on February 11, 2017 at 8:04 pm

      Thanks Laura. Yes, they were some tough times back then.

  5. Marilyn Fuss on February 12, 2017 at 3:10 am

    It’s Carole’s friend Marilyn (from The Standard book party), writing to exclaim how amazing this latest revelation is: your dad’s coming through LA after a hard season’s work (apparently someone has to do it, we keep noticing over the eons), only to pass through YOUR offices and lab. Karma karma karma karma karm karma karma, to revamp Jimmie Jones’s and James Taylor’s “Handy Man.” He relished that visit thoroughly, I am guessing. I utterly believe your theory about the Zodiac–the timing, the manipulation of the police and media so similar to the poor Dahlia (et al.), whose hometown I passed by chance on Boston’s light-rail system on the way to my mother’s (and Kerouac’s) birthplace of Lowell the same year I read DAHLIA AVENGER. It was worthy of a good chill. Carole just sent me this link today. Thanks for your objectivity, fine reporting, and candid writing–in the “1970” chapter, also.

    • Steve Hodel on February 12, 2017 at 11:00 am

      Hi Marilyn: Yes, thanks again for coming out to the book launch on the LA in the 70s book. Your longtime support is much appreciated. No, never talked to John Gregory Dunne about the investigation. Nor, did I talk to his brother, Dominick Dunne.

  6. Marilyn Fuss on February 12, 2017 at 3:36 am

    I forgot my original question: Did you ever speak to the late John Gregory Dunne about your respective observations?

  7. Bob Freitas on February 12, 2017 at 10:27 am

    Steve …miss talking with you my friend when I started out doing Cold Cases in New Hampshire . You were always a great resource for me . I may be out in LA sometime time later this year would love to hook up with you.
    Bob Freitas.

    • Steve Hodel on February 12, 2017 at 10:49 am

      Hi Bob: Sure, Love to hook up and meet in person. Just drop me an email and we can meet for lunch or whatever works. Will be making a short trip East to D.C. in April or May,for my grandson’s first birthday, but date yet to be determined. Other than that, should be in LA pounding out the keys for Book V, “The Early Years.” Best, Steve

  8. Lucinda on February 23, 2017 at 7:13 am


    However evil, your father was a fascinating character- brilliant, cultivated, successful. I hope you will write a memoir/biography of him, no need to reference his crimes, and hopefully including the observations made by others who knew him. If you are on good terms with his Asian family, their contributions would be interesting as well.

    His thoughts and opinions, his tastes, etc. — he might be over the top as a fictional character, but was real!

    • Steve Hodel on February 23, 2017 at 9:57 am

      Lucinda: As I see it, All four books are one long, ongoing George Hill Hodel biography. Not sure how many of the books you’ve read, but his biography, his life, (as much as is knowable) is pretty much all there. As far as his Asian family, they are not/would not cooperate. My two Filipino half-brothers as well as their mother, Hortensia, have passed on, and my two sisters are in denial, believing that their father could never have committed such crimes. (I don’t believe they have yet read my books?) There is also the Asian cultural factor, having to do with saving face. Even if they believed he was responsible for the crimes, they likely see it as a “private matter” never to be told to the public. Currently working on Book V, which will bring additional biographics on GHH to light, with a strong background on his “early crimes.” Regards, SKH

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