Dr. George Hill Hodel: A New Life and a New Wife in the Territory: Hawaii 1950-1953
June 4, 2017
Los Angeles, California
George Hodel, immediately after his October 6, 1949 arrest for Incest and Child Molestation retained nationally renowned criminal defense attorneys Jerry “Get Me” Giesler and his partner, Robert Neeb to represent him. GHH secured their services by signing over his Sowden House as a $10,000 retainer. ($102,000 in today’s dollars)
Post-trial in 1950, he then prepared his own Sales Brochure “For Sale, SHANGRI-LA in Los Angeles” and put the house on the market asking “$44,500 Liquidation Price.” (Roughly a half million in 2017 dollars)
GHH Deed of Trust to Giesler/Neeb GHH “Shangri-LA – $44,500 House Sale
“Get out of Dodge”
The DA stakeout and Bugging Tapes occurred in Feb/March 1950 and we know that GHH disappeared in late March just as Lt. Jemison was about to arrest him for the murders of Elizabeth “Black Dahlia” Short and the Jeanne French “Red Lipstick” murder along with the confessed 1945 murder (forced overdose) of his secretary, Ruth Spaulding.
By the fall of 1950 George Hodel has relocated to the Territory of Hawaii and is initially hired as “Resident psychiatrist for the Territorial Hospital.”
Jan 17, 1951 Honolulu Advertiser
Honolulu Star-Bulletin on August 23, 1952, announces the marriage of Dr. George Hill Hodel to Hortensia Laguda. Married in “Sonora, Mexico” and currently living “at home on Black Point Rd.” The article goes on to describe GHH as “staff psychiatrist at Kaneohe Territorial Hospital in charge of the rehabilitation program and Chief of the psychiatric clinic at Oahu Prison and lecturing faculty at University of Hawaii.”
(What could be more perfect? GHH as Territorial prison psychiatrist with at least a dozen Los Angeles murders on his CV is now “counseling psychopath to the psychopaths.”)
In a later (1957) article the same newspaper announces that Mrs. Hortensia Hodel is now revisiting Honolulu and informs readers that she is the cousin to former (1953) Philippine Vice President, Fernando Lopez and that her husband “Dr. George Hill Hodel, former staff psychiatrist at Kaneohe Hospital until 1954, now practices in Manila.”
Honolulu Star-Bulletin August 23, 1952 Honolulu Star-Bulletin August 14, 1957
(GHH also married my mother, in Sonora, Mexico, ironically on December 7, 1940, one year to the day before the bombing of Pearl Harbor in Honolulu, Hawaii, which of course marked the U.S. entry into WWII.)
BLACK POINT ESTATES AND SHANGRI-LA – “The Good Life”
Not being familiar with Honolulu digs, I decided to check out the 1952 articles reference indicating that George and Hortensia were living “at home on Black Point Rd.” Here’s what I discovered.
Ironically, after George Hodel sells his “Shangri-La Los Angeles” home he then moves to Black Point Road, next to the “Shangri-LA” home of the heiress, Doris Duke in Honolulu, Hawaii.
Black Point Road appears to be and likely always was the Beverly Hills of Honolulu.
Doris Duke Shangri-LA Home at Black Point Road Estates built in 1936-1938
(Now a public museum)
Below is 2 bedroom, 2 bath home on Black PointRoad recently priced at 9 million.
After three years in Hawaii, Dr. George Hill Hodel with his wife, Hortensia, will move on to Manila, Philippines, where he will establish his own private practice as a consulting psychiatrist, then quickly move into the newly developing field of Market Research and expand and develop INRA-ASIA (International Research Associates) throughout the Far East, including Hong Kong, Japan, and Australia.
I have not conducted any extensive research of my father’s activities while in Hawaii from 1951-1953.
The obvious question is: Did George Hodel continue to commit murders in Hawaii?
Hard for me to think he could go three years without killing. I expect there are some cold cases collecting dust at Hawaii 5-0.
Very likely that there were victims in Hawaii, but unfortunately any investigation will have to be put on a back burner for the immediate future.
I currently have my hands full with attempting to ferret out his crimes from, “The Early Years” (the 1920s and 30s) in California.
Any of my readers who feel like searching for any unsolved lone woman murders in the Hawaiian Islands from 1951-1954 have at it and feel free to contact me on any possible findings at [email protected]
To Be Continued…
When I finally get to the other side, I’m going to have to find out what GHH has been doing over there since his departure here.. Assuming God is in charge over the, what does He do with a GHH and his Ilk? Maybe the most amazing story of all time… God Bless you and you may consider yourself “panderized” again. Carolyn
Carolyn S: Thanks. Hope he’s not in charge of the clinic. Let me know if you find out.
As always Steve facinating material. “Psychopath to the psychopaths” is right
The irony is too much. I absolutely agree that there are unsolved cases
in Hawaii and others besides the Jigsaw in Manila as well. I’m wondering
if you can pinpoint GHH’s very first murder. Can’t wait for the new book. Keep
it up! All the best.
PS: My birthday is Dec 7th.
Thanks. Somehow tragically appropriate that the storm clouds of war would burst open and bombs would rain down on the very day of my parents First Wedding Anniversary (Paper) with the signing of the U.S. Declaration of War against Japan.
“Mental Health Month,” indeed! I’m reminded of the story of how GHH’s father escaped antisemitism in czarist Russia — very resourceful, someone who doesn’t play by the rules. Regarding Shangri-La, wasn’t GHH investigating relocation to Tibet before Hawaii came up? Wouldn’t be surprised if LOST HORIZON (1937) and BLACK NARCISSUS (1947) influenced that train of thought. With respect to Hortensia, the marriage seems an interesting connection to Catholicism and its distinctive Philippine variant (heavy on female saints, sado-masochistic imagery and ritual). I doubt that tradition would have escaped your father’s ethnographic interests given his enthusiasm for Huysmans and de Gourmont. BTW, do you know if Esther Leov (GHH’s mother) was a Catholic? You mention in BDA that rumor had it Esther was descended from French aristocracy, so it seems possible. -LW
LW: We know that Barron Harringa traveled extensively through China and had many tall stories that I’m sure he shared with GHH. Then George’s own travels there with UNRRA I’m sure was a pull on his desire to relocate to the East. If I recall the DA tapes correctly he was in touch with someone in Tibet (via Ham radio?) and I think it was Rexroth that George said he would “put him in touch with the man.” (Could have been someone else?) Something about applying for ???
Yes, I know Black Narcissus was one of his favorites, but not sure about Lost Horizon, but most likely it was too. Hortensia obtained a dispensation from the Pope on the marriage after four children and eight or so stormy years first in Hawaii then Manila. Though the two put on a good “face” when I was stationed there in 1959-60 in the Navy at Subic Bay.
I don’t know the answer to my grandmother’s religion? I seem to recall that June made some mention of her being possibly Roman Catholic, but can’t be sure. I never heard dad or anyone make any references to our Jewishness. Both grandparents are buried at Forest Lawn with the gravestone quote, “Until the day break, and the shadows flee away” which I believe is a partial quote from Song of Soloman 2:17 (King James Version) Sooooooo, not very Jewish.
I am a libraruan/certified archivist working at the law school library at the university of Hawaii at Manoa. Im fascinated by this case, I’ve done some casual looking around but haven’t found anything yet. I’m very familiar with Shangri-la. If anyone has a lead they want followed or need someone in Hawaii to try to find something at an archive, let me know and I can look around. I can ask if he has any materials in the faculty archives at UH as well.
Thanks for the heads up. If you do find anything related to or mentioning Dr. George Hill Hodel in the archives or at the University of Hawaii please do forward to me at my email at [email protected] I know he was assigned as a counselor at the Territorial Prison for a year or two and did teach courses at the Univ of Hawaii circa 1950-1953. And, of course, after marrying Hortensia Laguda Lopez in Mexico, their daughter was born in Hawaii before they moved on to Manila, Philippines. I haven’t really had an opportunity to see if Hawaii (Oahu) had any “Lone Woman Murders” during his years there in the early Fifties? Best, Steve
It would be interesting if GHH’s mother was an observant Catholic, given he reputedly had great enmity towards her. I have in mind the mocking references to rosaries and prayer books in his reports from the Teresa Mors and Peggy Donovan death scenes, and the cryptic “St. Donna” Christmas card sent to the sister of suspected Zodiac victim Donna Lass. Seems like there’s something going on there. -LW
LW: Yes, and his atheism/antireligion surfaces dramatically in a crime from his “Early Years” so definitely a mindset and reveal. I never really have got stuck into the Donna Lass investigation, though I do think he was good for it. Not familiar with the “Christmas card” sent to a relative, but as we know from Degnan and Bates, it was part of GHH’s sadistic MO. Too many crimes, too little time. skh
Steve: There is an interesting formal resemblance between the “St. Donna & Guardian of the Pines” greeting card and the cover of the 1922 Kieffer edition of Remy de Gourmont’s “Les Saintes de Paradis” (“The Women Saints of Paradise”). That edition turns up in rare book stores here in the US from time to time. Your father could well have been familiar with it as de Gourmont, a highly rarified taste, was one of his favorite authors per Ted le Berthon. Le Berthon was, incidentally, a devout Catholic and he obviously had real concerns about GHH’s spiritual well-being back in ’25. “Saints of Paradise” vs. “Paradice Slaves” — did GHH co-opt Catholic imagery for his own, personal, egocentric and sex-centric religion, perhaps gestated in a teenage rebellion against his mother? That sounds like something a devotee of Baudelaire and Gourmont with a186 IQ might do. -LW
Luigi et al: Also Donna was a Nurse who lived in San Francisco prior to moving to Lake Tahoe..I believe she would have trusted him but there was so many murders up in that area for a few decades. They never found a body in her case though nor did she show up anywhere. TM
I read your stories.
First I’m very sorry to discover so horrible true about own father.
Second Im glad God gave you wisdom, courage and strength reveal all this !
I’m really shock how such monster and other can’t be catch quick!
He had money and probably he knows how manipulate people.
I really don’t like watch or read such sad stories but this one is so unbelievably reflect how intelligent human with position can be devil!
I wish you all the best in future and all blessings!
I’m sure God reward you in many ways.
Alina P: Thank you for the kind words and thoughts. Much appreciated. Steve