1949-50 Black Dahlia Witness Lillian Lenorak Hamilton Slain in Unrelated 1959 Palm Springs Murder –Her Killer Tord O. Zeppenfield Arrested

August 18, 2018
Los Angeles, California
November 12, 1959 UPI Photo

Those familiar with my investigation will recognize the name Lillian Lenorak Hamilton, who played a key role as a defense witness in both Dr. George Hodel’s 1949 Incest Trial and again in the January 1950 Abortion trial of Dr. Francis Ballard and his “assistant” Charles Smith.

Lillian testified in both trials as to having been present when my half-sister, Tamar was “examined” by Dr. Ballard, but testilied that “no abortion was performed.” Both Drs. Hodel and Ballard were acquitted based in part on Lillian’s testimony at both trials.

In late January 1950, after providing earlier false testimony at the December Hodel trial  (under duress and threats from Dr. Hodel) she again, for a second time repeated her perjury at the separate Dr. Ballard trial,

Lillian then went to the Sowden/Franklin home of Dr. Hodel, obtained his rifle from the bedroom closet and awaited his return to the home with the stated intent of “shooting him because she knew he had killed  Elizabeth “Black Dahlia” Short and he had to pay for it.” At this time, Lillian also threatened GHH that she was going to “recant her testimony and tell the DA investigators the truth that she lied.”

Upon George Hodel’s return home that afternoon, Lillian was disarmed, beaten, drugged and while unconscious, Hodel superficially cut both her wrists and then bandaged them, staging what he later described as “her attempted suicide.”

Santa Barbara policewoman Mary Unkefer (at the request of Lillian’s mother, Mrs. Hamilton) was summoned to the Hodel residence and transported Lillian to Santa Barbara where due to her “emotionally distraught condition” she was admitted to Camarillo State Hospital for observation after her mother, Mrs. Hamilton refused to take custody of her daughter.

Officer Unkefer would then write a detailed letter to the LADA’s Office describing the events and statements which became critical evidence connecting GHH to the Black Dahlia crime. However, this information was never made public and became part of the secret DA Hodel/Black Dahlia Files until finally discovered and revealed in my investigation in 2003.

See detailed summary in Chapter-4-Lillian-Lenorak

Lillian Lenorak Hamilton, aside from her day job as a film editor for General Studios, was an actress with thirteen film credits to her name in the 1940s-1950s. See her IMDB credits HERE.

One of her top roles was in the Ida Lupino groundbreaking film, OUTRAGE (1950) which was one of the first films to deal with the controversial and sensitive subject of RAPE and its far-reaching effects on the victim and her family.

The film starred Mala Powers as the rape victim and Lillian Hamilton played the role of her mother. (Seen standing below)


The following year actress Mala Powers (seen above) would go on to co-star as Roxanne in the classic film, Cyrano De Bergerac with Jose Ferrer. 

Jose Ferrer won the 1951 Oscar for “Best Actor” in his role as Cyrano.
Mala Powers seen above as his heartthrob, Roxanne.





Lillian’s tragic murder (completely unrelated to any Dr. Hodel connection) occurred in November 1959 while she was on a weekend date with a then-boyfriend in Palm Springs, California. The couple argued in his car, she demanded he pull over and she got out and walked away.

Lillian was confronted by a stranger, who abducted and beat her to death with the butt of his rifle.  Quickly identified as Tord Zeppenfield, age 21, he was arrested, tried and convicted of her murder.








  1. Kathy Hsu on August 31, 2018 at 12:55 am

    The second date listed August 18, 1918.
    Hope you are going well,
    *Please remove this commrnt)

    • Steve Hodel on August 31, 2018 at 2:19 am

      Kathy: Thanks. My error, at least we need to keep it in the right century. Thks. Steve

  2. Bill Schmidt on September 26, 2018 at 4:29 am

    Do you know whatever happened to the guy who murdered her? Was he executed? Keep up the incredible work Sir!
    Bill Schmidt

    • Steve Hodel on September 26, 2018 at 10:14 am

      Bill S.

      Lillian’s murderer was eventually released from prison. I’m not sure what year? Regards, Steve

      • L Stevens on April 29, 2022 at 12:16 am

        Tord Zeppen-Field appears in “The Tribune” of San Luis Obispo, October 4, 2009, page H-9 in an advertising supplement which lists real estate transactions, with buyer, seller, and price.

        He paid $8,500 for something on County Road 285 in California Valley.

        This is available on Newspapers.com, and is the only occurrence I could find of this unusual name, after 1960.
        Here is a link to the clipping—his name is in the left column, near the bottom of the clipping:

        • SueG on September 25, 2023 at 10:46 am

          His name and real estate history in California comes up starting with the year 1986 to present. My guess is he got 25 years, if he was sentenced in 1960 he would’ve gotten out around 1985. From what I read he was supposed to get life in prison. It shows he is about 85 years old. Crazy.

          • Steve Hodel on September 25, 2023 at 11:12 am

            Sue G:
            Thanks Sue.

        • Steve Hodel on September 25, 2023 at 11:11 am

          L. Stevens:
          Thanks for the information.
          Best, Steve

  3. Sue Kindel Frank on November 3, 2019 at 6:11 pm

    I am one of the granddaughters of Alma Hamilton and one of the nieces of Lillian Hamilton Lenorak. My favorite cousin John Charles Lenorak Farrow came to live with us after Aunt Lilly was murdered. In August of 2012 I attempted to reconnect with John only to find out he had died the year before. That’s when this whole story began to unfold. Needless to say I was in a state of shock.

    • Steve Hodel on November 3, 2019 at 6:59 pm

      Sue KF:
      Hi Sue. My condolences for the loss of both your family members Lillian and John.
      I’m sure you were a positive influence on John after the murder of his mother in Palm Springs in 1959. My sincere apologies for the horrific actions of my father a decade earlier in 1950 as related in officer Mary Unkefer’s letter to the DA. Wishing you and yours well. Steve Hodel

      • Kaydi on May 16, 2020 at 9:21 pm

        Isnt it possible that George didnt kill Elizabeth? His remark of a payoff and the L.A.P.D not being able to speak to his secretary because shes dead could have meant that he was referring to illegal abortions that his secretary knew about. The fact that he was a suspect on the black dahlia case could have steered up unrelated problems for him. It could draw attention to him performing illegal abortions even though he was not guilty of killing the Dahlia. It is possible that he might have been responsible for the death of his secretary but not the Dahlia.

        • Steve Hodel on May 18, 2020 at 9:12 pm

          Kaydi: I would suggest you read the books and see how it all comes together. It is now way “beyond any reasonable doubt” and the evidence is now overwhelming that he did it. Witnesses, physical evidence connecting from the Sowden/Franklin House to the crime scene, forensic HW ID, and five to LA’s top cops saying “George dit it” from back then. Much more. skh

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