March 25, 2019
Los Angeles, California
In February 2019 I teamed up with my friend and super-sleuth extraordinaire, KAREN SMITH, owner of Bare Bones Consulting, LLC. Karen is a retired major case detective with the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office as well as a forensic crime scene expert. (See short bio from CRIMECON 2018 below.)
Karen and I submitted a FOIA Request to the LA Superior Court asking that we be permitted to obtain copies of my father’s 1949 sealed court documents as relates to the trial People of the State of California vs. Dr. George Hill Hodel.
In March, the court granted our request and as a direct result, I am now able to disclose to the public further dramatic information pertinent to my ongoing investigation.
Detective Karen Smith, Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office (ret.)
In today’s blog, we will exam the “LA DA Plea Agreement” in the case of People vs. Dr. Francis Ballard and Charles Smith, dated January 11, 1950, and its surprising new revelations related to my father, Dr. George Hill Hodel.
For those readers not familiar with the investigation here is a brief chronology of events as they unfolded in the fall of 1949.
October 1, 1949– Tamar Hodel, age 14, runs away from home, hides out at juvenile friends homes and is arrested a few days later by LAPD Juvenile. Tamar discloses sexual involvement with her father and is detained at L.A. County Juvenile Hall, placed in “protective custody.”
October 6, 1949– Dr. George Hill Hodel arrested for incest by LAPD Juvenile detectives.
October 9, 1949- Dr. Francis C. Ballard and Charles Smith arrested for performing an abortion on Tamar Hodel on September 11, 1949.
December 23, 1949– Dr. George Hodel three week trial ends with a “Not Guilty” verdict from the jury.
January 14-17, 1950– Dr. Francis C. Ballard and Charles Smith four day trial ends with a plea agreement. DA prosecutor J. Miller Leavy agrees to drop felony charges of abortion in trade for defendants pleading guilty to a misdemeanor, “Contributing to the Delinquency of a Minor.”
(SKH Note- It is my belief that witness Lillian Lenorak likely testilied during this four-day trial claiming “no actual abortion, just examination” then after trial within two weeks on or around January 28 went to George Hodel residence, informed him she was “going to recant her testimony in both the Incest and Dr. Ballard Abortion trials and tell the DA the truth”; she was then drugged and the “attempted suicide” was staged by George followed within days by the officer Mary Unkefer Letter.)
Tamar post-trial age-15 New York Times Oct 30, 1949
Dr. Francis C. Ballard and Charles Smith arrested for performing an abortion on Tamar Hodel
“FRANCIS BALLARD and CHARLES SMITH on the 11th day of September 1940 at and in the County of Los Angeles, State of California did willfully, unlawfully and feloniously:
provide, supply, use and employ an instrument and other means upon the person of Tamar Hodel, a woman, with the willful, unlawful and felonious intent then and there and thereby to procure the miscarriage of the said Tamar Hodel, said use and employment of said instrument and other means to procure said miscarriage of said Tamar Hodel, a woman, not then and there being necessary to preserve the life of the said Tamar Hodel.
Why would the DA Prosecutor J. Miller Leavy (more on him below) agree, after four days of trial testimony, to suddenly drop the felony abortion charges, and request that both defendants be allowed to “cop a plea” to a misdemeanor? The 70-Year-Old sealed court documents and “DA Plea Agreement” reveals the answer!
Copy of original DA Attorney Recommendation dated January 11, 1950 (Fully reproduced below)
RECOMMENDATION PLEA TO AN ALTERNATE COUNT
The alleged offense of abortion, in this case, grows out of the testimony of Tamar Hodel, who was a prosecution witness within the past few weeks in an incest case involving her father. In that case, the jury, after a lengthy trial, acquitted the defendant. The within offense, as well as the others in which this victim, Tamar Hodel, is a prosecution witness, came to the attention of the authorities when she was questioned about being a run-away.
The facts involving the within offense against the defendant, an M.D. Francis Ballard, and Charles Smith, who is a layman, disclosed that Tamar Hodel complained to her father that she was pregnant. This testimony is based upon the testimony of Tamar Hodel at the preliminary hearing. She further testified that her father did not believe her but after some persuasion he concluded that she might be pregnant and had her examined by a doctor on Aug. 26th, and there is the testimony of that doctor at the preliminary hearing that, in her opinion, the victim, Tamar Hodel, was about 6 or 7 weeks pregnant. Tamar Hodel further testified that during the time she was complaining to her father about her pregnancy her father gave her three shots of ergot, which is an abortive agent. Tamar Hodel claims she did not abort prior to the incident in Dr. Ballard’s office on Sept. 11th.
The events occasioned by Tamar Hodel’s presence in Dr. Ballard’s office on Sept. 11th, are that her father introduced her to the defendant Smith as Jannette Olawn, 18 years of age and that she was a truck driver’s sweetheart and had become pregnant. Dr. Hodel, according to Tamar Hodel’s testimony, did not disclose to Smith that she, Tamar Hodel, was his daughter. The defendant Smith is acquainted with both Dr. Ballard and Dr. Hodel, working for them in some layman capacity. Smith agreed as a favor to Dr. Hodel to take the victim in this case to Dr. Ballard, he, Smith, believing that the girl was pregnant. On the day in question, Smith did take her to Dr. Ballard’s office, giving her several pills on the way over, which were probably sedatives.
According to the girl’s testimony at the preliminary hearing, she states that she was placed upon the table in Dr. Ballard’s office, with her feet in the stirrups and that she felt Dr. Ballard doing something with her privates, although she cannot testify that he used any instruments to cause an abortion, although she claims she did not abort prior to that time. She states that she experienced severe pain on the table and became ill, after which she was taken home by the defendant Smith. There is absolutely no physical evidence in support of Tamar Hodel’s testimony that an abortion was performed upon her by Dr. Ballard, this due to the lapse of time between Sept. 11th and the matter coming to the attention of the authorities at some later date.
After this matter came to the attention of the authorities, the investigating officers for the Police Department talked to both the defendant Smith and the Defendant Ballard. The defendant Smith admitted in his statement to the officers which is contained in the preliminary transcript, that he did take the girl, Tamar Hodel, to Dr. Ballard’s believing that she was Jannette Olawn and that she had been intimate with a truck driver and that she had had severe abdominal pains and that he assumed the girl was pregnant. That he, prior to taking the girl to Dr. Ballard, discussed the matter with Dr. Ballard, who was reluctant to conduct an examination but that Dr. Ballard was willing to perform his services for $200.00 That he, the defendant Smith, was present in the room of Dr. Ballard when Dr. Ballard performed his services upon the girl and assisted the girl when she became sick.
Dr. Ballard also talked to the police officers in this case and stated to the officers that the defendant Smith came to him in September and stated that a Dr. Hodel had a good friend by the name of Jannette who was living at his house and who was intimate with a truck driver and that she had missed her menstrual period and had had severe abdominal pains and that Smith wanted her on behalf of Dr. Hodel to examine her and see what he could do for the girl. Dr. Ballard stated that he finally agreed to perform this service and that when the girl was brought to his office he conducted an investigation or examination of the girl and that, internally, it appeared that someone had attempted to tamper with her and that some caustic had been used and that he then cleaned the girl out and that he did not abort her but cleaned out what would not have been a normal birth.
For the reason that in the previous trial wherein Tamar Hodel testified regarding incestuous relationship with her father and that in that trial the credibility of Tamar Hodel was carefully explored by the defense and that it appears her credibility is to be considerably questioned, and for the reason that there is no physical evidence or additional evidence to support her claim that she was actually aborted by Dr. Ballard, and for the reason that Dr. Ballard does not admit that he actually aborted Tamar Hodel, it is believed that a conviction on the offense of abortion would be difficult to obtain. However, since both defendants do admit to the officers an act which is supported by Tamar Hodel’s testimony which would amount to Contributing to the Delinquency of a Minor, to wit, the examination of a minor girl by a doctor with a male layman present, without a female attendant, it is believed the interests justice can be served in this case by permitting both defendants to plead guilty to the offense of Contributing to the Delinquency of a Minor, to be charged as an additional count in an additional information. This disposition is agreeable with the investigating officers. The defendant Ballard in this case, so far as is known, has a good reputation in the community in which he practices in the Canoga Park area. There has not been disclosed any pattern on his part of participating in abortions. He possesses a good reputation and educational background.
Authority to recommend a plea of guilty as to both defendants of the offense of Contributing to the Delinquency of a Minor, as heretofore referred to, is hereby requested.
Note signature is by Deputy District Attorney J. M. Leavy requesting alternate misdemeanor count of “Contributing”
What we did not know until receiving these sealed court documents and what is the real “NEWS” here is that my father, Dr. George Hill Hodel actually “took things in hand” and performed an attempted abortion on Tamar by “injecting her on three separate occasions with the known abortive tincture- ERGOT. *
When this failed he created a fictitious story name and age for Tamar and approached his known abortionist buddy, Charles Smith claiming she was a friend “Jannette Olawn, 18, and pregnant by her truck driver boyfriend.” George got a bargain basement price ($200.00) to clean up his abortive attempt and with Tamar’s runaway and quick apprehension, his and their arrests soon followed.
It is understandable (but in no way supported by me) why the DA’s office would take a plea on this case. Once one knows and factors in George Hodel’s prior acts of performing the first abortion, along with Tamar having just being labeled as a “pathological liar” by the defense team of Geisler/Neeb in the incest trial, which had resulted in an “acquittal” just two weeks prior.
Easy to understand the DA’s Office saying to themselves, “We could lose this. Let’s take a plea now.”
Here are a few interesting sidebars to the story.
*Ergot to induce abortion
Midwives and doctors have used extracts from ergots to hasten childbirth or to induce abortions for centuries. “Ergot of rye”, wrote Francis Ramsbotham, founder of the Obstetrical Society of London, in 1841, “has been known to possess deleterious and poisonous qualities for more than 800 years, and it has been used on the continent by female midwives as a promoter of labour pains for nearly 150 years”[27 Wikipedia
DEPUTY DA J. MILLER LEAVY
We see that the prosecutor (ostensibly representing the victim, Tamar Hodel) was DDA J. Miller Leavy.
DA Leavy was probably the most famous prosecutor of that time. (Click below to read his obituary.) Three of his most famous LA cases were: Caryl Chessman (1948) known as “The Red Light Bandit” tried, convicted and put to death. (Chessman was a huge cause celeb in his day, many believing he was actually innocent as charged. The only reason he was executed was that Leavy charged him with 209PC (The Lindberg Law, Kidnapping with injuries). The ostensible “kidnap” was forcing the female victim from the front to the back seat of her vehicle and the injury was forcing her to perform fellatio on his person. No murder ever occurred. Chessman denied he was the actual suspect, and the eye-witness identification was weak at best. The victim originally claimed the suspect had “a large scar on his face that was easily recognizable.” Chessman, arrested later, had no scar and the victim changed her testimony to ID him. Leavy also prosecuted, Barbara “I Want To Live” Graham, convicted her and she was also executed. Actress Susan Hayward won a “Best Actress Oscar” for her portrayal of Graham in the 1958 film, “I Want to Live.”
DA Leavy also prosecuted and convicted L. Ewing Scott for the murder of his wife. A case where her body was never found. (Although some of her personal effects were found buried on their estate in Bel Air, California.
DDA J. Miller Leavy (upper left) examing evidence in Scott murder 1959