Seventy-Year-Old Court Documents Unsealed-Reveal Dr. George Hodel Performed an Abortion Attempt on His 14-Year-Old Daughter Prior to Obtaining a Second Sucessful Abortion Performed By Dr. Francis Ballard
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
Good stuff, Steve.
Ps you have the “Not Guilty” verdict listed incorrectly as December 23, 1939 instead of 1949.
Zach G; Thanks, I will correct the date now.
Enjoyed reading your 1st book Black Dahlia Avenger when it first came out. Spellbound by your writing. The shyI Am The Night was also terrific. That house is absolutely haunting even on the small screen. I can’t imagine what it must’ve been like growing up there. Especially with a man like your father.
I have always been fascinated by the Dahlia case (I met James Ellroy and had him sign my books). No offense- I’ve read every Dahlia book I could get my hands on over the years. From John Gilmore, Mary Pacios, and Donald Wolfe. I have found you’d to be the likeliest scenario. Thank you and all those who have aided you in your quest to see the truth will out.
Once again, “Good Work” my friend. You keep digging and finding gold along the way. Every time I see positive results from a freedom of information request (FOIA), I smile to myself, as my (and others) work to change that law (The Sunshine Act) of 1993 to it’s current state which allows you and I the advantage of “Presumption of release” so we can now get these files without suing the Government or playing expensive bureaucratic games (in some cases for years) to get this vital
information. Once more: Great Work! Keep it up!!!!
Dennis E: Thanks for help Rising the Sun in the West. Best, Steve
Great work Steve. The truth will always come out. George’s secrets couldn’t stay hidden in the closet forever.
Amber S. Thanks you for the kind words. Much appreciated. No, but they sure stayed locked in the vault way too long. Glad as you say “the Truth Will Out.”
Hello Steve… I am reading your books… Just wondered is there no way to exonerate William Heirens post humously (?)…? Also do we know for sure the George is Fauna father… And also, can’t we have the sowden house torn down? I mean wow, we passed by the other day, have everyone the creeps. Steve where do you and the family go from here? Good luck to you
Laura: Re. poor William Heirens, no, unfortunately. Chicago politicos and PD will not do anything to show they imprisoned the wrong man for 64 years. They have potential DNA evidence but won’t analyze them. I’ve tried to get some action, but not going to happen. George is NOT Fauna’s father. He was in Hawaii when she was conceived in San Francisco. The father is an Italian American who slept with Tamar in November 1950. No, Sowden House is a national historic monument. And, yes, know it is “the crime scene” for LA’s most horrific murder doesn’t exactly help in the image Department.
Thank God he’s not the father… We were unclear… It’s surreal the story of Tamar, her mother, her life… I feel as though I’m looking in a mirror… Having gone through something similar, my mom also, instead of protecting me told police I was a liar. I was also “taught” somethings by my father when I was only 5. I guess it’s true what they say…. Nothing new under the sun. My daughter is also reading your books… We how the black dahlia case gets repented and that it gets finalized as soon as possible.. Thanks for your time.
Since watching I am the Night, I just can’t get enough of the mysterious Hodel family.. The Sowden house seems to be an eerie place and I can’t imagine what it was like growing up in that house and family. Do the owners of this house live there full time and open it to the public?
Linda L: Growing up in the house as a boy was “Magic Time”. We loved it. Right out of Arabian Nights. Now, not so much. Yes, the new owners live there and no not open to the public. However, they do open it for public events and lease it out on occasion for commercial and film shoots. Steve
After listening to the latest episode of Root of Evil: the Troubling Questions, it seems Fauna’s daughters are still in doubt about who her father was. I heard you mention that you have a DNA profile of your father. Have y’all considered partnering with Myheritage.com or a similar company and having them compare that profile to one of Fauna’s children’s DNA? The percentage of his DNA they share would easily indicate the truth, and this question could be put to rest once and for all with scientific proof. If, in fact, the father is an Italian man as stated, the ethnic breakdown would show that, and MyHeritage’s researchers could likely track down who the man was based on relatives in their database. I’m an amateur genealogist, so this aspect of the story fascinates me still, as well as George’s mystery child that likely grew up in the Northeast with no knowledge of his real parentage.
Also, I know you’ve written additional books as more evidence has come out over the years. Any plans to write another book compiling all the research and evidence into one complete story?
Great episode on Dr Phil yesterday, also. Thanks.
Mel P: I offered Fauna the opportunity to do DNA analysis many years ago, since I have my father’s full DNA profile. She declined the offer TO KNOW.
I have no doubt that the father IS NOT George Hodel. Physically impossible as he was in Hawaii at the time she would have conceived. (Early Nov 1950)
Tamar, my half-sister was very clear about who the father was, “An Italian who gave her booze in San Francisco at his apt and “took advantage of her.”
I expect at some point in the near future the DNA will be addressed.
As far as my father’s “Mystery Child,” Folly, a girl not a boy born back in the mid-Twenties. I do have a surname but have never pursued it.
Maybe at some point, we can examine that linkage/heritage. Expect there are some more hidden secrets on that side of the nation from long long ago. Best, Steve
I have been listening to the Podcast, Root of Evil, after watching you and your nieces on Dr. Phil. I also saw you before on TV maybe after your 1st book came out about Dr. George Hodel. The effects that your father’s objectification of women, related and unrelated, has had on your family is so very sad. I am convinced from your investigative findings that he is a murderer. Too bad that the LA PD doesn’t think solving this crime is important. You have done the hard work. All they need to do is test for DNA! I am curious if there is any evidence that he committed any murders when he fled from the US? In other countries?
Karen H: Yes, there is evidence as presented in my sequel book, Most Evil (Dutton 2009) that he committed a “Black Dahlia” copycat murder in Manila where he lived in 1967. Victim posed nude on a lot, surgically bisected by a skilled surgeon some two miles from his then residence in Manila. Other crimes too. See my follow up books. Regards, Steve
Thank you Steve. Look forward to reading your books. May I also say how sorry I am for the pain your father’s actions have caused you and your family.
Karen H: Thank you Karen. Much appreciated.
Steve I give my deepest condolences for everything your family has gone through and thank you for sharing such intimate details on the podcast. I was wondering was it never investigated what George was covering in cement at the house? Or in the microphone transcripts when he was shoveling something and hit pipes. Is it possible there is evidence or even bodies buried under or in the house? And was wondering if you knew of any connection George would have had to Elizabeth short or if she was chosen at random cause in the podcast you mentioned there was a possible picture of her in a photo album.
Jessica: Thanks for the kind words. Much appreciated. The woman was never identified and the house and basement were never searched. Yes, “Buster” a Cadaver Dog alerted to “human remains” in or near the home, but LAPD is taking no action. Elizabeth Short was not “taken at random” they knew and dated each other prior to the murder as indicated in police reports. All explained in my book, Black Dahlia Avenger. Best, Steve
Steve, I was fortunate enough to catch the last 20 minutes of Dr. Phil. I am so proud of you and your nieces and starting on your books asap. I’m sure my question will be answered once I read it all, but can you tell me in all your years with LAPD, did you ever hear about George’s escape from justice? Or was there ever any mention while you were on the force?Thank y’all for your soul rendering. May God bless your family. Respectfully, Betty
Betty T: Hi Betty. Thanks for the kind words. Much appreciated.
As to your question, NO. Not a peep. Just a few of the “oldtimers” were still on the job, when I came on in 1963. Chief Parker and Chief of Detectives Thad Brown. Just an inner circle of top brass would have likely known about it from 1947, but nothing ever leaked out back to me. Not a hint. Fourteen years into retirement and only at our father’s death in 1999 did I, in conversation with my half-sister, Tamar receive her phone statement, “Well, you know our father was a suspect in the Black Dahlia murder. I mean he didn’t do it, but the police that took me to court and back from Juvenile Hall said, “They thought he might have killed her.” (Tamar and I had maybe a half hour of conversations in the preceding fifty years, so not something that ever came up prior.) Best, Steve
What became of “Folly” – your fathers first child from his cal tech days?
I’ve kept her last name confidential and have not done any serious follow-up research. If Folly is still living she would be 93 or 94 now, but according to my father he never made any contact with mother or daughter since meeting with her mother back in 1926. We recall as a teenager he said he went East and met with the woman and told her he, “wanted to marry her and raise the child.” After being rejected and her telling him, “You’re just a child yourself George. Just leave us alone”, he returned to California allegedly “never having contact again.” I have never heard from Folly or any of her relatives since the publication of BDA in 2003.