Black Dahlia Crime Scene Photos: New Investigation-Hard Evidence and Forensics Revisited 2019

 

October 1, 2019
Los Angeles, California
Below scenes from Director Michelangelo Antonioni’s classic 1966 film, BLOW-UP showing “Thomas” (Actor David Hemmings) examining his “blown up photographs” which reveal evidence of a crime.
In the updated Black Dahlia Avenger (HarperCollins 2006) paperback edition I added several new chapters. One of these was entitled, “New Investigation: Hard Evidence and Forensics.
I quote from pages 544-45 of that chapter:

BLOWUP

As my Dahlia investigation comes to a close, I again find death imitating art.
Italian director Michelangelo Antonioni’s thriller Blowup, a seminal film of the 1960s, forced us to think and question lifestyles, mores, art, and the subjectivity of perception, all focused through the lens of a photographer’s camera. In the film, a whodunit or wasitdun existentialist mystery, David Hemmings plays a mod-fashion photographer who, while strolling through a London park, happens upon and takes photographs of a couple embracing.
In developing the photographs, he discovers that his camera has caught a possible murder in progress. Is there a hand showing a man holding a gun in the shrubbery? A dead body? He begins to enlarge small sections of his prints (hence the title), and as they grow, they enhance the mystery as distinct pieces of the puzzle.
Some forty years after seeing this fascinating film, I now find myself cast in the same role of protagonist-photographer. The only difference: we are in the year 2005, and I have traded Hemming’s 35mm Leica for a Hewlett-Packard computer and Adobe Photoshop!
What my investigation has revealed forces me to make public crime photographs that are graphically horrifying. In previous printings of my book I have been able to restrict this aspect of the investigation to verbal descriptions, which though shocking reduced significantly the violence. Hearing is a much kinder sense than sight. For the sake of truth, and the further need to prove my case, I must, I am afraid, cross the line and delve into that darker corner. I would ask that you, my readers, consider yourself a seated juror in a murder trial. Before showing you this evidence, I will do what most prosecutors do in court: apologize for having to show you scenes so violent that they will doubtless shock your senses; but this additionally compelling evidence must be added to our case.
BLOWUP FORENSICS 2019– A THIRTEEN-YEAR REEVALUATION
PART I- THE WATCH
In the 2006 examination and analysis, I suggested that an object seen inside the upper torso at the crime scene may well have been a military watch placed there by my father as a deliberate inclusion and posing of his “surreal masterpiece,”
This was based on several known factors which included:
  1. A search of the vacant lot by LAPD recruits in the days following the removal of the victim’s body from the lot resulted in the “finding of a man’s military watch which was recovered and booked in evidence.”
  2. A photo of George Hodel taken some two months prior to the murder showing him wearing a man’s military watch.
  3. The fact that surrealists in their paintings were known to place a watch or other representation of “time” in their drawings/paintings.
  4. A blowup of the upper torso showed what appeared to be a circular object with a dark face inside the body cavity at the crime scene compared to a second photo taken at the coroner’s office showing that object missing. (Did the watch fall out upon moving it from the scene only to be discovered by police recruits searching the location two days later?
Photos included in the original 2006 Chapter:

Man Ray photo of GHH taken in October 1946 showing him wearing his military watch.
Newspaper article describing “a man’s military watch” found two days by LAPD police recruits searching near where the body had been placed.

(Top) Crime scene arrow showing a circular object in upper torso appears to have a black face and resembling a man’s watch. (Bottom) Arrow taken at coroner’s office showing object missing from inside the upper torso.
(SKH Note- At the time of my original writing I assumed it would be a simple task to compare the watch booked in LAPD evidence to the watch seen worn by my father in the Man Ray photograph taken just months prior. Post publication, in a television interview, LAPD was forced to admit, “The watch is missing from our Property Division. We don’t know where it is?” Consequently, no comparison could be made to the George Hodel watch.)
2019 Forensic Reexamination
At my request, my friend and now frequent partner in my ongoing investigation, Robert Sadler, photographer, true-crime author, and ex-Dallas Police Officer, enhanced the original photographs as I wanted to see if we could obtain a more definitive answer that might allow us to rule “in or out” the suspected object. Was it or was it not- a man’s military watch?
Click photo to enlarge

In examining Robert’s photographic study and enhancements both he and I agree that the object can now most probably be ELIMINATED as being a man’s military watch.
Based on the above comparisons, specifically, 1c (negative imagery) and 1d (high contrast imagery) we both agree that it is more likely a piece of human tissue or bone that appeared to be connected and hanging from the upper torso and  likely fell off during the autopsy procedure.
PART II OF FORENSIC EXAMINATION TO BE CONTINUED IN MY NEXT BLOG

38 Comments

  1. Barry Guerrero on October 2, 2019 at 1:38 pm

    If I’m understanding correctly, the watch was never observed upon E.S.’s wrist, but rather was laid upon the surface near by. Is that right?

    • SIGRID HOWE on May 10, 2021 at 10:31 pm

      I am bothered by the crime scene photos. In the graphic nude photos of the black dahlia you can clearly see the lacerations to each side of her mouth. However in the picture where she’s covered with a blanket those lacerations don’t appear as far as I can tell. The photos of her autopsy clearly indicate the sickening injuries inflicted upon her face so it was not a matter of that her face had been wiped clean in the picture at the crime scene

      • Steve Hodel on May 10, 2021 at 10:35 pm

        Sigrid H:

        The press photo with the blanket is photo-shopped. They removed the facial trauma for the public.
        The actual crime scene photo shows it to be a clean “rounded” cut with a scalpel. The autopsy photo looks jagged only because they put two sutures in the mouth to close it.

        Steve Hodel
        Los Angeles

    • Steve Hodel on May 20, 2021 at 3:41 pm

      Barry G: Yes, not on her wrist. We don’t know exactly where the watch was found during a search by police recruits.

  2. Steve Hodel on October 2, 2019 at 2:00 pm

    Barry G:
    No, the watch was never connected to Elizabeth Short in any way. This blog is a followup to what was written in my 2006 BDA updated HarperCollins edition where I theorized that George Hodel may have placed his watch inside the upper torso of her body at the crime scene. Here, I dispute that original theory and indicate my doubts that the object was a watch, but rather with enhanced photos now believe it was flesh or bone.
    LAPD police recruits found a man’s watch in the field near the body and booked it in evidence, but it has “disappeared” from the police property room so we are not able to compare it to the “military watch” seen worn on George Hodel’s wrist in the photograph taken two months prior to the murder.

    • Jade Pope on November 30, 2020 at 3:15 am

      While it does look like part of her body which is why you’re ruling out the theory of it being a watch; I’m still curious about the response you had received when asking to see the watch for comparison and them stating they lost it in evidence. This wouldn’t be the first time that evidence magically disappeared, regarding your father, from what I have heard.

      • Steve Hodel on November 30, 2020 at 9:56 am

        Jade P:
        That’s for sure. In truth, EVERYTHING related to George Hill Hodel “disappeared” from LAPD files. His name literally did not exist so we only have to thank Lt. Jemison for keeping “a second set of boks” in the LADA vault, otherwise, NADA.

  3. Cindy Orozco on October 2, 2019 at 3:10 pm

    Could it possibly be, just a theory i’m not a detective, that George Hodel was able to bribe cops? By this it would’ve justified how the watch “mysteriously” disappears. If he had some kind of leverage, he would’ve been able to blackmail the cops into making the case go in his favor, and therefore, he wouldn’t be responsible. His daughter, Tamal Hodel, gave brith to a baby very young that some believe is his child due to the incest that Hodel took part in when it was believed he raped her. And if he was acquitted for this, there is possibility that he was able to do it with the police department on his side. I understand you didn’t have a relationship seeing as he was such a terrible person, but I believe even after all these years there still needs to be justice for Elizabeth Short and Tamal Hodel.

    • Steve Hodel on October 2, 2019 at 3:25 pm

      Cindy O:
      Yes, he had power over LAPD and the DA’s Office. All detailed in my books. Too extensive to summarize here. He was basically “untouchable”.

  4. Anne on October 3, 2019 at 8:03 am

    Hello,Steve! I’m freshly new to your blog and the Black Dahlia case, but I’m fascinated by the latger scheme uncovered by yourself and the symbolism behind this ritualistic murder!! Do you think Elizabeth Short was your father’s first victim? And do you believe this murder, as well as his other core values, were actually part of a larger luciferian cult? It almost seemed like the murder was a form of worship of some sort! What also strikes me, is your family’s intense connection to show business and the definite protection of Hodel’s assets. It seems like he didn’t lose any of his property or suffer financially from these controversies! Do you think George Hodel was into the occult?

    • Steve Hodel on October 3, 2019 at 9:03 am

      Anne: Hi Anne. No, Elizabeth Short was definitely not my father’s first victim. He was a serial killer and began in his teens in the 1920s and had committed dozens of murders prior to her abduction and torture/murder in 1947. Suggest you start by reading Black Dahlia Avenger (Skyhorse 2015 ed.) That book chronicles his “LA Lone Woman Murders” about a dozen from 1943 until he fled the U.S. in 1950 to avoid arrest. I do not believe he was involved in any organized “cult” but his unique crime signature did relate to “Murder as a Fine Art” and his beliefs in Surrealism and that “the dream and waking states were all one.” Doubt he was “into the Occult” but rather had his own personal twisted beliefs and psychopathic belief system mixed with being a misanthrope, a classic sadist in the extreme and an urban terrorist. Regards, Steve

  5. Peggy Codella on October 11, 2019 at 8:57 pm

    Was there any investigation as to whether the basement of the Franklin house contained bodies or other evidence buried there? I’m so fascinated by your books. I’m almost finished reading Black Dahlia Avenger and just purchased BD Avenger 3.

    • Steve Hodel on October 11, 2019 at 9:03 pm

      Peggy C: The DA investigators suspected there might be a grave(s) in the basement back when they did the electronic surveillance in 1950, and interviewed a plumber asking him if he saw any digging in the basement, but they never really followed it up on their own. And no searches since then with the exception of “Buster” the Cadaver Dog alerting to “human remains” in my 2012 investigation, but no followup by LAPD. I would suggest you read BDA II (2014 edition) before BDA III, but up to you. Best, Steve

      • The-Incognit on February 26, 2021 at 6:32 am

        Existen mas fotos de la escena del crimen y mas documentos del caso de la dalia negra?

        • Steve Hodel on February 26, 2021 at 9:40 am

          The Incognit:
          Spanish translation:
          “Are there more photos of the crime scene and more documents from the black dahlia case?”
          I don’t know if LAPD has additional documents or not? They are not discussing or providing any information. Additional crime scene photos may exist, but I doubt it.

  6. Gretchen on October 25, 2019 at 2:22 pm

    Steve,
    I have been listening to the Root of Evil podcast all day and it is so fascinating. I can’t imagine how difficult this must continue to be for you; learning more details about your family and this awful crime over the years. Thank you for so openly sharing your story as it relates to your father. I admire your strength, honestly and ability to stay true to the facts. Sincerely, Gretchen

    • Steve Hodel on October 25, 2019 at 4:14 pm

      Gretchen N:
      Thanks for the kind words Gretchen. Much appreciated. Steve

      • Katie Kuderer on December 1, 2019 at 10:13 pm

        Hi Steve
        I honestly believe that your father killed Elizabeth Short. I can’t imagine how you felt when you discovered this. This has nothing to do with you. You are a good man.Wow. This podcast has really affected me to the core. Bless you and your family.

  7. Star Swanson on May 5, 2020 at 4:39 am

    I have a few questions about the specific room that you were not allowed into. I believe that there would be more bodies somewhere inside or underneath the floorboards, considering he was a high paid doctor, he’d be able to pay to get the floor fixed quickly. Even if this is proven wrong have you been in that room prior to the recent owner being there?

    • Steve Hodel on May 5, 2020 at 8:38 am

      Star S:
      The room as described in my books was nothing more than a 3’x8′ area behind the sliding bookcase designed when the house was constructed in 1926 to hide and store booze during prohibition. Nothing more and not enough space to perform any type of “operation.”

  8. Star Swanson on May 5, 2020 at 4:46 am

    I also have another question, had they not looked for blood inside the house whatsoever, even if they were to go now, there should at least be a trace of blood in the house considering the fact that blood from the 1950s of a soldier could be found in any historic house

    • Steve Hodel on May 5, 2020 at 8:41 am

      Star S:
      LAPD claims they are “too busy” with current cases to do any investigative follow-up. Forensic testing of the surrounding soil has already been done and proven positive for “human remains.” But, again, LAPD though having received the forensics still maintains “too busy” to take a look.

  9. Cindy on July 30, 2020 at 2:06 pm

    I think the reason you turned out so good is because your sperm donor was so evil. Sort of a way the universe evened out the family name. As evil as he was, you are doubled that in good. I know I can research this but was he ever found and when/how did he pass? And what type of person was your mother? I’m so sorry you have this horrible legacy attached to your name but am happy you aren’t one of those who make excuses for his actions.

    • Steve Hodel on July 30, 2020 at 3:16 pm

      Cindy:
      Thank you for your kind words. Much appreciated.
      My father fled the U.S. in 1950 just as he was about to be arrested by the DA investigators. Top LE officials privately acknowledged they “solved the case and he was the killer” but it never became public until my investigation and discovery of the secret LA DA tapes locked away by LE for fifty-three years.
      George Hodel died at the advanced age of 91 by suicide after taking a large overdose of sleeping pills in his penthouse suite in San Francisco on May 16, 1999. He took his life not out of “remorse” for his many crimes but rather out of fear of becoming infirm and an invalid due to a bad heart condition.

      • Jim Edwards on December 21, 2021 at 11:41 am

        Hi Steve:

        A couple of quick questions. I have not read all of your books yet so I apologize if you have provided the answers already. First, when did your father return to the United States? I thought he died in exile. Second, how was he able to return without being prosecuted for at least some of his crimes as there was so much evidence pointing to him? Thanks for your time and efforts and Merry Christmas to you and your family.
        Jim Edwards

        • Steve Hodel on December 21, 2021 at 12:05 pm

          Jim E:
          George Hodel returned permanently to the U.S. relocating in DTSF on Bush St in 1990.
          He lived in that penthouse apt with his wife June for almost ten years and I regularly visited them until his death in 1999. He died in that 39th floor apt at age 91, by taking an overdose of barbiturates. (Seconal).
          LAPD had covered up and buried the case files and had no desire to prosecute him for the murder. All the original top cops had long retired and or died. Today’s LAPD had no clue that he was even a suspect. All reports and files connecting him to the crime had been removed and destroyed. It was only because DA Lt. Frank Jemison had copied and locked away “a second set of books” in the DA vault that we had the confirmation that he was the killer. These were discovered by me in 2003 after the book was published.
          Merry Christmas to you and yours too.

  10. Tony F on December 30, 2020 at 9:31 pm

    I wonder how your father would have reacted if you were able to ask him, before he died, if he committed any murders, including Elizabeth. He was powerful and just the idea your sister, half sister ,as you always prefer to say, had to try to stand up to him on her own without even her mother believing her, and even testifying against her. It’s amazing in today’s world to think back. Did she ever have a normal relationship with her mother up until the mom died? My heart breaks for her. That instance with the friends and her and your dad……I’m sure that wasn’t the first time. Did she ever answer, WHY? In the book, not really. Thanks.

    • Steve Hodel on December 30, 2020 at 9:51 pm

      Tony F:
      Tamar was sexually active as a teen prior to the sex acts involving our father and Fred Sexton and the two female adults. But, she always claimed that was the only time she had sexual intercourse with her father. Never before or after that July 1949 incident. Her relationship with her mother was never particularly good. Lot of conflict and that was the reason she was sent down to stay with us in the summer of 1949.

  11. Tony on December 30, 2020 at 9:35 pm

    I can relate to all those areas, I grew up nearby and went to West Hollywood element59-’69.ary. My dad had a business on Sunset Blvd., a block ish or so from the famous drug store, Schwab’s. I was there later though, from ’59-69.

  12. Pat on February 10, 2021 at 1:40 am

    I thank you for your hard work and research. I wonder if any blood tests, I mean just to find if any human blood was present, was done in the hidden room or anywhere else in the old house? I am just starting on audible of your book.

    • Steve Hodel on February 10, 2021 at 2:28 am

      Pat:
      No blood work analysis has been done at the residence by LAPD.
      The soil samples recovered in my investigation have shown positive for human remains
      but those samples were exterior to the residence.
      The “hidden room” is a myth in that there was no “room” in the basement.
      Just a closet behind the sliding bookshelf in the living room. Built in the 20s
      to hide booze during Prohibition.

  13. SIGRID HOWE on May 11, 2021 at 12:11 am

    Steve, I’m so sorry and embarrassed to admit this but I was looking something else up regarding the Black dahlia and didn’t realize your relationship to the killer (your Father)…. I thought you were a true crime journalist digging up more information as was the case with a Netflix doc series about sons of Sam.
    please Forgive my ignorance and please accept my most sincere empathy of such a tragic tale for you and your family!
    I did not mean to be so graphic and detached.
    I look forward to reading your books!

    • Steve Hodel on May 11, 2021 at 12:52 am

      Sigrid H:
      No need to apologize. There is so much misinformation out there that it can all be very confusing. For example, a miniseries was made called, I AM THE NIGHT which supposedly is about my family and the Black Dahlia investigation. 95% fiction and I was not involved in any part of the making of it. I didn’t know it was made until seeing a trailer promo just days before it aired. On the other hand, there is a podcast, ROOT OF EVIL (eight episodes link below) which I did cooperate in making with extensive interviews as relates to my Black Dahlia investigation. Very well done and received a “No. 1 podcast rating in the U.S.” My books basically are all one investigation on my father’s crime here, in Chicago, in the P.I., and in the San Francisco Bay Area. Below suggested reading order. Best, Steve
      Root of Evil link:
      https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/root-evil-true-story-hodel-family-black-dahlia/id1450277129

      Suggested reading order for books:
      https://stevehodel.com/author-books-suggested-reading-order/

      • Kasey Hunt on May 20, 2021 at 2:07 pm

        SRA with blood letting – review symbology on the macro – even outside of the murder and evidence.

  14. Kasey Hunt on May 20, 2021 at 2:14 pm

    Are there any Vanderbilt connections?

    • Steve Hodel on May 20, 2021 at 3:43 pm

      Kasey H:
      Yes, but not in my currently published books. To be announced in “The Early Years” when published.

  15. Summerstar Burns on June 19, 2022 at 8:06 am

    I can’t even imagine what this is like for you! My father was nuts, but you definitely win this round! I was looking in to an actor’s movie credits. I stumbled upon a movie said actor was in, it’s about Elizabeth Short. I was curious to know more about the case and that is how I found this site. The evidence is quite strong! You did an incredible job! I will be purchasing your book today.

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