Black Dahlia Crime Scene Photos and Forensics Part II – “The Earring”

October 3, 2019
Los Angeles, California
New Investigation-Hard Evidence and Forensics Part II-
The Earring
George Hodel Album Photo
Elizabeth Short Coroner’s Photo left Ear
Excerpt from Black Dahlia Avenger (Skyhorse 2015 ed.) Pages 492-3
Blowup 6: The Earring
I had found the trace evidence hair follicle on the body from the crime scene photographs.* Was I missing anything? To make sure, I decided to recheck the remaining few photographs taken at the coroner’s office. More scans, this time from foot to head. I moved slowly upward, forced to endure in magnification the many visible horrors of my father’s sadism. I finished with the head. I had seen enough. I reached to turn off my screen, and again, an object caught my eye. Perhaps, it was just a small white mark on the nearly sixty-year-old print? I zoomed in on it. Something was there. Inside her left ear. Too blurred to see. Again, I rescanned with higher resolution.
Another blowup. Now I could make it out. An earring. But not just any earring. It appeared identical to the earring seen worn by the woman in my father’s nude photograph. Small circular pearls. Is this an additional link to his album photo No. 1?
These links help us to close the circle. We have viewed and compared the actual hair follicle, photographically preserved and found on Elizabeth’s nude body, identical to George Hodel’s curly, black hair. * We have seen my father’s sardonic and surreal placement of a watch and an earring, inside the body. The pearl earring appears identical to the one worn by the woman in my father’s photograph Number 1. And we have documentation of law enforcement’s deliberate misstatement and falsification of evidentiary facts, (“no burn marks on the victim’s body”) formally presented to a seated grand jury.
We are left with one final question: the coroner’s report. Locked and never released to the public. What more can it reveal? Does it contain the evidence as shown in the photographs? Do the watch, and the earring, still exist? Or has the full and complete report, along with the physical evidence, also simply “disappeared”?
LAPD’s Chief Bratton has told us his department is off the case. “I just told our Cold Case Squad guys to give it [the Black Dahlia investigation] up.” All the LAPD evidence has disappeared. There is no “ongoing investigation” and there are no more secrets. The shadows are gone and the silence is broken. That should effectively remove any objection to a public viewing of this final document. The coroner’s protocol is not held within any LAPD (city) file but is locked within the purview of the county. Two years ago, District Attorney Steve Cooley opened his county vault and let me and the public read the “Hodel File.” Perhaps he will now take a second step and order the coroner’s vault open as well. We shall see.*
Steve Hodel
Los Angeles, California
August 2005
* On July 13, 2005, I conducted an interview with UK television journalist Sam Kiley for a documentary on the Dahlia story, to air in Great Britain in December 2005. During that interview, I was advised by Kiley that he had contacted personnel from the L.A. Coroner’s Office who had agreed to provide him with a copy of the complete protocol. However, a subsequent search for the records revealed that all the files “have disappeared.” Coroner’s officials added that they had no idea how or when the Elizabeth Short file became “lost.”


In September 2019 I asked my friend/author/retired Dallas PD officer Robert Sadler to again see if he could “work his magic” in an attempt to enhance the GHH and Elizabeth Short Coroner’s photos for additional comparison. Here is his graphic and summary:


SKH Note:
  • Below is the graphic (Exhibit 88) originally published in the 2006 BDA HarperCollins edition (and referenced above) showing the “black curly hair follicle” found on Elizabeth Short’s body during the autopsy. This follicle, as can be seen, is consistent with George Hodel’s black curly hair.

     1a) hair follicle on Elizabeth Short’s body; 1b) enlarged; 1c) GHH hair from LAPD booking photo for 1949 Incest Arrest.

    – I would like to address one further point as relates to the above GHH  album book photograph.
    Many Naysayers, Dahlia theorists, and critics with their own agendas and “solutions to whodunit” over the past several decades make the following claim: “The photo in George Hodel’s album is not Elizabeth Short, and so everything else that Steve Hodel has presented has to be thrown out and disregarded.”
    Obviously that is a ridiculous claim.
    The importance of the GHH photograph, if it is Elizabeth Short, only goes to address one point- that being that George Hodel photographed the victim. It irrefutably connects the suspect with the victim, and if the earring evidence is accurate, it would further indicate the photo was likely taken on the very night/morning of her murder, January 15, 1947.
    For argument’s sake, let’s set aside the Facial Recognition Software analysis that says it is “95% probable that it is the victim.” Let’s also set aside the above earring evidence that adds additional linkage and assume the photo is not Elizabeth Short , and it is merely some other woman that looks like her.
    It matters not since the official LA DA law enforcement reports unequivocally state that “George Hodel was acquainted with and dated Elizabeth Short prior to her murder.” *Add to that the multiple independent statements from both civilian witnesses and LAPD and  DA and Sheriff’s command officers that “The case was solved and George Hodel killed her.”
    Scan of official LA DA Lt. Jemison’s 1950 interview with Dorothy Hodel where he admonished her:
     “Let me advise you that we do have information that he did associate with Beth Short and as you know the last place she…”
    *For the Record- I do believe, as stated in BDA II (Thoughtprint Press 2014) that:
    1.  The photograph in my father’s album is Elizabeth Short.
    2. It was taken at the Sowden/Franklin House prior to her extended torture and bisection of the body  in the early morning hours of January 15, 1947.
    3. Elizabeth Short appears drugged and unconscious.
    4. That the pearl earring she is wearing at the residence (possibly broken in half?) was inserted in her left ear by George Hodel at the crime scene as part of the “posing” of his surreal masterpiece consistent with his “Murder as a Fine Art” crime signature.


  1. Carol Kehrley on October 4, 2019 at 7:33 am

    Steve, you convinced me long ago that your father murdered Elizabeth Short and that there was, and remains, a large cover-up. The earring just adds another log to the fire of evidence. How ironic that files from the “unsolved” case were “lost.” 😠

  2. Dennis Effle on October 4, 2019 at 4:00 pm

    Literally another “find” by my favorite retired LAPD detective III and Slayer of Minitours, Steve Hodel. Your contribution to the correct recording of history in regards to this case is unequalled. I am constantly amazed, when I really shouldn’t be. I’ve become to expect it from you. Well done!

    • Steve Hodel on October 4, 2019 at 6:12 pm

      Dennis E.
      Thanks Dennis. Much appreciated.

  3. Tami Marie Alexander on October 4, 2019 at 11:58 pm

    When files in the hands of officials are “lost,” it always means someone at that institution was involved directly in the crime or paid to destroy the evidence. So, who among the LAPD was in the not-so-good doctor’s inner circle? Who was on his payroll? Because someone had to be covering up for him.

    Great work on spotting that earring, Steve. As a creative person, I try to view an artist’s work and consider what he is trying to convey. It’s not like her earring fell off and he just stuffed it in her ear — he put it there for a reason. It was a minute detail but it meant something to him. It symbolizes something.

    • Steve Hodel on October 5, 2019 at 12:47 am

      Tami A: Thanks for the kind words. Yes, I detail the “connections” and the WHY of the earring’s placement as part of the posing of his masterpiece and crime signature, “Murder as a Fine Art.” Detailed in my books BDA, BDA II and BDA III. Best, Steve

    • Dan Lackey on October 10, 2019 at 3:03 pm

      Hi, Steve,
      The earrings certainly appear to match. I felt pretty certain that the photo GHH kept, was ES after the expert matched the facial features. The expert eliminated the JS possibility. The earring solidifies it all the more. It certainly appears as if ES was drugged & was placed in one of the chairs in GHH’s study, photographed, and then moved to where the horror began. GHH wanted to keep a photo of the blank canvas of his masterpiece. He was able to view her final resting place from the privacy of his penthouse 50 years later. What a strange mind.
      All the best,

      • Steve Hodel on October 10, 2019 at 3:20 pm

        Hi Dan: Yes, just more corroboration, and using her earring is certainly totally consistent with GHH’s surrealistic posing. Also, we have the new information that reportedly has GHH taking a “night photo” at the crime scene just prior to daybreak, which to my mind totally fits with him wanting to further “memorialize” his masterpiece and going so far as to send it to authorities as a “Black Dahlia Avenger Taunt.” It the reported information from Director David Lynch is accurate have to wonder whatever became of Detective “Jigsaw John’s” night photo? Must still be somewhere in LAPD files? See April 2019 blog referencing it here.

  4. barry guerrero on October 5, 2019 at 7:32 am

    To me, just as important as the very existence of the earring is your point #3 above. Not only is the photographed and posed young woman likely to be E.S., but also the very strong possibility that the woman was, quote, “drugged and unconscious” also exists. That had not occurred to me. But a ‘second look’ at that photo convinces me that you may very well be right.

    • Steve Hodel on October 5, 2019 at 9:42 am

      Barry G: Yes, drugging his victims at the Franklin/Sowden house was a KNOWN part of his M.O. (Think Lillian Lenorak, who was drugged and an he then staged her “attempted suicide” suicide followed a few months later by drugging, beating and probable murder of the “unknown woman” all captured on the DA/LAPD electronic surveillance tapes.

      • Colleen on January 30, 2020 at 3:32 pm

        Hi Mr. Steve, I was wondering if you can elaborate on the “unknown woman” suicide that is on the LAPD surveillance tape. My curiosity is peaked. And yet saddened that this could have happened again and with the LAPD turning a blind eye………yet again

        • Steve Hodel on January 30, 2020 at 4:07 pm

          Colleen: Not sure about your reference/question? The taped recording where police are listening in from Hollywood station was not an “attempt suicide” it was the beating of a real woman in real time and they took no action.
          It was probably a murder of an unknown woman in the basement and never pursued by them. It is the probable reason WHY they never pursued it further. They could not allow the public to know they were staked out and took no action. Suggest reading BDA I, II and III.

    • Aimee-jo rebbeca Long on June 2, 2021 at 8:35 am

      i agree

  5. XS on October 5, 2019 at 11:48 am

    Poor darling I hope she was drugged and didn’t have to feel and suffer but who knows. I hope she rests in peace and the low life that did this will burn for eternity in hell!!

  6. XS on October 5, 2019 at 6:57 pm

    You see what’s sad is system failure. The ones that are paid to keep us safe and process justice again allowed the rich to get away with murder and continue on a murder spree. Consider internal corruption and the long list of names of people that got paid. You know it’s still happening today.

    RIP ES

  7. Steve Hodel on October 5, 2019 at 7:06 pm

    XS: Sadly it’s true.

  8. Ricki Landers on October 17, 2019 at 9:08 pm

    I have to second the comment above concerning the hope that she was truly unconscious and not tortured. It makes me wonder though what this man’s thought process could have ever been to harm people the way he did throughout his life. Steve it’s clear he abused your sister but did he abuse you and your brothers as well? Did you see him behave in a way that would lead you to believe he was truly soulless enough kill like this? The reason I ask I have truly witnessed people whom I believed were indeed capable of such an act and people who were abusive enough and really never considered either the pain of others or that the person they are hurting even has feelings. So that just makes me wonder what he might have done to all of his children. When you see the horrific news stories or theories concerning the sexual abuse and ritual murder of children around the world a part of anyone normal wants to believe or hope it’s not true but another part fears it is. I have read first hand accounts of girls who had narrowly escaped deaths after their own parents handed them over for ritualistic sex trafficking and they made my skin crawl but you can’t read these things and not believe them. They are just so bad that no one who was sane would make such a thing up about themselves but these girls survived, damaged mentally and even physically but they were alive. I do feel horrible for your sister and she was clearly damaged by what she survived. She obviously passed the abuse along to her own children and that is even worse because she knew what the pain meant to a survivor but I do want to believe that she did the things she did because these things had become normalized at some point for her in her life even though she must have known they were wrong. If your father did this to ES and his own daughter suffered like she did and her children as well then it leads me to believe he had no true ability to feel true empathy for another human being. That’s why I ask about you and your siblings, did he ever have empathy for any of you?

    • Steve Hodel on October 17, 2019 at 10:53 pm

      Ricki L.

      Well, I wish I could say that she was unconscious and not tortured, but sadly the truth as revealed by forensic analysis and the autopsy showed she was alive and tortured over what doctors estimated could have been as long as “four hours.” Many of the surgical incisions/cuttings were in their words “premortem.” It was critical to my father’s extreme sadism for him to know she was suffering. (Recall his reenactment in front of Tamar at the Beverly Hills Hotel where he stomped on the carpet as if it was the victim and said, “Did that hurt?” Sadly, there are many such examples of this in his other pre and post-Dahlia crimes.

      As to your question, “Did he abuse you and your brothers?” Speaking for myself, I cannot recall any specific incident of extreme abuse. Spankings in the basement with a leather strap, Yes. But, I didn’t consider that abuse. It was Old School punishment for something we did that was wrong. (In BDA, I cited the smoking incident when I was eight.) Tamar told me that, “He was cruel to all of you, but Michael got it the worst.” Did I believe he was capable of such acts of torture? While Tamar recounts witnessing dad pulling mother around the driveway by her hair and striking her, later substantiated by Madi Comfort documenting physical abuse of mother by George, I do not recall ever seeing it. However, I may have just blocked it out of my memory. There are long blank spaces during those years, so maybe my child’s mind forced them out? I knew he was capable and believed Tamar’s allegations of sexual abuse/incest, but that is as far as it went for me. Empathy? No, never saw any hints of it come from our father to any of his sons or others. This was part of his insanity and what made him an extreme sadist, misogynist, and misanthrope. He hated his mother, women in general, and the world. This is why, as an Urban Terrorist, he would seek “Vengeance” and inflict so much pain on so many.
      A life of Horror inside his own mind and in his and our outside world.

  9. JKS on November 2, 2019 at 10:46 am

    I’ve been reading about this case for years, given the fact I’m only 17… Your dad did it, no questions.

  10. Katherine Mason on December 24, 2019 at 1:38 pm

    You might have answered this elsewhere but do you think it was common knowledge amongst his artist friends that he killed Elizabeth Short? When did he end his relationship with the surrealist scene?

  11. Marcos Souza on January 2, 2020 at 4:09 pm

    Your father was a Freemason?

    • Steve Hodel on January 2, 2020 at 5:09 pm

      Marcos S: NO

  12. Eric Nichols on February 5, 2020 at 6:25 pm

    Mr. Hodel,

    I once lived at 3941 Pine Grove in Chicago, IL. I read years later that one of the Lipstick Killer’s victims had lived there. My daughter actually lives in L.A at the address on Franklin today, and where your father lived at the time of the Black Dahlia murder. That’s kind of eery. Anyway, my question to you is, do you believe your father is actually connected with the Lipstick Killer (or the same person? I thought someone else had confessed, and was (if still living) the longest serving prisoner in prison history.

    • Steve Hodel on February 5, 2020 at 6:32 pm

      Eric N:
      Yes, I believe my father, Dr. George Hill Hodel committed all three of the 1945-6 “Chicago Lipstick Murders.” The why and circumstantial evidence is presented in my book, “Most Evil” (Dutton 2008). A teenager, William Heirens was arrested for the murders (he was the seventh arrest made by the Chicago PD on the case) and after being tortured and beaten “confessed” to the crimes, but immediately retracted his “confession” after being sent to prison. No trial, no witnesses, no evidence just sent to prison. He served sixty-fours years in prison and died there a few years ago. All presented in my book.

  13. Natasha P on November 10, 2020 at 10:00 am

    It really seems so surreal. Reading all these comments and your responses and all of the evidence and pictures I have seen online on ES has really intrigued me and made me believe that your father the horrible human being he seems to be is the one behind ES and many others killings. Now I’m only 17 years old so my opinion surely won’t matter as much as that’s how society seems to be but to where she was found dead and where they found her hand bags etc to where your father had lived as anyone put that together? From the evidence covered in gasoline, has anyone ever dug deep to find what type of gas and where its sold at? Your evidence is spectacular, you have physical evidence that you use to dig deep into this case that has long been forgotten by the LAPD (that’s how it seems) I believe a case can always be solved. It’s how officials deal with the information and ho much they can get with it and how much they can use. keep going with your research and your strong claims and evidence. I’ve only stumbled upon this case because I have a forensics project and I chose the BD case because it simply had a nice ring to my ears. Seeing how her body was treated and all this evidence, I want to learn more about it and i hope you can provide more of my curiosity.
    Thank you Steve it really has been great seeing your work and I might stay longer to see how this case gets solved because as I said, every case is able to be solved. Your father isn’t that slick. If it comes down to being someone else then damn!

    • Steve Hodel on November 10, 2020 at 10:58 am

      Hi Natasha:
      Thanks for the kind words. Much appreciated.
      Yes, many more links since the publication of BDA. Most can be found in my blog/updates through the years. Along with the confirmation that “George Hodel was the killer” by four of the actual original top cops investigating the original murder; we have a great deal of physical evidence. The 50lb sacks of cement and fertilizer which have been connected to the Sowden/Franklin House by original receipts within two days of the murder; the cadaver dog “alerting” to human decomposition at or around the Sowden House property, the numerous IDs from witnesses that knew and said, “George Hodel did it.” And, most recently “The Martin Letter” from 2018 identifying GHH as the Dahlia and Louise Springer killer. You might want to take a look at the additional books linking GHH to the crimes. Best, Steve Hodel

  14. James sanders on September 11, 2021 at 7:55 am

    Are you saying the girl in that photo is elizabeth short? Im looking at it and the face just doesn’t resemble beth’s. Specifically the nose, mouth and cheeks are way different than beth’s. You should do a side by side comparison of beth and that girl. But anybody can see the nose is just bigger. Im all for truth and details. I just dont see a resemblance. One thing i always notice first about a person is their face. I immediately felt that girl wasn’t beth. I think even larry harnisch also said her living relatives debunked that photo as not her. But maybe larry is your competition and trying to sell his theory. Still, if you’re saying the girl in that picture is beth short, I dont see it. And are you also saying there’s an earring inside beth’s ear? I dont see it. I just see blackness and wax, I guess. Some of her relatives live in Indiana and resemble her in the face. The females do. Anyway, regarding the photo, That doesnt resemble beth in the face area. And the ear photo, i dont see anything in the ear. But maybe my 20/20 vision is wrong. I think it’s fascinating how clear the pics are(the ear one and the crime scene one where you think a watch is inside her body cavity). Those are clear. I’d like to see a clear version of her whole face, though. Just to see details.

    • Steve Hodel on September 11, 2021 at 9:29 am

      James S:

      Once again, this photo ID is really a non-issue. A state-of-the-art Facial Recognition lab in Germany did a side-by-side comparison and provided a 95% probability that it is Elizabeth Short as compared to known photographs of the victim. But, it no longer matters if it is or is not Short. DA documents reveal “George Hodel knew and dated Elizabeth Short” and that is the bottom line. Throw out the photo if you want. No longer matters. Only purpose was to establish they knew each other. The secret DA files establish that fact.

  15. sonya roseman on January 24, 2022 at 10:28 am

    i wonder would you have written your books etc while he was still alive? Oh, and how did you find that footage of her… Wow! Amazing stuff! X

    • Steve Hodel on January 24, 2022 at 10:42 am

      Sonya R:
      I don’t think I would have ever learned of my father’s connections while he was still alive. It was June and her giving me the photo album after his death and then my talk with Tamar, my half sister a few days later when she informed me that “he was a suspect in the Black Dahlia murder.” That is what started me down the path.

  16. John Thurman on May 5, 2022 at 7:43 pm

    Hi Steve:

    I finally got around to reading “BDA” after wanting to for some years. It is an absolute masterpiece of detective work, for which you should be justly celebrated. Despite its disturbing subject matter, it was a pleasure to read. One quibble: on page 767 of my electronic version, in order to document the burns on Short’s body, you cite “an early LAPD investigative summary written immediately following the discovery of the body. Elizabeth was still a ‘Jane Doe,’ and therefore a detailed description of all body marks and scars was provided.” Included in the excerpt you quote is the notation “ears not pierced.” Yet roughly ten pages later, you delineate the evidence (expanded upon in your blog post above) related to photographic enlargements of an earring. In the photo from your father’s private album, one of two that provided the original impetus for your investigation, Short is shown wearing the earring. These are not necessarily logically incompatible, but I don’t find that you have addressed it anywhere. Do you think that aspect of the investigative summary you quote is in error, that the earring was a clip-on, or that the piercing implied by Short wearing the earring had become closed naturally from disuse between the time of the portrait photograph and her murder?

    • Steve Hodel on May 5, 2022 at 8:43 pm

      John T:
      Thanks for the kind words. Much appreciated.
      One could argue either way I guess. In their summary LE states “there were no burn marks on the body.” This is clearly an intentional lie or misstatement as I was able to present photographic evidence that she did in fact have eight or nine cigarette or cigar burn marks on her back. (A photo I received from the granddaughter of detective Harry Hansen, which had never been shown.)
      As indicated in previous blogs the earring evidence and linkage become moot since LE in other documentation acknowledges that “Dr. George Hodel and Elizabeth Short were acquainted.” I do think the earring that appears inside her ear was part of his “posing” but likely at this stage, some
      76 years later, we will never be able to confirm it. Regards, Steve

      • Tom Balderas on December 7, 2022 at 11:10 pm

        Hi Steve, just out of curiosity do you think the photo of the girl / ES in the photo album was actually photographed horizontally as opposed to a vertical? In the photo it looks as though she is standing or propped up against a wall but if you turn it on it’s side ‘horizontal’ direction it is actually a reclining / layed out girl on a cement floor or perhaps carpet? Was the basement concrete flooring? I hope I’m making the question clear. Tom

        • Steve Hodel on December 8, 2022 at 4:07 pm

          Tom B:

          Good observation. I touched on this in BDA II pages 83-84 along with comparative photos.
          Here’s an excerpt addressing that very point.

          BDA II page 84 excerpt:

          “When I initially viewed this photograph, I assumed that the
          woman was lying on a carpeted floor. However, in closer examination,
          it becomes obvious that she is not.
          Based on the downward slope of her breast line, it appears that
          her head and shoulders are braced against a vertical object, with her
          left arm bent and propped behind her head.
          In the living room, we see two upholstered chairs. The lower-left
          photo shows a close-up of the chair material in comparison to the
          material in Photo No. 2. To my eye, they look similar. I would suggest
          that the nude woman’s back was braced against one of these fabric
          chairs when this photo was taken.
          The woman in the photo, with eyes closed, is either feigning sleep,
          drugged unconscious, or worse … she might be dead. Could this be
          one of George Hodel’s “trophy” photographs?”

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