Mrs. X’s 1945 Letters from the Grave- George Hodel’s Motive for Murder of His Clinic Secretary- Ruth Spaulding
December 22, 2019
Los Angeles, California
(Updated from an earlier FAQ 69 posted on 3/29/2008)
Mrs. X’s—1945 Letters from the Grave
On the back of the thick brown envelope, the handwritten note read, “NOT TO BE TAMPERED WITH OR OPENED BY ANYONE EXCEPT ——-.”
The writer, a young married woman, distraught with hands shaking, had sealed the packet in March 1945. She left instructions that it was not to be opened until after her death. Sixty years later, the personal and highly confidential contents of this package would find its way to me to help establish, at least in part, the probable motive for my father’s murder of his personal secretary, Ruth Spaulding.
We recall the specifics. Ruth Spaulding was George Hodel’s secretary at the First Street Clinic. She died of an overdose of barbiturates on May 9, 1945. The facts were suspicious and, LAPD investigated George Hodel as her possible killer. LAPD learned that they were having an affair and that George had recently broken up with Ruth. As a woman scorned, Ruth had written detailed information about George Hodel’s activities and was about to reveal them. My father, in a late-night telephone call from Ruth’s apartment, summoned my mother to the residence and gave her Ruth’s writings, ordering her “to burn them.” LAPD investigated, but the evidence was insufficient to charge him with the crime. Five years later [Feb.1950] in a confidential conversation with “Baron Herringer”, captured on the DA surveillance recordings, George Hodel would admit the Spaulding murder. “They thought there was something fishy. Anyway, now they may have figured it out. Killed her. Maybe I did kill my secretary…”
Part of the Spaulding puzzle has been previously examined and discussed. We know that had Ruth survived the forced overdose, she could and in 1950, would have linked George Hodel to dating and possibly treating Elizabeth Short as his patient, at the First Street Clinic. Hence his 1950 surveillance recorded statement, “Supposin’ I did kill the Black Dahlia, they couldn’t prove it now. They can’t talk to my Secretary (Ruth Spaulding) anymore, because she’s dead.” But, those statements, made by my father, were long after the fact. They did not provide the motive for Ruth’s 1945 murder. We know that my father killed Ruth to keep her silent, but about what?
Based on the recent receipt of copies of these sixty-year-old, private letters and documents—I believe we may now have at least part of the answer!
It appears that one of the pieces of information that Ruth Spaulding was about to expose and make public was the fact that Dr. George Hill Hodel, Head Venereal Disease Control Officer for the Los Angeles County Health Department, and Chief-of-Staff, of his privately-owned, First Street Clinic—-was fraudulently and intentionally misdiagnosing patients, then billing them for unwarranted laboratory tests, prescriptions, and medical treatment!
Imagine the headlines and scandal that would have resulted from Ruth Spaulding’s revelations:
“HEAD OF COUNTY HEALTH CHARGED WITH MALPRACTICE”
Here is the back-story and documentation. (For the purposes of this reportage, I am keeping the woman’s true identity and address CONFIDENTIAL. I will here simply refer to her as “Mrs. X.”
In 1945, Mrs. X, a married woman, met and fell in love with a dashing young Naval officer. They had a brief affair. Mrs. X became concerned she may have contracted a venereal disease and, her lover to reassure her, suggested she go to see Dr. George Hodel at his First Street Clinic.
Dr. Hodel examined the young woman and ordered lab tests. *
Shortly thereafter, she was informed by Dr. Hodel that “she has contracted Gonorrhea,” and he treated her accordingly. Mrs. X was billed and paid $75.00 in services. (Approximately $750.00 in today’s dollars.) Upon returning to her home state, the distraught woman obtained a second opinion and was advised she never had a Gonorrhea infection. Mrs. X contacted Dr. Hodel’s clinic secretary, Ruth Spaulding and, verified the lab reports “were negative,” and she had never contracted a venereal disease.
Ruth Spaulding sent Mrs. X the laboratory reports signing the letter with, “cordial personal regards”. [NB: This is hardly a business salutation and to my thinking is suggestive that the two women could well have had additional correspondence or personal contacts of which we are unaware.] My father’s secretary further personalizes her letter by adding an apologetic, “P.S., I am required to send the enclosed bill.”
*Dr. Hodel owned and supervised his own private serology laboratory for blood work and also likely had his own in-house technicians perform the slide analysis for detecting Gonorrhea.
SCANNED COPY OF MRS. X 1945 TYPED/SIGNED LETTER WITH INSTRUCTIONS
TO BE OPENED ONLY AFTER HER DEATH
(I have redacted personal names and identifying information)
COPY OF 1945 LETTER RUTH SPAULDING MAILED TO MRS. X
(Dated and signed just sixty-days prior to her death by “barbiturate overdose”)
Mrs. X’s 1945 First Street Clinic, billing receipt
Mrs. X’s Public Health V.D. prevention pamphlet provided by George Hodel
In addition to Ruth Spaulding’s knowledge of the above malpractice, I can now add a second, equally compelling reason, why my father would have wanted his personal secretary–dead.
In her secret writings and intended expose of my father, it is likely that Ruth had also included her direct first-hand knowledge of the fact that her boyfriend/employer was regularly performing illegal abortions at his downtown—First Street Clinic.
How do we know this? It comes directly from my father’s own mouth. His own recorded statements and admissions. Overlooked in 2005, I found them during a careful review of the District Attorney’s –1950 Hodel Surveillance Transcripts.
The date is March 19, 1950. (The thirty-first day of electronic surveillance at the Franklin House.) As we know, the detectives were recording and monitoring the conversations two-miles away, in the basement of LAPD’s Hollywood Police Station. Below is a scanned copy of page 133 (my numbering). Between 2:00 and 2:30 p.m., George Hodel and “a colored woman” are at the Franklin House, discussing the possibility of the woman being provided a room in exchange for her maid service. Father tells her he is a doctor. They discuss medicine, and she mentioned having had a “currettement” * (abortion) in 1944. Father informs her that he owns the First Street Clinic, located downtown, at First and Central, and incredibly, goes on to tell her, “He has done lots of them.” (Abortions)
* The transcript shows the word as “currettement” This is the shortened term for a 1940s abortion procedure known as a D&C, or Dilation and Curettage. The patient was first administered an anesthetic and then the physician performed a surgical abortion where after dilating the cervix, used a curette (sharp metal instrument) to scrape the uterus. In modern times this scraping has been replaced with a suction technique to reduce the chances of heavy bleeding and infection. Tamar’s 1949 abortion by Dr. Ballard was a “D&C,” and according to my sister, “resulted in a large amount of blood loss.”
Dr. Hodel 1950 Electronic Surveillance Transcript page 133
Prior to the discovery of these statements, I had speculated that at least part of my father’s source of power and influence came from the information he had locked in his First Street Clinic V.D. files. Highly sensitive medical charts, listing the identity and specific medical treatment of connected police and politicians documenting their sexual and moral indiscretions. Now, with absolute certainty, we can add to it, their criminal actions. In 1950, abortion was a felony, punishable by state imprisonment. Anyone (including a police officer or deputy mayor, or film director) that brought his pregnant girlfriend or mistress in for a quick cure was guilty as an accessory or accomplice. Once the procedure had been performed, that person would be beholden to and at the mercy of the man he had entrusted. From 1938 through March 1950, at least at the First Street Clinic—that go-to man was—Dr. George Hill Hodel.
In 2003, post-publication of my first book, Black Dahlia Avenger, LAPD reluctantly confirmed that George Hodel was a suspect in his secretary’s overdose.
In 1949 the LAPD detectives interviewing my sister Tamar at Juvenile Detention confirmed what she had been told previous by my mother which caused her to runaway. Detectives after her arrest and placement in “protective custody” informed Tamar of their suspicions:
“We found her death [Ruth Spaulding] suspicious, and suspected your father, George Hodel was involved in her death, but we couldn’t prove anything.”
In May, 1945, secretary/girlfriend, Ruth Spaulding’s secret writings, about to reveal George Hodel’s malpractice and criminality—cost her, her life.
Five years later, in January 1950, Lillian Lenorak made similar threats to George Hodel. She was “going to the DA and inform him of her 1949 perjured testimony and that, “she witnessed Tamar’s abortion performed by Dr. Ballard and his assistant, Charles Smith.”
This almost cost Lillian her life. She “got off lucky” and escaped George Hodel’s wrath with only an assault, drugging, and his staged “attempted suicide” [using a scalpel to inflict superficial cuts to her wrists while she lay unconscious.] Father’s actions were apparently effective enough to at least temporarily discredit her as “a mental case.”
These latest posthumous revelations from Mrs. X, supported by her original 1945 letters, along with my father’s admissions that he “had done lots of abortions at his V.D. clinic,” establish powerful motives for the Spaulding overdose-murder and reinforce what my investigation has demonstrated time and time again—in 1950 Los Angeles– Dr. George Hill Hodel was- UNTOUCHABLE.
Boy that is all on the money stuff Steve. I forget sometimes that you’re a detective and a damn good one too. We’re always talking about GHH and his awful crimes but what I’d like to acknowledge here is your relentless and intrepid detective and investigative work. It’s not for nothing that you had 300 solved cases during your career. The Black Dahlia Avenger came out nearly 20 years ago and literally to this day you’re still uncovering new facts about all of George’s heinous crimes and bringing them to light. I’ve said it a million times to you but you truly are the ONLY PERSON who could tell this story Steve. and I for one commend you. You are a rare man among men. Happy holidays brother from Kristin in heaven and me here still stuck on earth. missing her terribly.
“We are all but sad guests on the dark earth. “
– William S Burroughs
Hi Steve. Joe Barrett’s son Brendan here. Was the Doctor Hill living next door C.W. Hill? I remember my dad mentioning a Dr. Hill whom he befriended and that, when he the FBI was doing his background check for his security clearance, they were far more interested in his connection to him than any of his artist friends that had communist leanings.
Hope all is well.
Hi Brendan: Good to hear from you. Kind of lost track over the past years. I’ll contact you via your email. As to your question, I forget his first name or initials, he was always just “Dr. Hill” to us. But, yes, I’m sure it was. He was a dentist that lived in the large estate next door (West side) of the Franklin House. He was very “connected” and owned a couple of Bail Bonds businesses and a Top Dog in the Black Community as well as connected to all the LA politicos of that day. I recall your dad telling me that Dr. Hill took him to some big function where the mayor and police chief were in attendance. Best email for me is: [email protected]
Hi Steve. I got your email and will be in touch soon. Merry Christmas to you!
Yes, this is C.W. Hill. My dad had great things to say about him. He was very welcoming and was very good to my dad. I recall Dad telling me that they shared a love for jazz and C.W. made sure he got to meet some of the artists when they came to LA to perform. I don’t think it was long after the Sowdon house that my dad got the job at North American and it always amused him that Dr. Hill was their biggest concern when Dad had a friend that was a card carrying Communist Party member and he had attended a Party meeting or two. Definitely Hoover’s FBI.
I hope you enjoy the holidays.
Hi Steve: Eagerly awaiting your findings in “The Early Years.” Have no doubt the long arc of this story will be even more astounding than the individual pieces we have already seen — and that, when we have it in front of us, it will also make more sense. “In The Mesquite” gave us a hint of that already. All the best for the season. -LW
Yes, exactly so. Turns out (as I think I mentioned in that book) the Fromes double homicide came out of nowhere and was presented as a possible GHH crime from a thoughtful reader and initially was going to be the last crime presented in the 1930s, “The Early Years. ”
His “farewell” to the Great Southwest before he transitioned back to LA and began a new crime spree with the 1943 Ora Murray Kidnap/Murder.
However, I’m glad I decided to publish it separately. Even without its inclusion, as you say, “the long arc” remains quite overwhelming and it is frustrating at present because I find myself sort of “treading water” on those Early Years investigations/writings for several reasons. One being the potential “miniseries documentary” that I hope will get a “green light” soon. You never know with Hollywood?
I’m holding off to see if that goes, and if it does it will make strong demands of my at least my immediate free time and energy which will again put a delay on getting really stuck into TEY.
The second reason for the delay I will be presenting as a “surprise” in the very near future. Once again, another minor “sidetrack.”
Best to you and yours for the holiday and NEW YEAR. Should be an exciting one. Steve H.
Very interesting indeed. I do find Georges statement on the tapes very interesting. “Supposin I did kill the black dahlia. They can’t prove it now that my secretaries dead”. If Ruth were not killed what could be proven? In the first part of the quote he is referencing the BD. The second part he says it can’t be proven because his secretary is dead. The police investigators were unable to connect GH to ES in a real way. Imagine if ES had been a patient of GH, there would be records of office visits and and Ruth would have seen her there with GH thus proving a physical connection that would be hard to dispute. . Her testimony could be very damning in court. …Just thinking….
That is exactly what George is referencing about his dead secretary on the tapes. He knew/dated Short in 44 and likely treated her as a patient at his First Street Clinic. Ruth was his secretary then and he OD’d her in May ’45 eighteen months BEFORE the murder of Eliz Short. Had she still been alive in Jan ’47 she could/would have informed police of his relationship. Hence the, “they cant talk to my secretary now, she’s dead.” (Indcating he’s “home free”.) He then in the tape goes on to describe taking his secretary to the Georgia Street clinic after she’s comatose and she’s pronounced dead at “12:39”. All fits.
I am glad that I could provide you with those documents from Mrs. X, as it certainly helped in providing motive for Ruth’s suspicious death. It still amazes me that your father was able to get away with so much for long! Definitely points to cover up and corruption with the legal systems.
Hi Carol. Happy Holidays to you and yours. Yes, you like so many other readers have presented invaluable pieces to this giant puzzle. So much appreciate your contribution to help provide the motive.
It is thanks to you and so many others that we are able to really understand how very corrupt George Hodel was along with plenty of help from “the powers that were.” Best to you and yours, Steve
If she had a sexual relationship with George, she may have put together that George had “issues” with women. I’m guessing that Ruth kept a journal of all the illegal activities taking place at the clinic as insurance (I’m guessing she was good at her job and well organized). If he suspected that, it’s not a surprise he would have “suicided” her.
George had a son who grew up to be a really thorough cop.. You have worked so hard to expose his darkest secrets. The irony is staggering.
I’m glad the truth is coming out. These women deserve to have their voice, their stories told, and most of all, they deserve justice. Thank you.
Melissa F: Thanks for the kind words. Much appreciated. Yes, Ruth KNEW about his “cooking the books” and misdiagnosing patient lab results, as well as the major fact that she could and would have identified him as a doctor/patient relationship with Elizabeth Short. Had she been alive in 1947 she would have made those disclosures for sure. And, yes their relationship was sexual/romantic per her good friend and co-worker/epidemiologist, Florence X whom I interviewed a decade ago. Best, steve
There’s something that’s been bothering me. Doesn’t it seem strange to you that the police would tell 14-year-old Tamar that they thought her father had murdered his secretary and was also guilty of brutally slaying Elizabeth Short?
Actually, the police never told her they suspected our father of killing his secretary. Tamar was told about the secretary by my mother, Dorothy “Dorero” Hodel telling her about being called by our father to the secretary’s apartment and given her the secretary’s “tell-all manuscripts” and ordered to “burn them.” LAPD investigators only told her about suspecting her father as being the Black Dahlia killer during her transportations to and from court during the 1949 Incest trial.
I study this case in college. I don’t understand how killers are right under the Police and they don’t do anything. I always wondered from French to the 28 year old woman on the Island did he kill between them?
Im studying the case of the Black Delilah and ive been thru a couple of important stories and ive been studying George Hodel and his background. I think that its pretty stupid that the killer for the case of Ruth Spaulding is right under their noses.
Hi Steve so i am currently studying The Murder Of The Black Delilah and i was wondering if you could give me some characteristic traits of you father if its not to much to ask?
Need to read the series, but here are a few: Psychopath, megalomaniac, nihilist, misogynist, sadist, intellectual, scientist, M.D., brainiac, musical prodigy, high genius IQ (186), and woman charmer.
Very interesting have a great day.
Thanks and Happy New Year to you and yours.