March 4, 2020
Six years ago in March 2014 I published, Black Dahlia Avenger II: Presenting the Follow-Up Investigation and Further Evidence Linking Dr. George Hill Hodel to Los Angeles’s Black Dahlia and other 1940s LONE WOMAN MURDERS. (Revised/Updates from the 2012 edition)
Amazon Link to book HERE
This post is an update to earlier investigations which provides additional information regarding a telegram included in the items the killer mailed to press and police as part of his telephone promise to “Send you some of her belongings.” (This act was part of his “cat and mouse game” and taken to establish he was the real killer.) The updated telegram information is included at the bottom of this blog, but first I wanted to provide some background excerpts as originally presented in BDA II Chapter 17 to provide context.
BDA II (2014 ed.) CHAP 17- Captain Jack Donahoe
ON SATURDAY, JANUARY 24, 1947, the below cut-and-paste note was sent to the Los Angeles Examiner, along with a package containing Elizabeth Short’s personal effects—her birth certificate, social security card, personal papers, address book with seventy-five names in it, and six personal photographs of the victim which showed her in the company of various ex-boyfriends. This first note and the victim’s personal property were sent by the killer a day after making a taunting phone call and speaking with the Los Angeles Examiner’s city editor James Richardson. In closing his brief conversation, the killer told Richardson:
I’ll tell you what I’ll do. I’ll send you some of the things she had with her when she, shall we say disappeared? See how far you can get with them. And now I must say goodbye. You may be trying to trace this call.
The package with Elizabeth Short’s personal effects and the note arrived a day later with the killer promising, “Letter to follow.”
“Here is Dahlia’s belongings. Letter to Follow” Avenger posted this note to Examiner in a mailbox located just three blocks from George Hodel’s downtown medical office.
On Monday, January 26, 1947, the promise was kept. The L.A. Examiner received a postcard. Like the first message, it had been mailed just a few blocks from Dr. Hodel’s private medical practice.
George Hill Hodel’s undisguised handwriting on a postcard promising to “turn himself in” in two days.
Capt. Jack Donahoe, commander of LAPD’s Homicide Unit, told reporters:
“We believe this postcard is from the killer and is legitimate and is the ‘letter to follow.’ The fact that the postcard was printed rather than lettered with words cut out of newspapers also supports the theory that the killer intends to turn himself in to the police, and no longer needs to take pains to conceal his identity.”
—Captain Jack Donahoe, LAPD Homicide Division
LAPD’s Scientific Investigation Division analyzed the note and handwriting and determined it had been written with a ballpoint pen with blue ink. In 1947, ballpoint pens had only been on the market for one year and were both rare and expensive. They sold for around $12.50—equal to $125 today—so were primarily used by lawyers, physicians, business executives, and military officers. Capt. Donahoe responded with a public message aimed directly at the killer, printed in all of the L.A. dailies:
“If you want to surrender as indicated by the postcard now in our hands, I will meet you at any public location at any time or at the homicide detail office in the City Hall. Communicate immediately by telephoning MI 5211 extension 2521, or by mail.”
The Black Dahlia Avenger taunted police with several more notes, one of which demonstrated his journalistic skill in writing headlines. Some detectives voiced their suspicions that it might have been written by reporters hoping to keep the story alive. (What no one suspected was the bizarre truth of it—that the killer had actually been a journalist! George Hodel, as we know, was a crime reporter covering the police beat and had written his own headlines in the 1920s for one of L.A.’s largest newspapers, The L.A. Record):
“Dahlia Killer Cracking, Wants Terms”
In another cut-and-paste the next day, he wrote:
“I Will Give up in Dahlia Killing If I get 10 Years
Don’t try to find me”
On the morning of January 29, Capt. Donahoe, confident that the killer would actually turn himself in, positioned his detectives at all the local police stations. But by evening, it became obvious that the killer was a no-show. The next morning, January 30, the Avenger’s message addressed to Capt. Donahoe came in the mail:
“Have changed my mind. You would not give me a SQUARE deal. Dahlia killing was justified.”
UPDATE 2020 Re. Property (TELEGRAM) Included as part of victim’s “Belongings” sent to Police by Black Dahlia Avenger
While I was aware of the existence of this telegram and that it was sent to Elizabeth Short this is the first time I have seen an actual photograph of it that was readable in its entirety. (This telegram was what led detectives to the discovery of Elizabeth Short’s additional personal property (suitcase etc.) that was recovered by LAPD detectives found at the Railway Express Office.)