A Reader’s Insights and a Q&A on “The Early Years”-The Further Serial Crimes of Dr. George Hill Hodel

December 7, 2021
81st Wedding Anniversary of George and Dorothy “Dorero” Huston Hodel
(Married, December 7, 1940, one year to the day before the bombing of Pearl Harbor)

I wanted to share a reader, Larry Stevens Email received today where he comments on various aspects of the “Early Years” investigations related to crimes committed in both the 1920s and 1930s. I here include my answers and the Q&A between us needs no further explanation. As mentioned in my response to Larry S. as an author/investigator I find it exceptionally rewarding to see how exceptionally well versed he (and many others) are with “the facts” spread throughout the eight separate books, which I’ve stated many times are really one ongoing investigation.
Author’s Note-  For those of you who have not yet read the two “Early Years” editions, be warned there are “spoilers” as relates to several of the early crimes and you may want to first read the books before reading the below commentaries. 

Email from Larry Stevens:

Finished “The Early Years”—thanks again!

Hi Steve,
Thanks for these two final works, and for your email signup list! I just finished them last week and this time, I was not 15 years late! Thanks for operating the BDA reader email list!
I procrastinated on this email after reading the final books, but then I realized that it’s December 7th again, the 81st wedding anniversary of your parents. And my wife’s 73rd birthday, too. [And I have to add, GHH died on my 51st birthday.]
So I figured I would write today.
It’s nearly 3 years since your sleepover at the GHH 1944 home, and there was one thing I kept forgetting to mention: Mattie Comfort described the house as having a ballroom on the top floor, and the only other time I heard of such a thing was in Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello. That was one of the things that added to my curiosity about this house.
Some other thoughts from these two books:
1921 Father Heslin—I wonder if the young GHH was seeing himself as the ultimate true follower of Satan by going after someone he regarded as a servant of God. And this might apply to the death of Aimee Semple McPherson, too. And yet I wonder if the 1921 case looks like somebody’s very first murder. How can one ever tell?
Tracing the 1930 Ensenada beach murders back to South Pasadena High School really connected the dots. Wow. Being an astronomer/science kinda guy, I checked that night and it was definitely dark, being 2 days after a new moon, a tiny sliver that probably set not long after the sky became dark.
Just Speculation:
One thing I wondered about throughout all the books, was the amount of time GHH spent following or prepping some of the murders. That is, how much time did GHH spend walking the streets of Santa Monica or wherever, before his perfect moment arrived, and he did his split-second action in the Lillian Dominguez case? 1 hour? 3 weeks of nightly wanderings?
As part of that question, there was the evidence that GHH could follow a chosen victim—even with their knowledge—such as in the Mesquite and the New Orleans murders.
And was Ensenada just a chance meeting or another example of stalking of his prey? The victim was not random, for sure. It looks like the “love tangle” guess from the newspapers at that time was correct.
In the first group of books, the Lillian Dominguez case was the saddest one for me, as she was so young and innocent, just 15 years old. But then in the latest books, there are the murders of the young children.
Finally, your Mother. She was away from the Franklin house at the time of the Short murder, yet there is that strong possibility she was with GHH and possibly Fred Sexton when the police officer McBride saw Elizabeth Short downtown, with the two men and one woman. She was with the group that included Miss Short in her final hours.
Yes, I had always wondered who that woman was and the man, too. Although Mr. Sexton came to mind for sure as being the man, the identity of the woman always had drawn a total blank for me—even as the list of possibilities was so very small.
But from my first reading, she appeared to have been decisive in the timing of the GHH escape from arrest. He fled from the Franklin house shortly after your Mother provided him with information after the Jemison interview. That much was apparent from the first. She actively helped GHH avoid arrest, apparently.
Best wishes and thanks again for all your work.
God bless,
Larry Stevens
Email response to Larry Stevens from Author:
Hi Larry:
Thanks for the kind words. Much appreciated.
It is very personally rewarding to hear observations from a reader that really has followed all the facts over so many years and so many books.  As you recognize, it is really just one ongoing investigation and now with TEYs Parts I and II in place we can go from Point A to Point Z and following all of his crimes in chronological order.
What I found most rewarding was to see how his “Early Years” prove his “Later Years” and how his “Later Years” prove his “Early Years.”  He was so consistent in his need for headlines and to hold cities hostage in terror, that they made his crimes readily identifiable. Even the ones where another man or teen was convicted. Also, most revealing is what we now know from the Early Years of what he had on then Lt. Thad Brown (the responsibility for the conviction and execution of an innocent mentally challenged young man). No question that 1947 Chief of Detectives Thad Brown could allow this to become public and he knew GHH would certainly make that information public if he was arrested.
As to your questions, I can take an educated guess.
1.  I don’t think the Lillian Dominguez stabbing murder was planned in advance. Likely random just revenge on a high school teenager, any teenager, for having been rejected by girls in his own HS years.
2.  Re. Father Heslin and ASM I don’t think the comments he made in letters were something real. They both sounded stilted and made up. As if he wanted the press/public to believe he hated the Church and possibly a Satanist or ??? but again, I think it was to throw LE off the scent?
3. I also think, no stalking, and that both the In The Mesquite Frome murders and the Ensenada double murders were chance meetings. Happenstance, drinking in a bar, and he seized the opportunity to “get revenge” for the victim’s long ago rejections of him.
4.  The New Orleans murder, if it was GHH, on the other hand, could not have been happenstance and very likely was a pursuit. We can base this on what the victim told his girlfriend with it originating in San Diego and he was “fleeing and being pursued.” This was a strange one, but just too much there to ignore it. Especially with the “He Knew Too Much, too bad” coupled with the Zodiac (HODEL) sigil pinned to his back. Most curious.
Best to you and yours,
Steve

9 Comments

  1. Luigi Warren on December 8, 2021 at 12:54 am

    Steve:

    I’m nearing saturation on reading the contemporary coverage of the Father Heslin case. Additional thoughts/observations:

    1. There’s a familiar pattern of diverse, manipulative communications from unknown parties, particularly reminiscent of the pattern in the Aimee McPherson case five years later. One that caught my eye was a letter *sent from Los Angeles* just before the news broke about Hightower and the discovery of the body, claiming that Heslin’s murderer would be found at a specific (likely irrelevant) house in the same city block as the hotel where Hightower turned out to be staying (SF Examiner, 8/12/21.)

    2. I am convinced the kidnapper interacted personally with Hightower and/or Doris Shirley before the crime. There are just too many coincidences for Hightower to have been an uninvolved recipient of a “tip” — such as his recent trips to Salada Beach and Colma, his weaponeering hobby and the timing of his Ford rental on the night of August 2. Plus, there’s the evidence regarding the tent. I think Hightower could have been collaborating with the kidnapper on something else — one of his acknowledged “projects” like the “infernal machine,” or perhaps just making moonshine (a reliable earner in those days) — and the thing got turned with or without Hightower’s assent into the kidnap “caper.” Hightower repeatedly stated that he was protecting others through his silences and made-up stories (e.g., Sacramento Bee, 8/12/21.) The obvious candidates are Doris Shirley (“admitted associate of bandits, rum runners and gunmen”) and the “small, foreign-sounding” kidnapper.

    3. I’ve mentioned the idea GHH might have been in San Francisco due to Alexander Zelenko having an office in the Financial District, close to some of the events involving Hightower. Another line of speculation is that Lewis Terman might have fixed the “boy genius” up with a summer internship in a chemistry lab at Stanford. It seems that Hightower claimed to have driven to Stanford University with Doris Shirley at some point (SF Examiner, 8/20/21.) You’ve mentioned that GHH stated his ambition was to become a “chemical engineer” upon entering Caltech in 1921. I see from the Dahlia bugging transcript that he had a hands-on, practical interest in chemistry — see his conversations with a chemist about a project to develop and commercialize a “deodorizing detergent.” Maybe he met Hightower and got involved in one of his ill-fated “projects.”

    Best regards,

    LW

    • Luigi Warren on December 8, 2021 at 1:07 am

      [Correction — GHH entered Caltech in ’23, not ’21.] It is very common for science undergraduates to take summer lab jobs, and sometimes high school students do it, too. George was a “prodigy” and Stanford’s Prof. Terman was always keen to help his kids get ahead, providing references and so forth, so I find this scenario quite reasonable. -LW

  2. Steve Hodel on December 8, 2021 at 11:49 am

    LW:
    All very real possibilities for sure. As always, appreciate your deep digging and out-loud-thinking Luigi. Each of these “Early Years” crimes can and likely will be given the same attention as you have to the Father Heslin investigation. Truth is a complete book could have been written on each separate crime, but my initial goal was to attempt to identify his suspect crimes through the decades. So, hopefully, much more will come from readers like you as the material becomes more familiar. In fact, it has already started, hasn’t it. Best, Steve

    • Luigi Warren on December 8, 2021 at 1:35 pm

      Steve:

      Another reason to suspect a Stanford angle is to be found in the “Hearst Family” letters sent in 1974 just before the Zodiac “SLA” letter. They were mailed in the wake of Patty Hearst’s kidnapping, which involved a kidnap team of two men and a woman and an automotive ruse. The letters discuss that event and rant anachronistically about William Randolph Hearst’s “yellow press.” Angela Davis is also referenced, and she had recently been tried and acquitted for her part in the kidnap-murder of a judge in Marin County.

      Of course, WRH’s “yellow press” played a central role in both the Father Heslin and Sister Aimee kidnap stories. (Incidentally, WRH is buried in Colma, which was already on the way to being the largest “necropolis” in the USA back in 1921.) I suspect the mailing locations (SFO/San Mateo County and Palo Alto) were intended as clues, as was the Oakland mailing address of the 1990 Celebrity Cypher card sent around the anniversary of Aimee McPherson’s overdose death.

      Although I think the Hearst Family letters more directly allude to the McPherson rather than the Heslin case, the two are inextricably linked and it could be a “mash up.” Palo Alto is a potential Heslin-specific link if there was a Stanford connection. In fact, I could imagine a scenario where GHH got involved in that “caper” via a Terman-mediated Stanford summer internship and then recalled it over fifty years later on revisiting Stanford to touch base with Terman’s successor on the still-ongoing “Genius” project. Termite “drop-ins” at Stanford were a thing, at least during Prof. Terman’s era, according to Joel Shurkin’s book, “Terman’s Kids.”

      Highly speculative, admittedly. But, I sure wish someone with access to the Terman archives would sneak a peek to see if there’s any relevant correspondence on file.

      Best regards,

      LW

    • Luigi Warren on December 18, 2021 at 2:30 pm

      Steve:

      More Hightower thoughts…

      The story has “bootlegging” written all over it. The ransom letter said Heslin was held in a bootlegger’s cellar. In Hightower’s narrative, the “Greek man” was a bootlegger, and the burial site held either a body or a liquor cache. Hightower told Hearst’s men that he wanted to deal with the Archbishop, not the police, so Dolly/Doris could keep the contraband if the body idea didn’t pan out. Hightower’s original story about the rented Ford was that he was going to use it to meet up with a bootlegger to get the location of a liquor cache. Dolly/Doris was the recent ex-consort of a Minneapolis bootlegger who was fatally shot and clubbed in a bootleg liquor transaction.

      A tenable theory is that Hightower’s Salada Beach activity involving the tent related to bootleg business and somehow the whole thing got turned around or exploited for the purpose of the kidnap plot. If so, the question becomes whether the project involved the production or the trafficking of booze. The production idea might line up with GHH’s nascent interest in chemistry. I do find new reports of major “dry raid” busts of alcohol stills in Salada Beach from the early 20s. However, operating a still at a beach hideout when you don’t have your own car doesn’t seem especially practical. That might point towards a trafficking/smuggling scenario. Rum-runners would bring contraband in on small “contact boats” from ships outside the three-mile limit. San Francisco was a point of entry for smugglers bringing in liquor from Canada. That could fit with the beach location. One story Hightower gave about the tent he bought under an assumed name was that it was for an old buddy who had a job as an “ocean lookout,” which again fits with that angle. There is also the question of the crude shack and possible remains of a raft found by Hearst’s men below the ledge where Heslin’s body and the tent pegs were buried.

      Compared to the moonshining scenario, I don’t have a specific theory as to how GHH might have got involved in the beach project. However, we do know GHH as an adult would be comfortable operating side hustles involving contraband, shady characters and export/import business. Sounds like George Sr would have been at ease with that, too, and I note he seems to have been in the nightclub business around this time period (e.g., LAT 11/21/23, Record 12/13/23.) If GHH interned at Zelenko’s SF office he might have met someone with a personal interest in the smuggling business (per Helen Valeska Bary, the All-Russia Co-Op was a large operation, with 150 Russians employed at its New York office.) Finally, contrasted to the scenario where young GHH is involved as a “chemist,” in a smuggling project he could have been involved without Hightower’s direct knowledge, through Dolly/Doris. If so, Hightower’s cover story about Dolly and the Greek could have been quite close to the truth.

      -LW

  3. Patricia ONeill on December 8, 2021 at 12:29 pm

    Steve, still reading TEY PI, having read PII first thanks to Amazon’s reverse mailing….(I used to be a fast reader, no more🙄!) & now at Bobby Franks’ murder. And while I do see the murderer’s fascination with competing for notoriety in his deeds (ala Leopold & Loeb here)….I am still “hooked” on his 1st (known) murder of Fr. Heslin. You spoke in your blog of documentation of Fr. Heslin’s problems w/abuse in previous parishes. His last parish bfor Colma was Turlock. In 1921 I’m sure Turlock in the San Joaquin valley just as remote, quiet as Colma….very typical then for the Church to reassign such “troublesome” priests to a rather rural, unknown (then) area! Was Heslin based in any LA county parishes bfor Turlock? Then a bright red flag also presents itself on pages 66-7 as Tamar relates her abuse by her grandfather, GHH’s father! In my educational seminars on emotional disability students (circa 1992-94) sexual abuse can unfortunately continue thru several generations. The percentage of abusers is 60/40….60% will not abuse but will have significant problems throughout their lives in relationships, ability to maintain jobs, addiction(s) etc….40% will go on to abuse. So I am saying here could GHH been abused by his father and somehow met up w/Heslin….Heslin presenting himself as a counselor, mentor, but in reality a predator! All through his murderous life we can see GHH’s conflicted personna…..one minute strutting his mental superiority, the next asking/begging for help! More to say here for sure….later! Hope you are settling in in WA!👍😎🌵

  4. Steve Hodel on December 8, 2021 at 1:09 pm

    Patricia O:
    Yes, settling in fine but still awaiting the LA van to arrive which could be a week or more?
    They have a ten day window, but in reading the small print could take up to 30 days. (groan).
    But, I have a bed, a kitchen and a computer, so “Life is Good.”

    As to your observations. Yes, I am convinced that GHH was abused by a family member (mother or father?) or if not, then by a close family friend. I doubt the professor’s wife was his first encounter but could have been I guess and may have been his women’s hatred point along with HS rejections by girls, coupled with his domineering mother’s super control of him.
    I don’t think that Fr. Heslin was predetermined and known to him. Mainly, because he writes (types) the note leaving the name of the kidnap victim blank, then handwrites the name in after the kidnap/murder. I think it could have been any priest that answered the door of the parish.
    I suspect much more will come to light as we progress. Best, Steve

  5. Patricia ONeill on December 8, 2021 at 5:11 pm

    Steve: Sorry to hear about the van delay but not unusual these days! Hopefully by the new year or thereabouts you will be well settled!! Further thoughts came to mind this morning as I juggle business dealings on family business which my 3 children now manage, and I aid as the now only living trustee….keeps me hopping! THE EARLY YEARS, Pl & II should be made part of all educational curricula….I’m serious here as my last years in teaching (Business Education & Special Education) before retirement in 2006 in Tucson had many (yes many!) incidents similar to the Kyle Rittenhouse killings & last week’s shootings in Michigan by Ethan Crumbley. The abuse wipes out the high IQ’s, family wealth/status and any family love & devotion. And unfortunately in my past family there is a history of attempted abuses to males by clergy in very highly respected educational institutions both on East & West Coasts! In past readings I do recall that perhaps there was abuse by a female friend of GHH’s mother and that this abuse to GHH was allowed by his mother. BOMBSHELL! This explains (IMO) GHH’s SEVERE hatred of women (again, IMO). And of course GHH’s physical immaturity with his peers, both male & female, overrode any intelligence superiority as
    well described by Malcolm Gladwell. The statement about GHH’s mother and her control over him immediately brought back my readings on family history of Client Number Nine, Eliot Spitzer…..very frightening! And just where do you fit in on this rather brutal cultural scenario? Well, as I learned in my Special Ed. counseling sessions…… here is where the CORE personality comes into play! You, Steve, have the personality as described in The Emperor’s Clothes, rare & not an easy handle to cope with…….but much needed, much needed👍! Carry on, the best is yet to come! Oh, do start searching for that rescue dog……you will be two of a kind😉! Will continue on with my reading and I’m sure more comments! All the best from Tucson! 😎🌵

  6. Steve Hodel on December 8, 2021 at 5:49 pm

    Patricia O:

    I expect you’re correct once the majority “get” that GHH did in fact commit most of these crimes the pyschoanalysts can have it with one of their own. Fifty years of crime signatures to analyze. To borrow from and slightly modify a song from the Sixties, “What a field day for the shrinks.”.
    I am holding off on my search for a pooch because I know if I look, I buy. My son Matt suggested maybe look for a slightly older dog rather than a puppy. Maybe a year or two old, which makes sense. It will open up naturally as all things have in my life. Both expected and unexpected. Best,
    Steve

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