Sunday, October 2, 2023
Birch Bay, California
Kirk Mellecker 1945-2022
Det.III Kirk Mellecker circa 1979
Detective III Kirk Mellecker, the longest assigned homicide case investigator on the Black Dahlia Murder (sixteen years, 1975-1991) passed away on September 28, 2022, at age 77.
I knew from recent emails with Kirk that he was fighting cancer for the past many months and in his last email was optimistic that he would beat it. Sadly, he did not.
Kirk and I met and became partners working in Hollywood Division Homicide in the early to mid-1970s. I, with a few more years on the job, became his training officer. Kirk was a quick learner and by 1975 had developed into an outstanding homicide detective and was a major force in helping our team keep our Divisional “solve rate” at 75-80%. His personnel ratings were always in the “upper 10%”.
After a few years in Hollywood Division, downtown Robbery/Homicide recognized Kirk’s abilities and offered him a transfer. Like many of the top divisional detectives, he accepted and in 1975 was assigned to Major Crimes at Parker Center.
Other than an occasional “hello” through the years Kirk and I would have little or no contact. I believe the last time I saw Kirk “on-the-job” was at my retirement party in 1986.
Upon his transfer to Major Crimes, Kirk’s first assignment was being handed the keys to one of Los Angeles’ Coldest of Cold Cases–Victim Elizabeth Short-The Black Dahlia 1947 Whodunit. (Not uncommon for “the new guy in the unit”, as mostly it amounted to taking calls and “tips” from private citizens.” Call-ins saying, “I know who killed the Black Dahlia.” A joke of sorts in the unit, since the infamous case was at that time, already 27 years cold.)
But, to Kirk Mellecker, it was NO JOKE. He was given the keys to the six-drawer-locked Black Dahlia Files and he alone had investigative responsibility and sole access to them.
Kirk’s career in the Robbery/Homicide Division was stellar. He investigated and solved dozens of high-profile cases through the decades and would promote to Detective III in 1990.
My next contact with Kirk was in 2001, some twenty-six years after we were partners and he was well into his retirement from LAPD.
In this contact, I learned he was now a major case specialist at NCAVC, the National Center for the Analysis of Violent Crime near Quantico, Virginia. Kirk’s current job was to train law enforcement officers nationwide in the use of a national crime computer database and retrieval program called VICAP, which is primarily used for analyzing patterns and potential evidence in serial sexual homicides and identifying possible suspects.
I knew he had been assigned to the Black Dahlia investigation (which I was secretly investigating), and it would be another two years before my publication of Black Dahlia Avenger) in 2003, in which I document that most revealing conversation between Kirk and myself. I knew that Kirk had partnered and become personally very close with “Jigsaw John” the legendary LAPD detective who had over forty years on the job. (I had met Det. John St. John on many occasions at various crime scenes during my 17 years working Hollywood Homicide.)
Several years ago, famed director, David Lynch wrote an article in which he states he had dinner with then-retired Det. John St. John at Musso & Franks restaurant in Hollywood. (Happens to be my favorite Hollywood restaurant.) The bottom line of Lynch’s story is that Det. St John showed him a crime scene photo of the original Black Dahlia, which at the time made no impression on Lynch since he had seen them many times before. Lynch claims St.John smiled, put the photo away, and left. Then it hit Lynch. The photo was taken at night in the moonlight! That photo had never been seen or shown before. Elizabeth Short’s killer left the body there before daybreak on January 15, 1947. See my 2019 blog on Lynch’s account and “dinner with John John.”
Now, let me fast forward to the present 2022–just two months back.
I decided to recontact Kirk and see if he could shed any light on the alleged meeting between his old partner “Jigsaw John” and David Lynch. What follows are an exchange of emails between myself and Kirk leading up to just days before his death.
I am sharing these emails knowing that Kirk, like myself, was all about getting to the TRUTH and knowing things AS THEY ARE–a “Just The Facts” kind of attitude if you will.
Thu, Jul 21, 2022, at 6:13 PM Steve Hodel wrote:
Trust all is well with you and yours.Forgot to ask you if you were aware of the below story or maybe it was after St. John retired?All good here. Loving my move to WA state.
04/12/director-screenwriter- david-lynch-reveals-new-old- clue-to-black-dahlia- investigation-in-dinner-with- john-john/
Kirk’s response the following day:
July 22, 2022
Re: St John David Lynch dinner meet
I am very glad your move back to Washington has been enjoyable.
As you know, I went to RHD in August 1975 and received case responsibility for the Dahlia investigation shortly thereafter, along with the only key to the filing cabinet containing all of the investigative files. As I know now, ALL was not exactly correct, but that is not important here. St John was working Major Crimes and came back to Homicide Special in 1977 to work the Trash Bag murders. He did not have a partner so I was assigned to work with him when he needed assistance. The duration of that assignment was about eight months and the Dahlia case was never discussed. We became partners in late 1979. St John was on the job at the time of the Dahlia murder but was never a part of the investigation. Obviously, with his time on the job and years in homicide, he knew all the players and all the rumors, but by his own admission, he had never seen or read the investigative file. I was glad to have him, partner, with me on the investigation and we would putter around with it whenever we had the time, which wasn’t too often.
Our partnership ended when I made D-lll, but St John would still come to me when he was fed information, with the usual source being old-time reporters.
All this to say, while St John and I were working together he never mentioned the restaurant Musso & Franks, even though we must have driven past it over a hundred times, or having dinner there with a David Lynch or anyone else. I am not saying Davis Lynch did not have dinner at Musso & Franks and was shown a photo of Elizabeth Short taken during the hours of darkness. I am saying St John did not obtain the photo from the Dahlia file because it was never in the file since I took control of it in 1975. In all the years I knew St John, I never saw him carry a briefcase of any type, but the real kicker is he would never ever offer to take anyone to dinner if he had information they were requesting or, and I cannot imagine him doing it if he had information they wanted. His policy, for a lack of a better term, was for them to buy him dinner and a couple of drinks! It was never negotiable.
Sorry, Steve for rambling on but my brain has been overrun by a bit of cancer which I’m hoping will be taken care of over the next couple of weeks of radiation. No worries for now.
I hope this has been useful.
Take care and stay safe.
My July 22, 2022 response to Kirk:
So sorry to hear about the cancer diagnosis. Damn! Why do these things always seem to happen to “The Good Guys?” Hope the radiation therapy catches it quick. Keep in touch and let me know how things progress.
Thanks for the St. John info. Very believable as you tell it. First thing that struck me as “odd” in the film director’s telling of the story was, “Hard to imagine St. John taking/buying at a fancy dinner place like Musso Franks. (Happens to be one of my favorite Hwd restaurants and it is expensive and always was.)
Much appreciated old friend.
On Sat, Aug 6, 2022, at 11:36 PM Steve Hodel wrote:
Just wanted to check in with you and see how your medical prognosis is going? Did you have the treatment yet?Hoping you will start to improve and beat this thing.
Best from your old partner,
Ever the optimist, Kirk’s final email came the following day, August 7, 2022:
Steve, Nine days into radiation treatment and one to go. Feel weak, but regaining some use of my right leg and arm. All in all, doing well. God has gotten me through a lot worse. Thanks for checking.
Your friend and partner,
Seven weeks later, on Wednesday, September 28, 2022, my friend and old partner drew his last breath. Kirk Mellecker, a native Angeleno and one of LAPD’s finest, was 77 years old.
Thank you for your decades of service to the city and citizens of Los Angeles and condolences to his wife, Caryn, and his surviving family.
REST IN PEACE KIRK-