Dr. Charles Wesley Hill-Next Door Neighbor to the 1947 Black Dahlia Crime Scene and Acquaintance of Dr. George Hodel, LA’s Most Prolific Serial Killer

January 13, 2024
Birch Bay, Washington
In my BDA series of books, I think I only mentioned our neighbor, “Dr. Hill” twice, in passing.
The first was that we three boys would play next door with his children on rare occasions and the second was in quoting mom and dad’s acquaintance, Joe Barrett (our Franklin House tenant and later informant for DA Lt. Jemison.) In that later reference, Barrett when I was questioning him circa 2001 about what he remembered about “The Franklin House years” replied, “Do you remember Dr. Hill Steve? When I got arrested he owned a Bail Bonds company and bailed me out and took me with him to a fancy party where the mayor and other important people were in attendance. I don’t remember what it was all about.”
For the past twenty-plus years I never really thought about “Dr. Hill” other than him being our next-door neighbor. A few days ago, I thought I’d take a quick look-see. I pulled back the curtain a bit and immediately fell into another Rabbit Hole.
It turns out our neighbor, the good “Dr. Hill” was a major mover and shaker in Los Angeles in the 1940s.
Here’s what I have discovered just in the last few days:
This graphic shows the Hodel/Hill residences side by side.
At the time we lived there (1945-1950) none of the heavy foliage existed in front of Dr. Hill’s
residence and it was open and fully visible from the sidewalk.
Who was “Dr. Hill?”
It turns out Dr. Chales Wesley Hill was a major “mover and shaker” in  1940s Los Angeles and a pillar in the Black Community. He was known and referred to simply as “C.W.” The following photographs give us a peek at his influence and “connections” in 1940s Los Angeles. (The source of photographs and commentaries are from the UCLA Walter Morgan collection.)
1940s Stylin
“C.W.” and his Auto”

The below photograph was taken at CW’s residence, 5127 Franklin Ave., Hollywood

L to R: Stanley Mosk, Earl Griffin, Ted Le Berthon*, Lena Horne (in hat), C.W. Hill (behind Ms. Horne), a man named Silverton (first name unknown), an unidentified woman.
The man standing 3rd from the left was identified by Mr. Gordon as journalist Ted Le Berthon.
SUMMARY (From Walter Morgan UCLA collection.)
“Lena Horne was an American jazz and pop singer, dancer and actress, and civil rights activist.
Dr. C.W. Hill was co-vice president along with Lena Horne of the International Film and Radio Guild (IRFG). Initially working as a dentist, he became a successful businessman and real estate broker. Hill was active in the NAACP, the IFRG, where he was co-vice president along with Lena Horne, and other civil rights organizations. He was a member of the Phi Beta Sigma fraternity. Hill was also a fundraiser and party host at his Hollywood home. According to Walter L. Gordon, Jr., at some point, Mr. Hill simply disappeared from the Los Angeles scene, and no one knew what had become of him. Census records indicate that he died in Evansville, Indiana in 1977.
Morey Stanley Mosk was an Associate Justice of the California Supreme Court for 37 years (1964–2001), and holds the record for the longest-serving justice on that court. Before sitting on the Supreme Court, he served as Attorney General of California and as a trial court judge, among other governmental positions.
Publicist Earl “Red” Griffin was the IFRG’s public relations director. He was known for discovering and promoting his eventual wife, LaTanya Griffin.
All information concerning the content and description of the image was provided by Walter Gordon.
Photograph taken at Dr. C. W. Hill’s house in Hollywood, at an International Film and Radio Guild (IFRG) program before an audience of journalists. The purpose of the IFRG was to protect the rights and interests of minorities in the entertainment world.”

Zero Degrees of Separation No.1

*Ted Le Berthon
Here by way of journalist Ted Le Berthon, we have a bizarre link from Le Berthon’s acquaintance with Dr. C.W. Hill in the 1940s to his earlier link to  George Hodel in the 1920s. I have reproduced that connection below. A 1925  article, The Clouded Past of a Poet,  written by Le Berthon, in which he describes George Hodel in detail and which figured prominently in my first book, Black Dahlia Avenger: A Genius for Murder (Arcade 2003).
      Black Dahlia Avenger(Arcade 2003)–   Pages 67-68
 Toward the end of 1925, another story about Father appeared in print, this time by Ted Le Berthon, the drama critic for the Los Angeles Evening Herald, who wrote the following unusual and highly illuminating article about Father. In it, Le Berthon changes Dad’s last name from Hodel to “Morel” and the name of his magazine from Fantasia to Whirlpools.
            This article reveals another side to my father. Besides being a pampered mama’s boy, intellectual elitist,              poet, and pianist, he was also a fighter who at the slightest provocation would be eager and ready to trade punches.
Los Angeles Evening Herald
December 9, 1925
The Merry-Go-Round
The Clouded Past of a Poet
GEORGE MOREL is tall, olive-skinned with wavy black hair and a strong bold nose. His eyes are large, brown, somnolent. A romantic, hawklike fellow, a pianist, a poet, and editor of Whirlpools, a bizarre, darkly poetical quarterly.
“George is a nice boy but—
How often did one hear that!
What his friends hinted was that George, being young, was inclined to write of melancholy things.
Of course, George could have pointed to Keats, Rupert Brooke, or Stephen Crane for precedent, but— “It’s not George’s gloom, his preference for Huysmanns, De Gourmont, Poe, Baudelaire, Verlaine and Hecht that pains us,” these “friends” would parry, “but his stilted elegance, his meticulous speech!
George drowned himself at times in an ocean of deep dreams. Only part of him seemed present
He would muse standing before one in a black, flowered dressing gown lined with scarlet silk, oblivious to one’s presence.
Suddenly, though, his eyes would flare up like signal lights and he would say, “The formless fastidiousness of perfumes in a seventeenth-century boudoir is comparable to my mind in the presence of twilight.”
One might have answered “What of it?”—but one just didn’t.
As one of George’s “friends” put it: “He’s young. He’ll get over it. What he needs is contact with harsh realities. At present his writing is tenuous, dreamy, monotonous—and he is like his writing.”
A Future Realistic Novelist
I HADN’T seen George for about a year—
And last night, strolling up Spring Street in a sort of Morelian reverie myself, I was startled by hearing a familiar voice. The next moment I saw a tall young fellow in a taxi driver’s uniform seize a burly, argumentative man by the coat lapels and growl menacingly:
“Come across with that taxi fare or I’ll smack you in the nose, right here and now!”
The speaker was GEORGE MOREL.
Zero Degrees of Separation No.2
In the newspaper article below we see C.W.Hill with Rams quarterback Bob Waterfield and wife actress Jane Russell at his
Hollywood residence, 5121 Franklin Ave.

In bizarre twist number 2 we jump from 1940s past to 1960s past. 
Once again, as documented in my BDA book series, without any knowledge of the above linkage, At age twenty, I married my first wife, Kiyo (who unbeknownst to me was fourteen years older than her stated age to me of “28”, and had been the former lover of my father, George Hodel.)  At the time of our marriage, Kiyo was teaching astrology classes at our home, with Jane Russel in regular attendance. Through Kiyo, I became friends with Jane and her husband, Bob Waterfield which lasted through my three-year marriage. During those years (1962-1965) I had no clue to the Russell’s earlier connection to our former next-door neighbor at the Franklin House–Dr. C.W. Hill, and only discovered it in reading the above article yesterday.
Zero Degrees of Separation No.3
The California Eagle newspaper
August 14, 1947
(Seven months to the day after the kidnap/torture-murder and surgical bisection of Elizabeth “Black Dahlia” Short that occurred next door to Dr. Hill’s at the Hodel residence, George Hodel, as noted and named in the below article,  is in attendance, at  “C.W.’s” residence for the piano recital of Beatrice Sandell.)

“Among the 50 or so guests…”Dr. George Hodel and a host of others.”
“C.W.” with Soprano Annie Wiggins Brown at his Franklin Avenue mansion
Ms. Brown was the origianal “Bess” in Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess opera.

L to R: Paul Robeson, C. W. Hill.

Paul Robeson was an American bass singer and actor who became involved with the Civil Rights Movement. At Rutgers College, he was an outstanding American football player, and then had an international career in singing, with a distinctive, powerful, deep bass voice, as well as acting in theater and movies. He became politically involved in response to the Spanish Civil War, fascism, and social injustices. His advocacy of anti-imperialism, affiliation with communism, and criticism of the United States government caused him to be blacklisted during the McCarthy era. (Wikipedia)
C. W. Hill was a Los Angeles real estate agent and businessman.DESCRIPTIONAll information concerning the content and description of the image was provided by Walter Gordon.
“C.W.’s Series 5 All-Star Picks”

(Sticks his head out of the Rabbit Hole.)
I have no real hard memories of our neighbor Dr. Charles Wesley Hill other than visiting on several occasions as a boy of some six or seven years, and playing with some other children at his residence. I had no idea during the writings of the BDA series that he was this well “connected” to L.A. politicos and was unquestionably a leader in LA’s Black community. It will be interesting to see if anything else pops up now that we have discovered CW’s Rabbit Warren.



  1. Barry Guerrero on January 14, 2024 at 12:32 am

    I’m a bit surprised that Jane Russell took an interest in astrology. My understanding was that she was a devout Christian. At least in today’s more fundamental brand of Christianity, astrology is generally frowned upon. Devil worship and such. Please correct me if I’m wrong here.

    • Steve Hodel on January 14, 2024 at 2:02 pm

      Barry G:
      Well, all I know is she was a regular student at Kiyo’s classes in our home. About a dozen or so would come bi-monthly as I recall. I never discussed religion or philosophy with her during that period. She seemed like a “regular Jane” (pun intended) in those days. A lot of people had a curiosity back then in “The Sixties”. Kiyo as an “Astrologer to the Stars” could talk the talk with the best of them. “Oh Steve, you have an amazing chart. Scorpio with Taurus rising and Moon in Gemini, you’d make a great writer. And with Mars in Aries, you have the stamina to just keep going on whatever you pursue.” etc. etc.

    • Mike on January 19, 2024 at 11:57 am

      A thin line separates Christianity and Astrology.

  2. Patricia ONeill on January 14, 2024 at 1:38 pm

    Ah yes, recap of GHH’s neighborhood sounds quite familiar to me! Do the names Chet Nimitz, Branch Rickey, Lorraine Day, Leo Durocher, to name a few, from name-dropping visits from my Aunt Adele & Jim English SFPD Chief of D’s, ring a bell? This would be in the late 40’s, early 50’s! Our family and I’m sure many higher ups in SFPD were surprised, confused and critical of my Uncle Jim’s very frequent weekend socializing in L. A. and later in Palm Springs☹️! Then after my Uncle’s downfall in the SFPD he did luckily receive his police pension, but his reputation as an honored SFPD Chief of D’s was trashed…..and rightly so! He then moved to Palm Springs & stepped into his new job on the parole board of Tehachapi Women’s Prison! Our family questioned that saying “who does he know down there?” also in grief over my Aunt’s swift & tragic death from a cerebral hemorrhage🥺! Of course in ‘51, now happily remarried, he did proudly arrange an abortion for my teenage male cousin’s gf and spoke so glowingly of the “best damn doc in the country” who did it! I am sure my Aunt & Uncle enjoyed cocktailing, partying at the Sowden house, Steve……..you may have even met them somewhere along the way! My Uncle was then known in social circles as The Bald Eagle, so dubbed by SF columnist Herb Caen. Looking back, my father then retired from SFPD, fittingly nailed my Uncle’s activities: “Your uncle’s not minding the store!” Uncle Jim died from a heart attack in the early/mid ‘60’s while visiting his daughter & grandchildren in L. A. Before he laid down for a nap he sadly stated to my cousin, “I never should have left your mother😞!” He died that afternoon during his nap. Well, Jim, was the fun in L. A. worth it?? Yes, life looked so temptingly glamorous and fun-filled in CA then…..Welcome to the Hotel California😱!

    • Steve Hodel on January 14, 2024 at 2:07 pm

      Patricia O:
      Could well be. Lot of cocktail parties at the Franklin House. Have no idea of the Who’s Who of them, as a boy of 7 or 8. “Hotel California” pretty much nails it for sure. Dad’s women checked in but never checked out. So many mysteries, will forever remain unknown/undiscovered.

      • Patricia ONeill on January 14, 2024 at 2:20 pm

        One more added thought…..which I am sure is true for you too: “You can check out anytime you like, but you can never leave!” So so true👍!

  3. Steven Uanna on January 19, 2024 at 5:28 pm

    Steve, Dr. Hill, right next door. A prominent black man in LA who certainly had his finger on the pulse of what the black community there was doing and thinking. He was a bail bondsman along with entertaining black Hollywood stars.
    Just the kind of guy the people who really ran LA (whoever they were) would want. Did you find anything about Dr.Hill and the black actor Canada Lee? Caresse Crosby (who brought Salvador Dali to America) had a secret affair with Canada Lee that started in the late 1930’s and went into the mid 1940’s.
    Lee was in one of my favorite movies, the 1944 LIFEBOAT. The whole movie takes place in a lifeboat after a ship is sunk by a Nazi submarine. The movie is so intense you don’t realize that the location never changes. It’s in the lifeboat. LIFEBOAT!
    Incredible movie and I won’t spoil the ending but will say that Canada Lee is the hero in the end.
    Any connection between Dr. Hill and Canada Lee or Caresse Crosby?

    • Steve Hodel on January 19, 2024 at 6:09 pm

      Steve U:
      Haven’t done any deep dive into Dr. Hill and associates to date. So, don’t know if there was a Canada Lee or Caresse Crosby connection or not as of this writing. Yes, I loved LIFEBOAT. Great classic.
      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Canada_Lee From Lee’s bio looks like he spent most of his life on the East Coast so if he knew Dr. Hill probably ‘just in passing” type acquaintance.

Leave a Comment