Former LAPD detective Steve Hodel caught the attention of true crime readers in 2003, when he joined the odd club of authors accusing their fathers of having killed Elizabeth Short, the “Black Dahlia”—whose surgically bisected, grotesquely poised corpse was found on Norton Ave. in Liemert Park, Los Angeles, California, in 1947—with the publication of his “Black Dahlia Avenger,” effectively convicting his father Dr. George Hill Hodel, Jr. of the crime.
Writes Hodel in “MOST EVIL: Avenger, Zodiac, and the Further Murders of Dr. George Hill Hodel,”
My father . . . was a monster. While a handsome, successful doctor living the good life in 1940s Hollywood, surrounded by beautiful women and esteemed artists such as Man Ray, John Huston, Henry Miller, and others, he committed a series of heinous murders. One of his victims was a former girlfriend named Elizabeth Short—cast in infamy as the Black Dahlia. In 2004, a ‘George Hodel- Black Dahlia File’ was discovered in the vault at the Los Angeles District Attorney’s Office. The secret file revealed that in 1950, Hodel was the prime suspect on the Dahlia murder and his private Hollywood residence was electronically bugged by an 18-man DA/LAPD Task Force during the period 18 February to 27 March 1950. The DA transcripts contained Hodel’s references to performing abortions, payoffs to law enforcement officials, and to his possible involvement in the deaths of his secretary and Elizabeth Short.
Steve Hodel has developed and expanded the theory of his late father’s association with psychopathy and murder, publishing a series of books on the elder Hodel’s nefarious misdeeds. According to this theory, his father, a friend of surrealist Man Ray, posed Short’s corpse in emulation of one of Man Ray’s photographs, “The Minotaur,” cutting the ends of her open mouth to approximate the effect of another of Man Ray’s photographs entitled “The Lovers (The Lips)”, and having devoted his life to becoming an unforgettable surrealist among murderers, continued his killing spree for decades, including a long sojourn in Manila before returning to the US in 1990. According to “MOST EVIL”’s author, his father was also responsible for the Lipstick Killer murders in Chicago, for which Robert Heirens was convicted and has been imprisoned since . . . and the Zodiac slayings of Los Angeles, and more. The author’s findings indicate that his father was one of the most prolific serial killers in history, beginning as a young man and continuing to kill undetected throughout his life. In “MOST EVIL,” Steve Hodel compiles never-before-seen visual, forensic and circumstantial evidence—including names of streets shared by previous victims—revealing his father as a serial killer perhaps responsible for some of the most infamous murders of the 20th century. Whether or not George Hill Hodel was a murderer—some disagree—he was publicly accused of incest in a trial that made big news in Los Angeles and got off lightly due to his connections with the LA uppercrust.
“This despite the fact that he taught [my half-sister, Tamar] how to perform oral sex at eleven, had sex with her at fourteen in the presence of three other adults, and branded her a liar the rest of her life,” writes Hodel.”Tamar’s best friend, Michelle Phillips of the Mamas and the Papas, remembers opening a hotel room door in San Francisco in 1967 and seeing George for the first time. ‘I almost fainted,’ she said. ‘The aura of evil he gave off was so strong and palpable, it almost knocked me off my feet. That’s the first time anything like that has ever happened to me.'”
Dr. Hodel gave some cagey testimony of his own regarding the Black Dahlia, if always short of fully incriminating, as here: “Supposin’ I did kill the Black Dahlia. They can’t prove it now. They can’t talk to my secretary anymore because she’s dead.”
Says the author in a recent email to this reporter, “You might want to check out my just published sequel ‘MOST EVIL II’, which updates the investigation from 2009-2015. As you know, in ‘MOST EVIL I,’ I presented the evidence and made a strong ‘circumstantial case’ that my father might well be Zodiac and without going so far as to say, ‘Case Cleared’ on the Bay Area killings, I requested that law enforcement get confirmed DNA and test against my father’s DNA since I now have his full DNA profile. (To date they still have not obtained any Zodiac DNA.) In ‘MOST EVIL II’ (Rare Bird Books 2015) I am now claiming ‘Case Solved’ based on new evidence and the cracking of a confirmed Zodiac cipher mailed to the SF Chronicle in 1970 in which Zodiac signs his name in a secret cipher. See my introductory link to the book and findings and Open Letter to the Public.”
In 2003, Los Angeles head deputy district attorney Stephen Kay, who presided over the Manson trials, as far as he’s concerned, the Black Dahlia case is now solved thanks to Steve Hodel’s investigative efforts. At one point, novelist James Ellroy, author of “The Black Dahlia” and the memoir, “My Dark Places,” wherein he recounts a youth scarred by his own mother’s murder, agreed with him, but has since retracted his endorsement of the author’s findings.
There exists another, more modern quirk in the history of this strangely-fated family. When Tamar Hodel became pregnant at an early age, father unknown, despie being herself the offspring of a socially prominent California family, gave her newborn to a young Black woman who worked as a restroom attendant in a Nevada casino, to insure that a Black family raise the baby. In 16 year old Tamar Hodel’s eyes, Blacks were the far more loving than most everyone she encountered in the white community, to say nothing of her own “palpably evil” father. To insure that the child would never return to her own emotionally reclusive white family, Tamar made sure her new baby’s birth certificate listed the father as “Negro.” Fauna Hodel grew up believing that she was of mixed race before, during and after civil rights were enacted. Enduring prejudice from both sides, she sought out the only person who truly knew where she belonged – her real mother. After discovering her true identity, she uncovered a family secret even more bizarre than her own – the mysterious world of incest, murder, and powerful forces that have kept this story from being told for more than 20 years. Fauna’s memoir, One Day She’ll Darken, is available at her website. A film on her experience, “Pretty Hattie’s Baby,” was produced. Tamar Hodel’s life as “the girl who knew too much” has also been commemorated in The Sins of the Father by Sheila Weller.