A Man of Means, Mystery, and Murder
March 10, 2014
Bettie and Rae were two twenty-something young women living in a small town outside of Los Angeles. They were pure as the driven snow, bookish, egg-heady and considered themselves above the complications of dating. Waitressing was their gig. They were polite and courteous to the customers and provided excellent service. They got big tips as a result, but did not use flirtation or womanly wiles to get them.
They had not drawn good lots in life, but they were determined to rise above. In fact, they were the grandchildren of migrant fruit-pickers. College was out of the question. They shared a rent-house to save on expenses. They saw themselves going somewhere, but did not know their destinations, yet. Maybe they could get on a police force, as detectives—maybe even in nearby LA. Maybe they could start in a small town and advance to the city by way of sterling reputations and good results. Maybe they could solve some cold cases on their own, in the meantime, to help them get their feet in the door. Second-guessing stalled police investigations took up a large amount of their spare time. Sometimes they were lucky enough to get the same days off—and this was one of them.
“This George Hodel is an interesting but creepy person. I think we should investigate him further,” Bettie announced after they had had their tea and toast.
“Seems like I have heard that name in a not-so-good way,” Rae said. “Tell me more about him.”
Bettie held up a book showing a 1949 booking photo of George Hodel. The charges were incest and statutory rape. She then read the details of his life:
He was a medical doctor, born in 1907 and died in 1999.
It says he was accepted in high society. Hmmmm. He was
wealthy and lived in a house designed by Frank Lloyd Wright.
He was often photographed by Man-Ray (also the police).
He was well-educated, reportedly having an IQ of 186. He was
also an accomplished pianist. Rachmaninoff is reported to have
traveled to George’s grandparent’s home, just to hear George
play. In 1990 George finally returned to Los Angeles to live,
with his fourth wife and he died in 1999 of congestive heart
failure. He is mentioned as a prime suspect in the murder of
The Black Dahlia, Elizabeth Short. ‘She was a waitress, just
like us, Rae. Poor girl.’
“Ewww! The Black Dahlia. That case gives me the screaming Mimis. That poor woman was found nude, cut in half, her intestines neatly arranged, with other strange cuts on her body. It had been placed for discovery near a Los Angeles intersection in January, 1947 by the murderer, right? The killer had washed her hair and body carefully before arranging it there—was this from some type of warped love, or to remove evidence? There was evidence of torture found on her body. She had been kept, bound somewhere before she was killed.” Rae re-capped the particulars of the Black Dahlia case. “They had about five suspects, but no one was ever arrested and charged. The murderer sent her last personal effects, reeking of gasoline to the LAPD a few weeks after the murder. Yes, I think we should investigate Hodel further. Should we spend the day at the library, then?”
Reading about Hodel consumed their spare time for the next month. Once Bettie confided this to a customer she felt was trustworthy.
“Hodel? A strange man,” The customer agreed. “You ladies are in luck. A speaker is giving a program on just this man and some other cases at the
South Pasadena Library next month,” the customer reported. “You can call the library and get the information. I am sorry, I don’t know the exact details. I thought of going myself. It sounds very interesting.”
“Oh, we must go, Bettie!” Rae exclaimed, when she learned of the program. “Let’s start now, to arrange our work schedules. We may have to twist some arms, do some switching around. It would be so worth it.”
Bettie and Rae made sure to get seats close to the speaker when they arrived at the South Pasadena Library for the program on Hodel. The speaker was a large, benign-looking, balding man with soft features. Such a contrast to his subject, a devilish, evil-looking man. They learned that Hodel was the DA’s and the LAPD’s major suspect in the Black Dahlia murder case. They learned that police had even bugged his Frank Lloyd Wright home and gotten some incriminating evidence. They also learned that Hodel’s personal secretary, Ruth Spaulding, had died mysteriously during the investigation. Poison was suspected (although it was listed as an overdose), and Hodel was suspected of killing her so she couldn’t talk. Hodel was also suspected of performing countless abortions on society women and starlets. They were charted as D and C’s but that was what they were, most probably.
The criminal investigation into Hodel was suspended because Hodel took a spur-of-the-moment job with the UNRRA (United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation) which took him to Asia and China. The speaker was so convinced that Hodel is the killer of Elizabeth Short, that he recently sent a letter, Hodel had mailed from Manilla, and had the saliva on the stamps tested for DNA at the famed Bode Technology in Virginia. They were able to get a profile off the stamps. The speaker also provided diagrams and charts of “hits” a cadaver dog made at Hodel’s residence. He has not been able to get the LAPD to make DNA comparisons from Short’s effects, however. He quotes several detectives that are in his camp, however.
“All this evidence is very convincing, Rae. I am so glad we came to see the program,” Bettie concluded. “We must take a spin by Hodel’s house sometime, just for the heck of it.”
“You are right, Bettie. It was very convincing and informative. I do not know why the LAPD is not taking some of the speaker’s new evidence and closing the case. It almost seems airtight to me.”
“They say they have to clear out their current cases before they can re-work old ones,” Bettie answered. “But you are right. It does seem strange. And I cannot fathom why the speaker believes George Hill Hodel is also The Lipstick Killer, and also did some of the Zodiac murders. That just makes no sense, but he does put forth some convincing evidence for those connections, too, including handwriting analysis. True, Hodel probably committed other murders of women or girls in the LA area that go unsolved, but the Lipstick Murders and the Zodiac Murders are a real stretch.”
“And what is most disturbing of all is that the speaker we saw at the South Pasadena Library is the actual biological son of George Hodel, Steve Hodel. Steve Hodel is a highly decorated and former homicide detective of the LAPD, retired!”
“That is the real kicker, Rae. He is an ace homicide detective, has met some of the original detectives on the Black Dahlia Case, has written several best-selling books on his theories of this and other murders, and he is the biological son of Dr. Hodel. The letter from Manilla with the incriminating stamps from George Hodel was, in fact, addressed to Steve Hodel, his own biological son.”
Please click the book cover image to read more about Sara Marie Hogg and her novels.