'I've Solved Hollywood's Most Gruesome Murder And My Father Was The Killer'
It is a real-life murder mystery that is the stuff of Hollywood legend -- a macabre, decades-old homicide that has embedded itself into the psyche of the movie capital.
The savage crime, which claimed the life of a beautiful aspiring actress, remains unsolved to this day. She was called The Black Dahlia -- in reality, she was Elizabeth Short from Boston, Massachusetts.
Her brutal slaying has been the subject of movies and documentaries. Now Stan has shone a new light on the enduring mystery of The Black Dahlia with its series "I Am The Night" starring Chris Pine.
The series, written by Sam Sheridan, tells the true story of Fauna Hodel, who was given away at birth and is now determined to find her birth mother.
Through her investigation, her path crosses that of reporter Jay Singletary, who joins her on her journey. Their investigation eventually leads them to infamous Hollywood gynaecologist Dr George Hodel.
Now, in an interview with 10 daily, Hodel's son, Steve Hodel, a retired LAPD homicide detective, has revealed that he has "no doubt" his father was the Black Dahlia killer.
More on him later, though.
First thing's first -- let's take a deep dive into the case.
Who Was The Black Dahlia?
Elizabeth Short was born in Boston, Massachusetts in 1924. She came to Hollywood in the mid-1940s in the hope of becoming a star.
During her brief life, Short entered beauty contests and according to friends, regularly spoke about her hopes of making it big in Hollywood.
Short was last seen by a Robert Marley -- a man she was reportedly seeing at the time -- on January 9, 1947.
Six days later her naked, mutilated body was found in a vacant Los Angeles lot.
The gruesome nature of Short's murder has played an enormous part in the public's ongoing fascination with the unsolved case.
On the morning of January 15, 1947, a mother taking a walk with her three-year-old daughter spotted what she thought was a mangled mannequin lying in an abandoned Los Angeles lot.
After taking a closer look, the mother realised it was, in fact, a body. Short's body to be exact.
The 22-year-old's body had been severed at the waist and drained entirely of blood. Her face was slashed from ear-to-ear producing a macabre, bloody smile. Short's thighs and breasts were covered in cuts and, in some places, entire chunks of her flesh had been sliced away.
One of the most curious elements of Short's murder was that her corpse had been drained of blood and scrubbed clean.
"It was pretty gruesome," said Brian Carr, a detective with the Los Angeles Police Department who has long worked on the Dahlia case.
I just can't imagine someone doing that to another human being.
According to the autopsy, Short's body had been cut completely in half in a technique called hemicorporectomy.
It was this method which made police believe that Short's murderer must have had some medical training -- officers even ended up looking into a group of students at the University of Southern California Medical School.
The Search For The Killer
There were plenty of suspects at the time, 25 to be exact, while around 60 ended up confessing to the murder.
Due to a lack of evidence and witnesses, the trail of Short's killer went cold, making her murder one of the most highly publicised unsolved crimes in history.
Who Was George Hodel?
George Hodel was a gynaecologist who worked in the Los Angeles area. Police fingered Hodel as a suspect early on in the case.
But it wasn't until his teenage daughter, Tamar Hodel, accused him of incestuous sexual abuse in 1949 that officers began to seriously consider Hodel as their man. Tamar also accused her father of being The Black Dahlia killer.
Police acted quickly upon hearing the allegations and immediately put Hodel under surveillance and bugged his home with microphones in the hope that Hodel might slip-up and admit to the murder.
The full details of the investigation into Hodel only came to light in 2004 a "George Hodel–Black Dahlia File" was discovered in the vault at the Los Angeles County District Attorney's office. The file revealed that in 1950 Hodel was the main suspect in The Black Dahlia murder.
Most of the tapes proved rather innocuous, with Hodel mainly heard having sex and berating his secretary, Ruth Spalding, who later died of a drug overdose.
But amongst all the drivel there was one line that caught the attention of authorities:
"Supposin’ I did kill the Black Dahlia. They couldn’t prove it now. They can’t talk to my secretary anymore because she’s dead."
Nothing ever eventuated from the tapes.
Hodel died in 1999 without ever being charged, let alone questioned, about the murder.
My Father, The Murderer
Then, in 2019, George's son Steve made the groundbreaking admission that after spending "years" sifting through his late father's belongings -- he was certain that he was the killer.
In an interview with the New York Post, Steve cited the method of Short's murder as one of the main reasons he believes his father was the culprit.
"The killer had performed a hemicorporectomy on her," Hodel said. "It’s a unique procedure that was taught at medical schools in the 1930s, when he was there, where you cut between the second and third lumbar vertebrae."
He added: "It’s the only way you can divide a body without cutting through bone."
Hodel told 10 daily that he originally began his investigation with the hope of being able to clear his father's name off the suspect list -- but he was wrong.
"I loved my father," he said. "I never did suspect he killed Elizabeth Short. When I began my investigation, I wanted to prove my father had nothing to do with the murder and to exonerate him."
Hodel said that after two years of investigating the case, he submitted his findings in secret to then active Los Angeles Head Deputy District Attorney, Stephen Kay -- a veteran prosecutor who was co-counsel on the Charles Manson Family prosecutions.
Hodel said that Kay "reviewed all my evidence and witness interviews and graphics and provided a legal opinion that "The Black Dahlia Murder case had been solved".
"He concluded that if Dr George Hill Hodel was still alive and the witnesses available he would file the murder and would obtain a guilty verdict, based on my evidence."
As for Steve Hodel, he admits he found the revelations "difficult" as he originally started his investigation as a "son who loved his father'.
"But, also I recognized that I had to remain objective and follow the evidence -- that was the trained homicide detective," he said. "I did that and tragically, it took me in the exact opposite direction, leading to his guilt, beyond a reasonable doubt."
Feature Image: Getty