The Black Dahlia Case--in which a woman's horribly mutilated, bisected body was found in an L.A. park in 1947--has held the fascination of many over the decades. The mysterious woman who dreamed of being an actress suddenly went from being another pretty face in the crowd to the girl everyone knew. According to various reports, she was both morally loose and virginal; a bad girl and the girl who stayed in every night practicing her craft; a young woman who was ruthlessly pursuing stardom and a girl who seemed lost and swallowed up by the city. She became everything in the eyes of the media, and because no one seemed to know much about her or where she came from, the public and the press were essentially free to make their own assumptions.
But what made the murder so sensational was that her killer was never caught, sending the young women of L.A. into a panic as stories of a serial killer began to circulate. The fact that there was no blood found in the field which held her sad remains meant the killer did the job somewhere else and then dumped her, a bold move even in the days before surveillance cameras were mounted on every corner. Surely a witness must have seen or heard something?
There would be many conflicting stories flooding the L.A.P.D. in the days and weeks following the grisly discovery, and even several notes sent in claiming to be written by the murderer. He seemed to be taunting them, and certainly, a person capable of cutting a woman in half was most likely not new to the game. Everyone feared the death of Elizabeth Short would not be the last made at his hands.
But as the sensationalism of the story began to fade over time, one man says his suspicions that his own father was behind the murder began to grow. Steve Hodel, a former L.A.P.D. detective, says that after digging up some of the old records on the case, he discovered what his gut had known all along: his father, George Hodel--a physician--was at one time a suspect in Short's murder. Hodel's research included teaming up with a retired police officer, Sgt. Paul Dostie, and a cadaver-sniffing dog named Buster. Together, they say they found evidence in George Hodel's former home--a mansion--of human decomposition.
"Buster immediately took off ... and ran to a vent located at the southwest corner of the property where he alerted, indicating he had picked up the scent of human decomposition," Hodel said.
Samples of the soil have been sent to a lab for analysis, and while it's too early to hold out hope that anything definitive will come of the tests, Hodel says that he's sure the mystery has been solved. At the very least, he and Dostie have discovered that something bad happened in that house.
"We have established as fact that the basement, some 66 years after the murder, still holds the smell of death," Hodel said.
George Hodel's mugshot, after being arrested for child molestation. (HAND-IN)