In 1947, the body of Elizabeth Short was found in an empty park. She had been severed in two by what appeared to be a surgeon’s hand. She gained the name “Black Dahlia,” and has since been notarized as the oldest cold case in the history of the Los Angeles Police Department.
But retired detective Steve Hodel cannot let the case go; he wants to gather enough evidence to see the case declared closed. While he received accolades for his work on the case a decade ago — and even published a book with the contents of his findings — he has a personal vendetta against the killer.
The suspected murdered is Dr. George Hodel, Steve’s father.
Steve Hodel recently received the opportunity to return to the Hollywood mansion where he believes the murder took place. He was accompanied by Paul Dostie and Dostie’s search dog, Buster.
The body of Elizabeth Short, 22, had been severed in two with surgical skill, leading early investigators to conclude that the killer had some sort of medical training. Yet there was no trace of blood in the empty Leimert Park lot where the body was found. Detectives believed she must have been killed elsewhere.
Hodel concluded that she was killed in his childhood home, a distinct Hollywood mansion designed by the famous architect Lloyd Wright. The Sowden House was where Dr. Holden had made his family’s home. Steve Hodel concluded early on that he and his siblings were away with their mother at the time of the grisly murder.
While the District Attorney General agreed to re-open the case due to Steve’s evidence, Steve doesn’t just want to case re-opened. He wants it closed. At the top of the decades-old files was a picture of Dr. Hodel. He had been the prinicpal suspect in the case, but abandoned his family and relocated to Asia before he could be charged.
Hodel knew from early police reports that a woman’s screams had been heard coming from the house’s unfinished basement. When Hodel and Dostie arrived at the house last November, the floor of the basement was still dirt.
While Dostie let Buster wander, the dog picked up traces of human remains in four areas. While it is possible that the ground could have shifted over time — meaning, the murder could have taken place in a field out behind the house.
Steven Hodel is still waiting on lab results to find the exact location of the young woman’s untimely murder.
In 2011, the popular American Horror Story wove the Black Dahlia story through its popular episodes. While the show’s version of the Black Dahlia dies during an ill-fated dental procedure, the real-life Short ultimately died from blood lost from horrific facial lacerations. Short was also wrongly accused of bringing her death upon herself, labeled by the media at the time as a promiscuous “bad girl.” Her family and friends, however, claimed that the young aspiring actress did not drink, smoke, swear, or readily date.
Do you think that the Black Dahlia case is better left cold, or is Steve Hodel’s venture to officially close the case a worthy one?
[Image via Shutterstock]