The 1947 death of Elizabeth Short, more commonly known as the Black Dahlia murder, is one of the most famous cold cases in history. Short’s killer was never identified, although a number of people were suspected of the tragic deed. One of those suspects was George Hodel, whose son Steve Hodel has accused him of being the Black Dahlia killer.
Hodel will be played by Jefferson Mays on the upcoming TNT miniseries I Am the Night. Before the show debuts on Jan. 28, it’s worth knowing who Hodel was (and what he’s been accused of over the years). Chris Pine’s reporter character, Jay Singeltary, may be fictional, but George Hodel definitely isn’t.
Did George Hodel Really Kill Elizabeth Short?
Hodel died in 1999, and he was never convicted of the murder. But his son Steve still believes he’s guilty of the killing. As The Guardian reported in 2016, Steve found photographs among his late father’s belongings that he believed were of Short, who was just 22 at the time of her death.
This isn’t just a conspiracy theory, either. Steve Hodel is a former Los Angeles police detective, and he used his investigative skills to come to the conclusion about his dad. The Guardian points out that the way Short was killed involved a procedure George Hodel may have learned in medical school in the 1930s. And a letter to the police that was reportedly from Short’s killer seemed to match George Hodel’s handwriting.
Still, it’s worth remembering that the LAPD never determined that George Hodel had any involvement in Short’s death. The Guardian notes that a handwriting test comparing his writing and the killer’s reported letter was “inconclusive.” But the outlet also notes that then-assistant district attorney Steven Kay agreed with Steve Hodel. Steve also went on to write the book Black Dahlia Avenger: The True Story, which was a New York Times bestseller, according to The Guardian.
What Was George Hodel’s Relationship Like With His Family?
I Am the Night focuses on Pine’s fictional character, Jay, and George Hodel’s granddaughter Fauna Hodel. Hodel was adopted, though, and she didn’t know about her family history until years later, as the show’s trailer suggests. As for George’s own children, The Guardian reports that the doctor “abandoned the family shortly after Steve’s ninth birthday.”
George Hodel was also accused of molesting his daughter Tamar, Fauna’s biological mom. He faced sexual assault charges but was acquitted of incest in 1949. However, the trial led to the LAPD bugging his house, according to a 2003 Associated Press article. The AP notes that one of the things the detectives heard through the wires was Hodel saying, “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.”
How Did George Hodel Die?
George Hodel died in 1999 after suffering from congestive heart failure, at the age of 91. Steve Hodel provided the details of his father’s death in his book Most Evil: Avenger, Zodiac, and the Further Serial Murders of Dr. George Hill Hodel.
Based on the trailer, it looks like I Am the Night will be focused on Fauna Hodel, not on George’s actions. But as she digs deeper into her biological identity, the accusations against her grandfather are sure to come up on the show. Fans may never know whether or not he really did kill Short, but the TNT series looks pretty intriguing either way.
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