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Home | News | The Crime Scene | Black Dahlia case: Cadaver dog discovers death scent at Hollywood home of suspect 66 years after the murder

Black Dahlia case: Cadaver dog discovers death scent at Hollywood home of suspect 66 years after the murder

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Not long before her death, Short was arrested in Santa Barbara for underage drinking and this police mugshot was taken
Not long before her death, Short was arrested in Santa Barbara for underage drinking and this police mugshot was taken

A former LAPD detective who believes his father killed the Black Dahlia believes a cadaver dog's search of his old Hollywood home has turned up the scent of the woman who was killed 66 years ago.

The shocking murder of Elizabeth Short, known as the Black Dahlia, is one of the oldest unsolved murder cases in Los Angeles history.

On Jan. 15, 1947, Short's severely mutilated body was discovered in a vacant lot near the intersection of 39th Street and Norton Avenue in South Los Angeles. 

Black Dahlia: A head shot of Elizabeth Short who had been an aspiring actress until her untimely murder

Black Dahlia: A head shot of Elizabeth Short who had been an aspiring actress until her untimely murder

The body of Elizabeth Short had been severed at the waist and completely drained of blood, her face had also been slashed from the corners of her mouth toward her ears

The body of Elizabeth Short had been severed at the waist and completely drained of blood, her face had also been slashed from the corners of her mouth toward her ears

The body of Elizabeth Short, 22, had been severed at the waist and completely drained of blood. Her face had been slashed from the corners of her mouth toward her ears, creating an effect known as a Glasgow smile.

Short also had multiple cuts on her thigh and breasts, where entire portions of flesh had been removed. The body had been washed and cleaned and had been ‘posed’ with her hands over her head, her elbows bent at right angles, and her legs spread.

The gruesome murder generated masses of media interest at the time. The newspapers of the day, which had a habit of nicknaming colorful crimes, started referring to Short as the Black Dahlia after the then popular film The Blue Dahlia.

To add to the case’s sense of mystery and intrigue, both LAPD officials and newspaper editors received taunting notes believed to be from Short's killer.

Steve Hodel, right, with cadaver dog handler Paul Dostie, and Buster, searched the Sowden/Franklin House at 5121 Franklin Ave., Hollywood for evidence that the Black Dahlia Murder took place there

Steve Hodel, right, with cadaver dog handler Paul Dostie, and Buster, searched the Sowden/Franklin House at 5121 Franklin Ave., Hollywood for evidence that the Black Dahlia Murder took place there

Sowden House, the potential murder scene and Dr George Hodel, who was a suspect in the original investigation and who Steve Hodel believes is responsible for the murder of the Black Dahlia

The Los Angeles District Attorney office drew up a list of 25 people it considered viable suspects, although as many as 60 people have confessed to the murder at one time or another.

In his 2003 book ‘Black Dahlia Avenger,’ Steve Hodel first made the claim that his father, a doctor, was responsible for the murder.

George Hodel had been a suspect in the original case and investigators had even planted a bug in the house to listen for incriminating admissions. But before authorities brought charges, Dr. Hodel abruptly abandoned his family and relocated to Asia. He died in 1991.

Steve Hodel believes his father killed the Black Dahlia at the family’s then home, the distinctive ‘Sowden House’ in Hollywood, which is largely unchanged and looks the same as it did at the time of the murder.

Elizabeth Short's mutilated body was found in a vacant lot near a busy intersection on the southwest section of L.A. in 1947

Elizabeth Short's mutilated body was found in a vacant lot near a busy intersection on the southwest section of L.A. in 1947

Hodel was also able to establish that he and his siblings had been away with their mother at that time.

When the opportunity arose for Hodel to return to his childhood home, he jumped at the chance after producers of the SyFy Channel’s Ghost Hunters program arranged it with the current owners.

Last November Hodel, together with retired police Sgt. Paul Dostie of Mammoth Lakes and Buster, a Labrador retriever trained to detect the unique smell of human composition, visited the property.

Once let loose, Buster quickly established four locations in the basement where he could pick up a faint trace of human remains. 

The basement had never been finished and since the floor was still dirt, soil samples were taken.
Hodel is awaiting the results of those samples, which might once and for all confirm who killed the Black Dahlia.

Video: Search dog finds potential evidence in Black Dahlia murder

 

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