Black Dahlia: Steve Hodel’s Lies, Some Old, Some New


To the Oct. 26, 2021, audience at the Council Bluffs, Iowa, Public Library who attended Duffy Hudson’s performance delivering the words of Steve Hodel: You should know that virtually everything you heard was a lie.

The fault is not necessarily with Hudson, except for his lack of skepticism. He transformed himself into a human tape recorder and delivered what appeared to be a flawless repetition of what Steve Hodel told him. The responsibility is with Steve Hodel and his rather incredible gift for making up new lies and embellishing his old ones.

Hudson spoke for 90 minutes, including a question-and-answer period, and it would be humanly impossible to catalog all of the fiction. But here’s a few tidbits:

Update: Steve Hodel claims George Hodel ran an abortion ring. He did not. George Hodel was opposed to abortion. Who said so? Tamar Hodel. Oops.

Steve Hodel now claims that the Sowden House was his boyhood home. It was not.

Steve and his two brothers, Kelvin and Michael, were in the custody of his mother, the former Dorothy Harvey, when she separated from George Hodel, and they lived at a number of residences when Steve was young.

We know this because she was repeatedly cited for neglecting Steve and his brothers and eventually sentenced to jail. To cite one instance, in December 1944 and February 1945, Steve and his brothers were living with their mother at 4555 Glenalbyn Drive in Mount Washington.  There were times when Dorothy Hodel was couldn’t afford a residence and she and the children lived at the Sowden House. But the arrangement was temporary. She also used the Sowden House as a mail drop when she had no fixed address. When Dorothy Hodel was questioned by investigators in 1950, she was living over a bait shop on Santa Monica Pier. So all of Steve Hodel’s stories about the swanky parties his parents threw at the Sowden House – you guessed it: Lies.

Steve Hodel now claims that Los Angeles County district attorney’s Lt. Frank Jemison was “ordered” to turn over his files on the Black Dahlia case to the LAPD and that he shrewdly left second copies in a vault, safe and secure to be discovered (surprise!) by Steve Hodel.

Not at all. The district attorney’s files are a shambles and I should know because I’ve gone through them. The D.A.’s office now distributes a CD ROM of the files rather than granting access to the originals, so researchers have no way of knowing that Steve Hodel is lying. But in reality, the files are a mess; lots of papers randomly shoveled into boxes with no order whatsoever.

And, of course, Steve Hodel doesn’t mention that the only reason the district attorney has any Black Dahlia files is because the grand jury was looking into in the Leslie Dillon debacle of Dr. J. Paul De River and the gangster squad. 

Steve Hodel has also returned to his claim that his father “probably” killed Geneva Ellroy, mother of author James Ellroy. Steve Hodel earned a robust, throaty “FU” from Ellroy when he originally floated this nonsense, but Ellroy eventually jumped into the Hodel crowd and has now jumped out, refusing to discuss Steve Hodel or the Black Dahlia.

One of Steve Hodel’s more bizarre claims is that when the purported killer of Elizabeth Short called Examiner city editor James Richardson, he identified himself as the “Black Dahlia Avenger.” Of course, that isn’t true. As with so many things, it’s something Steve Hodel would very much like to be true. But it’s not.

Another bizarre claim, and there are so many that it’s hard to keep track, is that Elizabeth Short went from Los Angeles to Chicago to “investigate” the 1946 Suzanne Degnan killing. In reality, Elizabeth Short stopped in Chicago en route from Medford, Mass., to Los Angeles several months after the Suzanne Degnan murder. As for Elizabeth Short being interested in the murder – everybody was. It was a huge case and everyone was following it.

Oh. And the nonsense about George Hodel being a taxi driver and knowing the city of Los Angeles like the back of his hand, including the neighborhood on South Norton Avenue where Elizabeth Short’s body was found. Naturally, Steve Hodel has never actually researched when the neighborhood was developed – or he would know that it didn’t exist when his father was driving a cab. Yet another example of the caliber of research one can expect from former Detective III Hodel.

Did I mention that George Hodel’s purported photos of Elizabeth Short aren’t her? So says her family.

I may add to this as I find more lies – and these are lies. Steve Hodel knows that these things aren’t true. These aren’t mistakes. These are deliberate misrepresentations and lies. But truly: fact-checking Steve Hodel would be a life’s work.

The main thing, of course, is that every bit of Steve Hodel’s investigation is about Steve. Elizabeth Short barely enters the discussion. It is all about Steve Hodel.

About lmharnisch

I am retired from the Los Angeles Times
This entry was posted in 1947, Black Dahlia, Books and Authors, Cold Cases, Homicide, LAPD and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Black Dahlia: Steve Hodel’s Lies, Some Old, Some New

  1. James says:

    Please write your own book.


  2. jeannemariespicuzza says:

    “The main thing, of course, is that every bit of Steve Hodel’s investigation is about Steve. Elizabeth Short barely enters the discussion. It is all about Steve Hodel.” Was just saying this last night to someone who felt embarrassed for once falling for Steve Hodel’s nonsense. I explained that many have, and not to feel ashamed. Per editor and journalist Chuck Lane, who learned all to well, it’s called fact-checking, not fraud-checking, and one often assumes that another is telling the truth. Steve Hodel crafts his lies, mixed with truths, seemingly with authority. And, indeed, it becomes apparent that he does so for self-serving reasons: attention and money. In doing so, he has re-victimizes himself and victims of violence, including Elizabeth Short, and re-traumatizes himself, survivors and victims’ families. It is unconscionable on his part, and quite sad, as well, and I wish he would stop. I imagine he will, as I was saying, too, to this individual yesterday, when there is no longer profit or benefit for him to go on, or when the liabilities of lying outweighs the assets. All about Steve Hodel. All for Steve Hodel. How can the rest of us offer something to Elizabeth Short and other victims of violence and their loved ones? Be compassionate. Be respectful. Expose the lies, as herein. And, by all means, stick to the facts.


  3. Eve says:

    Time to channel Mary McCarthy: “Every word he utters is a lie, including ‘and’ and ‘the.'”


  4. Stephen Powers says:

    Tremendous and factual response Larry. Thank you from all of us who still believe truth and journalistic integrity to be far more essential than the bizarre myth making of Steve Hodel.


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