Firstly, what is the story of the Black Dahlia?
Trigger warning – those of a sensitive nature should stop reading now…
Aspiring actress Elizabeth Short was found by a mother and her three-year-old daughter on 15 January 1947 in a vacant lot in Los Angeles. The local resident originally thought Elizabeth was a shop mannequin: she had been cut neatly in two, severed at the waist and drained of blood. The body had been washed by the killer and her face had been slashed from the corners of her mouth to her ears. The lower half of her body had been placed about two feet away from the upper half, with her intestines tucked neatly underneath her buttocks. The body had been posed in a seemingly sexual position, with her legs spread apart and her hands over her head. No one was ever arrested for her murder and who committed such a brutal crime remains the subject of speculation to this day.
Who is George Hodel?
The Black Dahlia is a notorious cold case, with several people being accused of murdering Elizabeth Short since her death in 1947. Dr George Hodel became the main suspect in the case after he’d died, partly thanks to the investigative work by his own son, LA homicide detective Steve Hodel. One of the main theories that links Dr Hodel to this crime is the fact the crime scene photos show Short had been given a ‘hemicorporectomy’, a procedure that slices the body underneath the lumbar spine – the only spot where a body can be cut in half without breaking a bone. This was a surgical technique taught in the 1930s – when George had been studying in medical school.
What is Root of Evil about?
The podcast starts by telling the story of Fauna Hodel, (George Hodel’s granddaughter) who was given up by her mother, Tamar Hodel, as a baby in the 1950s. Tamar (George Hodel’s daughter) claimed she had given her baby away because Fauna’s father was black. Fauna was adopted by a black family and raised in Nevada at her mother’s request. When Fauna finally met her mother in the 70s, lots of strange secrets started to arise: Tamar revealed Fauna was not actually biracial, and she also received a warning about her grandfather, George…
Root of Evil – co-hosted by Fauna’s two daughters, Yvette Gentile and Rasha Pecoraro – makes use of extensive tapes made by their mother about her life before her death in 2017. They interview members of their family to discover more about their mother Fauna, their grandmother Tamar, and of course, great-grandfather, George Hodel. The girls talk extensively to Steve Hodel, George’s son, who has done the majority of work on solving the Black Dahlia case. Steve, a retired homicide detective, found himself suspecting his father was the murderer when sorting through his father’s belongings after his death. He came across a photo album tucked away in a box in his father’s home. It was filled with pictures of family and friends – but at the back was two pictures of a curly, dark-haired woman who looked suspiciously like Elizabeth Short. When Steve began looking into the case, he discovered far too many coincidences, and eventually wrote a New York Times bestseller about his findings, Black Dahlia Avenger: The True Story.
Through the family’s research, we discover the secrets of George Hodel, which reveal he is the most likely killer behind the Black Dahlia murder – but there are plenty of other disturbing secrets still to surface. Could George be responsible for other murders?
“This is a story more than 70 years in the making,” the podcast’s producer, Zak Levitt, said in a statement to the Hollywood Reporter. “The Black Dahlia has generated incredible interest and attention through the years, but nothing has gotten to the heart of the incredibly painful, and ultimately triumphant story of the family that has had to carry the Hodel name — a name synonymous with the most brutal unsolved murder in American history. Through fresh interviews with the Hodel family, and a trove of never-before-heard archival audio, we hope Root of Evil will be the most three-dimensional Black Dahlia story yet.”
You can listen to Root of Evil: The True Story of the Hodel Family and the Black Dahlia on iTunes, with new episodes released on Wednesdays.