© Larry Harnisch 2004
Dr. George Hodel
At the time of the Black Dahlia killing, Dr. George Hodel was a physician with offices at 369 E. 1st St. in what is now Little Tokyo. The nature of his medical practice and his educational background are unclear so far. He does not appear to have been a member of the Los Angeles County Medical Assn.
In October 1949, his 14-year-old daughter Tamar ran away from home and made sex abuse charges against Hodel and 19 other people, many of them Hollywood High School students. She further accused a Beverly Hills doctor, Francis Ballard, a 1941 graduate of Stanford Medical School, of performing an abortion on her in September 1949. An office handyman, Charles Smith, and Joseph Barrett, a tenant at the Hodel home, 5121 Franklin Ave. (note: News reports use the address 5121 Franklin, while the Hodel transcripts show he gave out the address 5123 Franklin), were also accused.
At Hodel's preliminary hearing, the prosecution's main witness, Barbara Sherman, 22, recanted her sworn statement that she had witnessed the encounter between Hodel and the teenager, which supposedly occurred in July 1949. Another witness, Corrine Tarin, corroborated the charges while an artist named Fred Sexton said he was present at the house at the time of the alleged incident.
The girl's mother, Dorothy, testified that Tamar had been examined by a psychologist two years earlier and the psychologist "returned a finding that the child was given to the telling of fantastic tales which had little or no basis in fact," according to the Los Angeles Times.
Under questioning from his attorney, Hodel said that he was under medication at the time of the alleged incident, having suffered a heart attack two weeks before.
In December, as part of the trial, the judge ordered a psychological examination of the girl. The Times noted that "the mother termed Tamar a problem child for many years." The newspaper also said: "The mother, in the affidavit also stated that Tamar previously had made complaints which she feels were unfounded and that much of her abnormal behavior has had to do with stories and statements about sex."
Also during the trial, prosecution witness Corrine Tarin said that she might have been hypnotized at the time of the alleged incident as she had watched Hodel attempting to hypnotize another woman at the home.
The following interchange ensued:
Defense attorney: Do you feel you were affected by it?
Tarin: Well it all seemed a little unreal and fantastic, but I can't tell if I was hypnotized or not.
Defense attorney: You felt it?
Tarin: I still feel it. It is all so a part of my daily life.
She went on to testify that she had seen Hodel's encounter with the teenager.
Later on, the girl's mother was asked if she would believe the girl under oath. She shook her head, indicating no. "She added that the girl for many years had made charges that men have molested her and made improper advances and that in all these cases her statements were proven false," according to The Times.
The jury was sequestered on Dec. 22 and Hodel was acquitted the next day. In 1950, onetime prosecution witness Barbara Sherman, who recanted her testimony supporting the molestation charges, pleaded guilty to contributing to the delinquency of a minor and was sentenced to three years' probation. She was ordered to refrain from any contact with Hodel or his friends.
There is no further information on Ballard at this time, but since he retired in 1993 with an unblemished medical record, according to the California Medical Board, it seems safe to assume he was likewise cleared of performing abortions.
Click here to see a Dahlia Avenger letter.
Click here to see Armand Robles, the victim of the prankster sending Black Dahlia Avenger letters.
Click here to search the Los Angeles Public Library database for other Black Dahlia-related photos
Newspaper clippings on Dr George Hodel in *.pdf format
Newspaper clippings on Dr George Hodel in *.pdf format(WARNING! this file is 2.7 megabytes)
download the front page of the Los Angeles Herald-Express Jan. 31, 1947, for the original story of the Poison Pen Prankster. WARNING! This is a large file
download the continuation of the Poison Pen Prankster story. WARNING! This is a large file