The Jigsaw Murder(s)

When I mentioned Dr. George Hill Hodel Jr in an earlier post, I mentioned the Jigsaw Murders in Manila, Philippines in the 1960s.  Dr. Hodel Jr., as the prime suspect in the murder of the Black Dahlia, is an excellent candidate for the murderer.  Especially considering Lucila Lalu was found in almost the exact same condition as Elizabeth Short.

One should understand that Manila during the 1960s was not a great place to live.  Crime was rampant and it wasn’t limited to the poor.  Even the rich and famous members of Philippine society was at risk.  The same year Lucila Lalu was found murdered, a young movie star was taken hostage by 4 members of the upper class, forced into a hotel, where they tortured, raped, and brutalized her.  Thankfully, they left her alive and were all caught and prosecuted for their crimes.

Lucila Lalu was a young woman who was married to a police officer.  She owned a beauty store and a nightclub.  She was living a good life, until she ran afoul of the wrong person.

May 28, 1967 Lucila Lalu went to work and never returned.  Where she was held for the two days she was missing was never discovered (however, we’ll get into some of that).  On May 30, 1967, the lower portion of her body was found near a river.  Later in the day, her upper torso was found in a park near a major intersection.  Her head was never found.

The police seemed to make some blunders during the investigation.  The biggest one was not searching the prime suspect’s apartment when they arrested him.  Instead, they waited, by which time the scene had been contaminated and possible had evidence planted.  Then there was the confession they got, which was most definitely coerced, most likely with brute force and which didn’t hold up when scrutinized.  While the case was never closed, it was widely accepted that the man did it.

Until it wasn’t… While not officially linked to Lucila Lalu’s murder, two other Filipina women were murdered in a much similar manner in the two years before Lalu’s murder.  Finding information on these two women seem nearly impossible.  They may not even exist except outside the mind of one demented journalist.  A news article was published a year after Lalu’s murder attempting to connect the three victims.  Police denied the victims existed and insisted that Lalu’s murder was a single event.

Only now, we know that may not be true, even if the other Pinoi victims are a figment of someone’s imagination.  Lalu’s body was found drained of blood.  She was bisected just above the hips.  And Dr. Hodel Jr. was living in Manila at the time.  All three of these details are important because they mirror the murder of The Black Dahlia, Elizabeth Short.  The only real difference is geography and the missing head.  Lalu was even a very attractive young woman, like Short.

It is very likely that the Short and Lalu cases are linked.  It is also very likely that if the other two victims really existed, they were connected as well.  However, the murder of Lalu, like Elizabeth Short, will go down as unsolved for all time – the Filipina Black Dahlia, so to speak.

The Cecil Hotel

Reports began to flood into management of the Cecil Hotel about the water in February 2013.  It was discolored and had a strange odor.  Investigating the complaints, maintenance workers discovered the body of Elisa Lam in the water tank on top of the hotel.  The Canadian woman had been missing for nearly a month.

Her death and the days leading up to her disappearance are strange.  Video surveillance released to the public shows her acting odd.  She’s double checking around corners, peeking out of elevators, and seemingly nervous about someone following her on the day she goes missing.  Wikipedia has a huge explanation of the events that can be seen on the video along with a host of theories to suggest why she was acting that way.

Furthermore, the tanks themselves required some negotiating.  They are eight feet tall and require a ladder to open, but there isn’t a ladder attached to them.  The lids are heavy, not to mention bulky, making it impossible for a girl to climb a ladder, jump into the tank, close the lid, and then remove the ladder.  Yet, her death was labelled an accident.

However, the Cecil Hotel is no stranger to dark days.  Reportedly, it was home to Richard Ramirez, The Night Stalker, in 1985.  Then in 1991, serial killer Johann Unterweger stayed there during after he was released from prison in 1990 for murdering a prostitute in Austria.  In the US, Unterweger started back up and began killing prostitutes in San Francisco.  He committed suicide in 1994, but by then he had been linked to murders in Austria, Czechoslovakia, Germany, and the US.  Also, some anecdotal evidence that Elizabeth Short visited the hotel shortly before her death, however, this seems to be mostly wild imagination and no concrete proof exists.

What isn’t speculation is that since the hotel’s inception, several murders and suicides have happened on the grounds.  It has been linked to two serial killers with a third possible connection to one of the I-5 killers.  Also, it has been linked to organized crime on a few occasions.

These have all led some to believe The Cecil Hotel to be haunted and the show American Horror Story: Hotel is loosely based on the history of The Cecil.  In recent years, the hotel has changed names, but it can’t change its legacy.

The Black Dahlia – Elizabeth Short

In January 1947, a woman was found in an abandoned lot.  She had literally been cut in half and the blood drained from her body.  The beauty instantly caught the attention of national media who dubbed her The Black Dahlia after the main character in the movie The Blue Dahlia.

During this time in Los Angeles, murders were mostly gang related (think organized crime, not modern gangs).  The LAPD was as crooked as a police department could get.  Press interference was astronomically cringe-worthy. And the body of a beautiful woman was terrible, but she wasn’t really connected (financially) and there were lots of assumptions made (like she was a prostitute).

Over the years, it is has been postulated that The Black Dahlia murder wasn’t the only one of it’s kind.  It might have been a serial killer, which was nearly unheard of during this time period in LA (possibly due to police corruption and ineptitude), or it might have been related to another murder.

The facts: Elizabeth Short was a hostess and actress.  She was popular at the Hollywood Canteen where she worked as a hostess.  She was an extra in a few films.  There’s no evidence she was a prostitute and she actually had not been living in LA for very long.  She was faced with tragedy when her fiance died during WWII.  After her murders, there seems to have been a series of letters sent to someone about her death.  These letters do exist according to the LA Prosecutor’s office even today, but it is nearly impossible to find out anything about them (if you are really good, they were released in the FOIA documents regarding the Short case from the FBI, but I’m not good enough to find them).

Given that Short was cut in half, many believe her death t0 be connected to the Cleveland Torso Murders (The Madbutcher of Kingsbury Run).  The Torso Murder investigation was spear-headed by the famous Elliot Ness and pretty much killed his career.  However, he did have one prime suspect; Dr. Francis Sweeney.  Sweeney checked himself into a mental institution in 1938, after the last known victim of the Madbutcher, which meant he was free to check himself out at any time.  There are rumors that he was in LA during the time of the Short murder.

There has also been the theory that Elizabeth Short and the murder of Suzanne Degnan are related.  Suzanne was six, lived in Chicago, but was cut up.  Ironically, the street where Short’s body was found was reported to be Degnan Drive and the Black Dahlia letters were reported to have the same characteristics as Suzanne Degnan’s ransom note.  Suzanne’s murder would later be connected to the Lipstick Murders in Chicago and William Heirens would be convicted of her murder.

However, more interestingly, in 1944 Georgette Bauerdorf an oil heiress and hostess at the Hollywood Canteen was murdered in her home.  Police found the light outside her apartment had been tampered with.  She was found in a bathtub full of water, but cause of death was strangulation.  Like Short, she was a dark-haired beauty.  While Short had been sexually assaulted, Georgette Bauerdorf had been sexually active within a short time before death, but it was not ruled a sexual assault.  The only thing missing after her murder was her car, meaning the motive probably wasn’t robbery (all her expensive jewelry & money was found inside the house).  The LAPD blamed it on her lifestyle, since she was known to give rides to servicemen… How that translates into someone waiting for her to arrive home (the tampered outside light) and killing her, is a mystery to me.  Her murder is also unsolved.

Recently, a retired LAPD detective has claimed his father, Dr. George Hill Hodel, Jr. was the murderer of Elizabeth Short.  It was at this time that the LA Prosecutor’s office admitted they had Hodel, Jr. under surveillance and considered him the primary suspect in Short’s murder.  The fact that he was a doctor helped, since it was thought that Short’s murder would require someone with very good dissection skills (and probably would have).  Surveillance of Hodel, Jr. ended in 1950 when he moved out of the country.  While his son does an excellent job giving explanations and evidence as to why Hodel, Jr. was the Dahlia’s murderer, he seems to have blundered when he wrote a second book (this time associating his father with Zodiac, during which time his father was not living in the country… Hodel, Jr. would have had to come visit his children every time one of the Zodiac murders was committed).  The LA prosecutor’s office has agreed that if Hodel, Jr. were still alive he would be prosecuted for the murder of Elizabeth Short.

Which leaves the question of Georgette Bauerdorf.  The idea that she was killed for giving soldiers a ride home is ludicrous.  She was specifically targeted and killed for the simple pleasure of killing her (much like Short).  Is it pure coincidence that both women, who worked at the same place and actually bore a resemblance to each other, were both murdered by different people and that both murderers went the rest of their lives without killing another person?

*On a side note, many famous actresses worked at the Hollywood Canteen during its heyday, including Marlene Dietrich.  It wasn’t a stretch for a young woman to think working there would get them into showbiz.