I’ve done a post or two about George Hill Hodel in the past. Hodel’s son Steve, a former detective in Los Angeles, seems determined to link his father to as many murders as possible. Recently, I’ve noticed a tendency for people to latch onto the idea that George Hill Hodel was The Zodiac. This is a theory originally put forth by Steve Hodel. Here’s the thing, Hodel doesn’t need to be Zodiac to be a monster… it would be hard to imagine that he was a normal person or nice guy, just based on the murder of Elizabeth Short (the Black Dahlia) and the Jigsaw Murder in the Philippines. I believe Hodel killed more than two people, but I don’t believe he’s responsible for the Zodiac murders.
The case for Hodel to be The Zodiac. So, this is basically just the accusation made by Steve Hodel. I’ve seen one article that said Steve Hodel’s DNA was being compared to a stamp on one of the Zodiac letters and someone has told me it was a partial match. I have two issues with this; one I don’t trust the source that said it was a partial match and two, one of the stamps on the Zodiac letters came back with female DNA and we’re all pretty sure Zodiac wasn’t a female in disguise. I have always suspected that the stamps and letters were moistened with a sealer – an office tool you fill with water that has a sponge on it and you rub it on adhesives like the glue on envelopes and stamps.
I’m old enough to have used one of these. And it doesn’t take long before that sponge needs to be cleaned. The best way to clean it, is to run the water through it and blot it on a paper towel. I’m sure my sealer at the Missouri Department of Health, had my DNA on it. And there were times, my boss used it as well. I’ve checked and the first “sealer” became commercially available in the early 1960s. So, let’s say the DNA is a partial match to Steve Hodel. It’s just a “partial” match and frankly, if Hodel has any male relatives that worked in an office building in the 1960s or 1970s, it’s possible they used a sealer. Meaning that like the female DNA found on one of the stamps, it may not be Zodiac’s DNA and may just be the result of transfer because of common use.
Why I doubt George Hill Hodel is The Zodiac. In 1953, he moved to the Philippines and he did this, because he knew he was a suspect in the murder of Elizabeth Short. He came back to the US infrequently and rarely announced his visits beforehand. In 1969, the first confirmed Zodiac kill, Hodel was 62 years old. Now, I have accused Hodel of killing Lucila Lalu in 1967 (he would have been 60) and dismembering her body, then dumping the pieces of it in multiple places.
However, there is a difference between the Lalu killing, in that Lalu disappeared for two days, before her body parts began to turn up. Hodel is reported to have had arthritis in his knees that occasionally caused him to limp and walk slow. None of the Zodiac survivors mentioned him limping nor did they mention he walked like an older man. Now, picture this, a man with a limp, who walks slow pulls up next to your car, gets out, and slowly approaches you with a gun while wearing a hood. And you are a 20-something man in decent physical condition. Do you just sit and wait for him to get to you? Or do you rush him, because obviously you can take him? This is especially true in the Lake Berryessa murders. Zodiac walked up on the two victims in that attack. Even as a 20-something girl, if a psycho with a hood shows up and starts slowly walking towards me and my male friend with a gun and Zodiac has been in the news. If he walks like he might be old, I’m taking my chances, especially since we have him outnumbered.
The dismemberment of Lucile Lalu, took place indoors, and whoever did it, could take their time. If it was the 60 year old Hodel, he could remove a body part and then rest for a while. Furthermore, dismemberment takes a special kind of killer. It is both mentally and physically exhausting. Killers that dismember get a thrill from it, that goes beyond just “a good way to dispose of a corpse”. Short was bisected, not dismembered, and it was done post mortem (after she was dead). It is easy to make a connection between the death of Short and the death of Lalu, who was dismembered anti-mortem (before death). This means the killing method used by Zodiac would not have been fulfilling to George Hill Hodel. He wants buckets o’ blood and he wants to physically torture his victims. Zodiac’s antiseptic gunshot wounds to kill is unusual among serial killers, and says that the motive is less likely to be sexual in nature. Unlike, the Short and Lalu murders.
Now, I’m a big one on reminding people that sometimes killers change how they kill. They may go from stabbing to shooting or stabbing to strangling. Or any number of other murder methods. However, if a killer kills for a sexual thrill, as Hodel undoubtedly did, then he isn’t going to enjoy the sterilized and depersonal killing style of Zodiac. It is actually, this depersonalized killing method, that has resulted in Zodiac remaining uncaught in my opinion and it means George Hill Hodel, isn’t even a good suspect to put forward. Now, if Zodiac had shot his victims and then masturbated on their dead bodies, I’d consider GHH a more likely suspect.
On another matter related to this, I have questions about Steve Hodel. I understand wanting to bring your killer father to justice. I think he’s begun really reaching for murders to pin on George Hill Hodel though. I expect any day for Steve Hodel to claim his father killed Michelle von Emster a pretty transient who was murdered in 1994 (GHH would have been 87 at the time). Michelle was mutilated and covered in bite marks that were originally attributed to sharks, by the medical examiner, but after a shark expert tutted that solution, the ME admitted he didn’t know anything about shark bites and said it could have been done by a person.