The mysterious connection between the Black Dahlia and Fauna Hodel

As much as I’d like to say I’ve solved the murder mystery of Elizabeth Short aka The Black Dahlia, I can’t. But the man who did it is a retired Los Angeles homicide detective. This is the backstory of that mystery; directly related to the alleged murderer.

I discovered this infinitely more fascinating story about 20 years ago by accident. This article is too limited to present the many details. But here are some highlights.

  • The young mother is a descendant of Millard Fillmore on the one hand and the doctor of Tsar Nicholas of Russia on the other.
  • She was forced to move to Mexico to be away from her baby and her father after a widely publicized incest trial.
  • The baby’s birth certificate says the father was “black” (remember this is from 1951).
  • She named the baby Fauna after a Robinson Jeffers poem and insisted that the name would never be changed due to a large inheritance.
  • Before the incest trial, she became pregnant by her father, who wanted to keep the baby.

Now this may seem like a lot of bizarre circumstances about a mother and her baby. After all, many children come from blended families, but the key elements of this story really have to do with the relationship between the baby and his new mother: the woman who raised her to be who she is today. This black woman, under any circumstances, is the last person one would want to trust with a newborn child, at least on the surface. But at the time of the “gift” adoption, there was no concern for the well-being of the child. It was more about getting rid of a mixed-race baby as quickly and quietly as possible. Here are some interesting notes on the black mother.

  • The first thing she did was change the baby’s name to Patricia Ann Greenway.
  • He worked as a bathroom attendant in a segregated Nevada casino.
  • Her common-law union was with a full-time shoe shiner and a part-time Pentecostal preacher.
  • Not only could she not conceive a child; she never wanted children, particularly an adopted one.
  • She was an alcoholic with little fear of any person or institution.

Of course, that’s just a small part of her character and not the best part, but then again, the story isn’t about her either. The true story revolves around the girl who grows up trying to figure out how she got separated from her biological family and, more importantly, why.

The underlying motivation explores the complexities of not belonging to your natural tribe while trying to conform to its arbitrary rules. This story embodies survival and perseverance. Overwhelming psychological and emotional damage often results in permanent damage to an individual.

The story is about passion and prejudice; hate and sex; violence and love. Conflicting elements that we often pick up from our childhood and retain throughout our lives, rarely with resolution. It is never too late to take life lessons from the most challenged in our society.

This story is about hope and the color of love.