LOS ANGELES -- A former LAPD detective, who believes his father killed the Black Dahlia, said Friday that a cadaver dog's search of a Hollywood home turned up the scent of death.
Steve Hodel, author of "Black Dahlia Avenger," teamed with retired police Sgt. Paul Dostie of Mammoth Lakes and Buster, a Labrador retriever trained to detect the unique smell of human composition.
The Nov. 9 search of the historic Sowden House on Franklin Avenue in Hollywood was set up in conjunction with the TV show "Ghost Hunters." Although it was filmed, the segment with Buster never aired.
"It certainly seems like someone was murdered there," Dostie said. "Something happened."
Hodel said it was clear the search would turn up something as soon as Buster was turned loose.
"Buster immediately took off ... and ran to a vent located at the southwest corner of the property where he alerted, indicating he had picked up the scent of human decomposition."
Buster's unique sense of smell led Hodel and Dostie to a vent just outside the home's basement. Hodel said that portion of the Sowden House - designed by Lloyd Wright and built in 1926 - is largely unchanged and looks the same as it did in 1947, the year Elizabeth Short, the Black Dahlia, was slain.
On Jan. 15, 1947, Short's bisected body was discovered in a vacant lot near the intersection of 39th Street and Norton Avenue in South Los Angeles.
Newspapers in the region devoted pages and pages of coverage to the slaying. Several editors and LAPD officials received taunting notes believed to be from Short's killer.
Hodel believes his father George Hill Hodel, a Los Angeles doctor who grew up in South Pasadena, killed the Dahlia and may have been responsible for several other "lone woman" murders in the 1940s.
Hodel's research, which resulted in the book "Black Dahlia Avenger," convinced several officials - including Manson family co-prosecutor Stephen Kay - that the case had been solved.
During an interview with producers of the "Ghost Hunters" show, Hodel explained his theory that Short suffered "several hours of extended torture, which included cigarette burns to her back and sexual assault."
"Ghost Hunters" was filmed in conjunction with the anniversary of the gruesome discovery, but when it aired the footage of Buster was left on the cutting room floor.
Dostie made national news in 2008 when he took Buster to the Manson Family's Barker Ranch in Death Valley to hunt for possible grave sites.
There is a science behind Buster's unique ability. He's able to detect soft tissue decomposition, human blood, human bone, cremation ashes and human bone decomposition if there's bone present and decomposing.
Washington resident Marcia Koenig, who operates cadaverdogs.com, said training cadaver dogs requires tapping into a dog's instincts.
"All we are doing is modifying hunt behavior and changing it so they hunt for a certain scent or scents," she said.
There are pitfalls. Dogs can be influenced by their handler's body language and sometimes they can be wrong, Koenig said.
"Sometimes dogs just do things we just don't understand," she added.
In an older case like the Dahlia homicide, Koenig said it would be good to have some corroborating evidence.
"If the dog says there something there, dig it up," she said.
Hodel said soil samples from the basement of the home have been sent to a lab for analysis. But he believes Buster uncovered the first forensic evidence in the case since Short's killing.
"We have established as fact that the basement ... some 66 years after the murder, still holds the smell of death," Hodel said.
Read more: Learn more about the Black Dahlia