Authorities: Body search will resume in summer

Written by Nick Grube, The Triplicate December 03, 2009 08:24 am
Ground-penetrating new technology may be used at the site

Local law enforcement officials have not given up on a search for possible murder victims who might be buried in a communal gathering place known as Earth People’s Park off the Little Bald Hills Trail.

Although authorities said they don’t expect to renew their efforts anytime soon, they’re planning an excursion next summer that might include the use of high-tech equipment that can detect human remains and grave sites without breaking ground with a shovel.

“We’re still committed to the investigation,” Del Norte County Sheriff’s Office Detective Ed Fleshman said. “We will be going back.”

This past summer authorities from various agencies, including the Sheriff’s Office, Del Norte County District Attorney’s Office and California Department of Justice, combed the 84-acre park after an informant claimed she saw an execution-style murder there several years ago and said the killer showed her other grave sites in the area.

But after a couple days of digging, nothing was found and the search was called off. Officials were unable to go back out before the rains came, which caused the water table to rise and stymied any additional plans.

“We’re at the mercy of the weather at this point,” Fleshman said.
The fact that nothing was found during the excavations in July doesn’t seem to concern Fleshman. He said there are some facts that are “more than coincidence” that make him believe there might be some truth to the informant’s grisly claims.

When the woman first said she witnessed a murder and knew of grave sites for other victims, law enforcement officials escorted her to Earth People’s Park and had her identify the various places people might be buried.

A Del Norte County Search and Rescue cadaver dog known for its accuracy was then taken to the park, and it alerted on several of the same locations the informant said were grave sites.

“That’s motivational,” Fleshman said. “That’s enough to keep us going.”

When officials do revisit Earth People’s Park — an 84-acre privately owned parcel wedged between California State Park and U.S. Forest Service lands — they intend to bring an agency that has ground-penetrating radar capabilities. This technology looks for anomalies in the ground that could indicate burial sites without having to dig first.

A similar tactic was used in Humboldt County about a year ago when officials there unearthed the remains of a 14-year-old boy who had been missing since 1990.

But according to District Attorney’s Office Investigator A.C. Field, getting a hold of this type of technology is not easy, or cheap.

“The bottom line to that is the only source we know of is a small outfit that works worldwide,” District Attorney’s Office Investigator A.C. Field said. “They’re the only ones that will do it for free.”

NecroSearch International is a non-profit, volunteer organization that Field has been in contact with. It specializes in assisting law enforcement agencies with locating what its Web site calls “clandestine gravesites,” and has all the equipment and expertise to do what local officials need at Earth People’s Park.

The problem, Field said, is that NecroSearch International is in high demand, and local authorities must coordinate their schedules around the organization.

“That’s the big issue. They’re doing all kinds of stuff,” Field said. “We would probably have more options, but due to budget constraints, I’m not even exploring those.”

The other possibility, should NecroSearch International not be available, is working with the National Guard, Field said, which also has ground-penetrating radar capabilities.

Earth People’s Park used to be known as a gathering spot for transients and others who wished to live off the grid or outside the normal constructs of society. But once the owners of the property found out about the recent investigation, they asked the authorities to start enforcing trespassing laws.

No comments: