Mounted Los Angeles Police officers search the Bronson Canyon area of Griffith Park after a human head was discovered Tuesday by two people walking their dogs below the Hollywood Sign in Los Angeles, Wednesday, Jan. 18, 2012. Investigators have also two severed hands.
Hollywood studios have filmed countless movies filled with gore. But a bit of grisly real-life crime came to the Hollywood Hills adjacent to Griffith Park this week with the discovery of human remains in Bronson Canyon.
A pair of women on a hike made the initial discovery Tuesday afternoon when they noticed their dogs had taken a keen interest in a plastic bag. A closer inspection revealed the bag contained a human head, prompting the women to contact police and setting off a thorough search of the rugged terrain. A bevy of officials that included LAPD officers, coroner’s investigators, helicopters, a SWAT team and mounted officers descended on a 7-acre area of the park to search for additional remains. Over the course of Wednesday’s search, the team’s “cadaver dog” discovered a set of hands and then, just as the search was to be halted for the night, a pair of feet were found. The remains are believed to be from the same victim, an unidentified male somewhere in his 40s to 60s with graying hair. Authorities suspect that the remains were dumped in one place and were scattered by animals in the park, which includes wild coyotes. Griffith Park and Bronson Canyon are popular hiking areas for Los Angeles residents and their dogs, including many celebrities who live in the Hollywood Hills.
Why would criminals dump remains in such a well-traveled area? How do coroners identify victims when there isn’t a body to go on? Will this gruesome discovery change your hiking habits?
Andrew Blankstein, covers crime for the Los Angeles Times, honored as a Distinguished Journalist by the Society of Professional Journalists
Craig Harvey, chief coroner investigator for the Los Angeles County Coroner’s Office