Los Angeles investigators continue to press their investigation concerning the believed murder victim whose head, hands and feet were found alongside a well-traveled hiking trail in Bronson Canyon Park within the Hollywood Hills area and within sight of the famed “Hollywood” sign. Initially the victim’s head, in a plastic shopping bag, was discovered by a dog walker using the trail. After notifying authorities, she allegedly posed for pictures with the severed head and has offered the pictures for sal
Alerted to the presence of the human head on Tuesday, investigators subsequently found two severed hands and two severed feet, all believed to belong to the same victim. The victim’s arms, legs, and torso have yet to be located and a search of the surrounding area has failed to uncover any other body parts.
Like any other suspected murder investigation, one of the first steps for investigators after gathering evidence from the body recovery site is to identify the victim. This was but one of many challenges faced by New York investigators in their recent and ongoing investigation concerning the multiple suspected murder victims found along a remote section of beach in Long Island, NY. In that case investigators not only believe that some of the victims had been dismembered, but also that some had been there for years and due to the total number of victims and the means of disposal, investigators suspect there may have been multiple killers who used the same area for a body disposal site.
While the dismemberment of murder victims is somewhat rare among the 13,000 known homicides in America in a recent year, noting 77% of all murder victims are male, such happens enough that law enforcement must consider the reason that such a victim’s body would be cut up into pieces by a killer. We know, for example, that dismemberment is somewhat common in drug related murders, especially ones related to Mexican and other drug cartels. A number of other high profile murder/dismemberment cases have taken place in the U.S. in the past few years, to include:
Aliahna Marie Maroney Lemmon - the 9-year-old Indiana girl was beat to death with a brick and dismembered by a 39-year-old male friend of the family who was caring for her. After allegedly killing the victim last month, her killer hid her body in his freezer, and then dismembered her with a hacksaw and disposed of her body in a nearby dumpster.
Tara Lynn Grant – the Michigan woman murdered by her husband, Stephen Grant, in February 2007. He would later confess to strangling his wife and dismembering her body in a family owned tool shop, retaining parts of her body in the family garage while scattering other body parts in a local park area.
Leiby Kletzky – the 8-year-old New York Hasidic boy who was kidnapped while walking home from a day camp in the summer of 2011. His killer, 35-year-old Levi Aron, a former butcher, told authorities he suffocated the young boy and cut up his remains, placing parts of the boy’s body in his refrigerator while putting other body parts in a suitcase which he disposed of in a dumpster.
Laura Jean Ackerson – the 27-year-old woman who was murdered in North Carolina in July 2011, after which investigators believe the father of her two children and his wife, ages 32 and 39 respectfully, dismembered her body, packed pieces in ice chests and place them in a U-Haul trailer for transportation to Texas, where her remains were scattered in a creek.
Jeffrey Dahmer – was an American serial killer who raped, murdered, dismembered and in some cases ate parts of his 17 known 17 victims between 1978 – 1991.
Few Ohio residents can think back to the mid 1930’s when at least 12 Cleveland residents, usually drifters, were murdered with the bodies always decapitated and many times dismembered. The killer or killers of these victims, most of which went unidentified, were never identified.
Why Dismember Bodies?
For drug related homicides, many times the dismembered bodies of victims are meant to convey a message to the family and/or gang to which the victim(s) belonged. Other killers will dismember bodies to aid in the disposal of their victims, or as a means to frustrate authorities in their attempts to identify the victims. Modern forensic science, however, along with good investigations can help to at least identify such victims and many times help to solve the murders.
In the case of the recent victim whose partial remains were found in the Hollywood Hills, it appears that he was likely murdered last Sunday. The apparent lack of decomposition will aid investigators in identifying him by his facial features, fingerprints from his severed hands, and DNA that could be contained in a national data base. Fingerprints and DNA could suggest that he may have had a prior criminal history, but any tip or other information concerning his identity, perhaps as a missing person, could also allow authorities to compare DNA from the remains to a close family member in an attempt to identify the victim.
LA authorities have indicated that they now know the identity of the victim and that they have conducted interviews and executed search warrants in their investigation. Again identification is critical, and now investigators can move forward to determine who might have killed and dismembered the victim.
As in many similar cases, there are likely multiple crime scenes related to this suspected murder. The victim may have been assaulted at one location, transported to a second location for dismemberment; his remains may have then been transported by vehicle to the nearby area, and finally carried and dropped along the hiking trail, allowing for investigators to forensically identify the various crime scenes and, hopefully, the person responsible for the victim’s death.
At the present time this appears to be a single homicide investigation and because the victim’s remains were discovered so quickly, there is a high likelihood that the grisly mystery of the body parts found in the Hollywood Hills may be quickly solved.