Body parts mystery puzzles US police

2012-01-20 19:26
Los Angeles - A search for more human body parts in a secluded hiking spot within sight of the famed "Hollywood" sign has ended, but the mystery is far from over.

The Los Angeles County Coroner's Office was attempting to identify the remains - a severed head, feet and hands - found in Bronson Canyon Park.

Police, meanwhile, searched for a motive and the person or persons who dismembered and hid the body. No arrests had been made as of late Thursday.

So far, police believe the unidentified man is between 40 and 60-years-old. They also believe the body parts, found by a dog walker who let one of her animals off the leash, had been there a few days at the most. The head was found on Tuesday, the feet and hands on Wednesday.

The coyotes that roam the area in packs at night would have destroyed the remains if they had been there longer than a few days, authorities said.

"If it had not been for the dog walker, we might never have found it," police Cmdr. Andrew Smith said on Thursday at the park.

Motive unknown

As if to make Smith's point, a coyote strolled by a hillside at that moment, stopping no more than 30 yards away and turning its head curiously toward the assembled reporters as the officer continued to speak.

As 120 officers and firefighters on foot and horseback fought their way through 7 acres of brush this week looking for the victim's torso, some searchers used ropes to rappel into a steep drainage culvert.

Smith said coroner's investigators would try to identify the man through fingerprints and, if that doesn't work, search DNA databases and dental records.

Police are still searching for a motive, reviewing hundreds of theories provided by both detectives and local residents.

They don't believe the head, feet and hands are connected to a torso police in Tucson, Arizona, found on January 6, Smith said. That was too long ago for the head and other parts to have survived in the condition in which they were discovered. The head was found inside a plastic bag.

Police also believe the victim was killed somewhere else and brought to the park.

Shattered peace

"We have no indication there is a serial murderer running around," Smith added.

Bronson Canyon is a quiet neighbourhood of homes of various architectural styles and sizes that dead-ends at the rustic park, which features picnic tables, hiking trails and the so-called "Bat Cave", where segments of the Batman TV show were filmed.

"We're the area even celebrities come to hike when they don't want paparazzi following them," said Susan Moss, who has lived just seven houses down from the park's gate for the past 12 years.

Until the remains turned up, the most serious things residents said they had to worry about were the coyotes and the smash-and-grab burglars who sometimes target hikers' cars.

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