Saturday afternoon hikers in Griffith Park know (or should know) to keep their eyes peeled for rattlesnakes and the occasional mountain lion on remote trails. Nobody expects to come across a human skull, but that’s exactly what happened on March 19.
An unnamed pair of hikers were exploring an area between Brush Canyon and the Mulholland trails when they spotted what appeared to be a human skull. The hikers notified park rangers of the ghastly discovery, and police soon arrived to retrieve the remains.
Forensics experts at the Los Angeles County coroner’s office said the skull belonged to a female at least 20 years of age. The skull, described by LAPD lieutenant Ryan Schatz as very old, had been in the shadow of the Hollywood sign for an indeterminate time. Coroner’s examiners say the woman to whom the bone belonged died between one and ten years ago. On March 21, UPI reported that LAPD cadaver dogs did not find additional body parts, and the area is not considered to be part of an extensive crime scene.
— American crime (@epeakcrime) March 28, 2016
For now, the skull found earlier this month remains unidentified and has been dubbed Jane Doe #22 pending further investigation, according to the Los Angeles Daily News.
Not the first time human bones found in Griffith Park
According to the LA Times, hikers found another human skull on a remote park trail in 2010. Two years later, a pair of dog walkers stumbled upon a severed human head in the Bronson Canyon portion of the park. Also known as Bronson Caves, the area is popular with hikers, especially those who recognize one of the man-made caves as the egress from which the Batmobile emerges in the 1960s television series starring Adam West.
Like the skull found in Griffith Park this month, the human head found in Bronson Canyon on January 17, 2012, was discovered by hikers. To be precise, the head was discovered by a dog that was with the hikers. According to The Daily Beast, two women tasked with walking nine dogs said that an off-leash pooch wandering through dense brush and found a plastic bag and shook it until the severed head of a man “in his 40s or 50s with salt-and-pepper hair” fell out. Shortly after the discovery, chief county coroner Craig Harvey said the following.
“Clearly they didn’t want the person to be identified. You are trying to prevent identification or discovery. It is easy to get a handle on it if you dismember your victim. You can throw stuff away inconspicuously. But obviously he didn’t throw it far enough away, or maybe a coyote dragged it up from the depth of the floor of the forest.”
It was later determined that the non-decomposed decapitated head, as well as hands and a foot discovered by a cadaver dog named Indiana Bones, belonged to a fellow named Hervey Coronado Medellin. The 66-year old retired airline employee was asphyxiated by his live-in boyfriend, Gabriel Campos-Martinez. Campos-Martinez was tried and convicted by a jury on October 1, 2015, according to KTLA 5.
A deciding factor in the case, said Los Angeles Deputy District Attorney Bobby Grace, was internet history that showed Campos-Martinez searched in December 2011 for information regarding ways to dismember and eat a human body. Medellin’s arms, legs and torso were never found.
About Griffith Park
Named for the former newspaper reporter, mining expert, and ostrich farmer, Griffith J. Griffith (no relation to the famed movie director, D.W. Griffith), the 4,310-acre municipal park sits in the Los Feliz section of Los Angeles. Open to the public, Griffith Park is home to a merry-go-round, a miniature railroad, two museums, the Los Angeles Zoo, and the Greek Theater. Griffith Park observatory features prominently in the James Dean movie classic, Rebel Without a Cause.
[Photo via David Livingston/Getty Images]