Skip to main content

Coroner IDs victim in California severed head case

By the CNN Wire Staff
January 21, 2012 -- Updated 1858 GMT (0258 HKT)
A walker passes in front of the iconic
A walker passes in front of the iconic "Hollywood" sign in Los Angeles, where severed body parts were found this week.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • The victim is identified as 66-year-old Hervey Medellin
  • Police end search for more body parts
  • They reopen Hollywood hills park
  • Dog walker who found the head first thought it was a Hollywood prop

Los Angeles (CNN) -- Authorities in California on Friday identified the man whose severed head, hands and feet were discovered this week as 66-year-old Hervey Medellin.

The victim was from Los Angeles, said Lt. David Smith with the Los Angeles County coroner's office.

Earlier in the day, Los Angeles police completed their biggest search in recent memory, with 120 investigators scouring seven acres in the Hollywood hills looking for more body parts.

But the search, which began Tuesday, didn't find additional limbs or a torso, and detectives were continuing their investigation, police said.

Upon concluding the hillside search, police Friday reopened Bronson Canyon Park beneath the Hollywood sign and urged hikers and other recreational visitors to be careful and not walk the trails alone.

The body parts happened to be located near the home of actor Brad Pitt, and authorities interviewed his bodyguard for possible leads, police said Thursday.

"It's standard procedure for us to have our detectives canvass the neighborhood," Los Angeles Police Cmdr. Andrew Smith said. The bodyguard saw nothing unusual, he added.

Witness who found severed head speaks
Dog walker finds body parts in Hollywood

Meanwhile, the dog walker whose golden retriever, Ollie, discovered the head in a park Tuesday below the Hollywood sign said she at first thought the head was a movie prop.

"Our assumption was that there was always people filming up there, and it was a prop," Lauren Kornberg, who was walking with her mother at the time, told HLN. "We walked down the ravine and got closer and realized it was a freshly severed human head."

Authorities believe the dismemberment occurred in a place other than the park, Smith said.

Officers, coroner's investigators, helicopters, all-terrain vehicles, a SWAT team trained in climbing skills and mounted officers searched the section of Bronson Canyon, next to Griffith Park, Smith said.

The coroner's cadaver dog located the two hands and two feet scattered across the brushy and steep terrain, police said.

Authorities believe the human remains were placed in one spot and then were spread by wild animals, Smith said. The body parts were hidden until the animals found them.

"You could say it was a determined effort to hide them," Smith said of the body parts, declining to elaborate.

A search on Wednesday located first one hand, about 50 yards from where the head was found. Another hand and then two feet were found just before waning daylight forced an end to that day's search, police said.

The real-life Hollywood mystery began Tuesday afternoon as Kornberg and her mother were walking dogs in the park below the Hollywood sign.

In the interview with HLN, Kornberg said she was walking eight dogs when one of them, the golden retriever named Ollie, ran away from her. Kornberg was joined by her mother, who was walking her own dog.

"We were wandering the trail and the dogs are sniffing around, and he (Ollie) pulled away from me and made a beeline for some brush. He was barking," Kornberg said.

"A few minutes later, he had something in his mouth, which he immediately dropped," Kornberg said.

The object rolled down the ravine, Kornberg said.

Kornberg and her mother discovered it was a human head belonging to what she described as a white man.

"We were pretty much gasping, saying, 'Oh, my God!' I was shaking. It felt like a script," Kornberg said. "It still doesn't feel real."

The secluded trails, adjacent to Griffith Park, are a favorite place for residents, including many celebrities, to walk their dogs or hike.

The coroner's office is examining whether the man was dead when the dismemberment occurred, and what kind of instrument may have been used to remove the head and limbs, Smith said.

Police don't have a theory on what happened.

"Right now, we're keeping an open mind ... on why this poor person was dismembered and deposited up there," Smith said.

Detectives estimated the man had been dead since Sunday.

CNN's Mike Martinez, Irving Last, Alan Duke, Rosalina Nieves and HLN's Selin Darkalstanian contributed to this report.

ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT