In an operation involving Los Angeles Police Dept. officers, and dozens of FBI agents and police from other agencies Monday, Oct. 6, 2008, in Moorpark, Calif., authorities began excavating near two freeway ramps in Ventura County for the possible remains of a 16-year-old San Fernando Valley boy killed by a serial murderer 40 years ago. (AP Photo/Ric Francis)
The Associated Press
MOORPARK, Calif. - Investigators began excavating near two Ventura County freeway offramps Monday for the remains of a boy believed to have been stabbed to death by a serial killer 40 years ago.
The multi-agency law enforcement and forensics team started looking for the body of Roger Dale Madison, who was last seen alive in December 1968, at the site where a particle detector confirmed the presence of human bones underground.
The detector "went off like a Geiger counter" in the same place where police dogs and a ground-penetrating radar unit brought investigators earlier, Los Angeles police Detective Vivian Flores said.
Mack Ray Edwards, a serial killer linked to as many as 18 kidnappings and murders in the 1950s and '60s, confessed in 1970 that Madison was one of his victims and claimed he buried the boy near the 23 Freeway. Edwards hung himself in 1971 while on death row.
Police believe Edwards, a heavy-equipment operator from Arkansas, buried his victims near freeway construction sites where he worked during California's freeway-building boom.
Investigators said the excavation could take up to 10 days because of the size of the site. Once the top layer of soil is removed, the exhumation will be done by hand with "shovels, trowels and toothbrushes," Flores said. The remains will then be given to Madison's siblings, who said they plan to have them cremated and buried with the ashes of the boy's parents.
"This is all new to everybody, including our forensic scientists," Flores said. "They tell me we are setting the standard for this type of examination. And we're not sure how fast this will go."
Officials also aren't sure what they'll find below the concrete, since Edwards had so many victims.
"We may not find Roger's remains," said Los Angeles police Capt. Jim Miller. "We may find someone else's, and we may not find anyone at all."
It's not clear why police did not look into Edwards' confession earlier, because police archivists can't find records of the investigation. The case was revived when a writer looking into a 1957 missing child case noticed similarities with the Madison case.