Metal detector find leads to body of 14-year-old missing since 1990, Blue Lake Cal
Metal detector find leads to body of 14-year-old missing since 1990
By Sean Garmire
Eureka Times Standard
Posted: 12/28/2008 12:57:26 PM PST
For 18 years, the body of Curtis Huntzinger lay buried beneath a stand of young sequoias on the outskirts of Blue Lake. In that time, hundreds of people searched for the missing boy across the county.
But early this month, the body was finally discovered in a shallow grave about 35 yards from a road— an area law enforcement had searched before — by Danny Walker, a soft-spoken metal detecting hobbyist from McKinleyville.
"Why me? I don't know. It was just time, I guess," Walker said.
The Huntzinger murder has been one of the most prominent missing persons cases in Humboldt County during the past two decades, and as a life-long Humboldtian, Walker has been aware of the case since the week the 14-year old boy disappeared in May 1990.
Officials with the Blue Lake Police Department began the initial search, but were unsuccessful. As the years went by, new leads and information would bring investigators back to the site.
In 1999, during a confrontation between Huntzinger's mother and Stephen Hash — the man who has since pleaded guilty to Huntzinger's murder — Hash reportedly confessed to the murder and took Huntzinger's mother to the burial site.
Over the ensuing weeks, police investigators searched the site with metal detectors and corpse-sniffing dogs. District Attorney's Office Chief Investigator Mike Hislop said even the Huntzinger family, frustrated by the failure to find their loved one, traveled to the site and began digging holes. But despite their efforts, the searchers came up empty handed.
After the Blue Lake Police Department was disbanded in 2008, district attorney investigators began a concerted effort to elicit a confession from Hash. On Dec. 3, those investigators were successful, as Hash reportedly gave a complete confession and brought investigators to the site of Huntzinger's burial.
Hislop began to assemble a search team, and called an acquaintance whom he knew had skills as a metal detector: Walker.
Walker owns a number of metal detectors, which he uses to comb the hills for metallic tidbits like gold nuggets.
"It's not very much (gold)," he said laughing. "It's more of an exercise than an income."
It was not the first time Walker's talents had been sought by area search agencies, but in the past Walker opted out, saying "it wasn't my thing; I didn't want to find bodies."
"This time was different though," Walker said.
Walker agreed to help out in the search, and he headed out early on Dec. 3 to the suspected burial site located in an old logging area between Blue Lake and Korbel, off the old State Route 299.
He was one of dozens that day, using a variety of methods to search the area for traces of Huntzinger's grave.
Walker began the task of waving his detector across the search area — a large swath of new-growth timber, padded with poison ivy and brambles. Whenever the detector buzzed, Walker dug a hole. By the end of the day, he had dug more than 30 holes and acquired a sizable pile of spent bullet casings and saw blade files.
Then, as he walked across a soft spot, near the road, he heard a faint buzz.
"I dug into the ground, and I knew right then and there that this was it," he said.
The shovel struck something tangled in a ball of roots. Walker scraped the top layer of dirt away, and found what appeared to be a human femur.
"I had to talk myself into it," he said. "I just couldn't believe it."
As he continued to remove the top layer of soil, Walker found part of an old, weathered black jacket. He could no longer suppress his disbelief. The metal detector had pinpointed Huntzinger's calculator watch, still circling the boy's wrist.
The skeletal remains, which had become entangled in the roots of redwoods starved for nutrients in the heavily logged tract, were later removed and transported to the Humboldt County Coroner's Office.
There, coroners and volunteers with Humboldt State University's anthropology department completed the painstaking task of disentangling the mass of roots that encased the bones, said Deputy Coroner Charlie Comer.
Using dental records, the coroners were able to positively identify the bones as Huntzinger's, Comer said.
Although he said he is happy the find may give some closure to the Huntzinger family, Walker maintains if he hadn't found the body, someone else would have.
"In a way it was gratifying to know we accomplished what we set out to do, but it wasn't pleasant," he said. "Now, at least, the family has some knowledge of where their son was buried."
Last edited by bettybrown1623; 12-29-2008 at 02:01 AM.
Re: Metal detector find leads to body of 14-year-old missing since 1990, Blue Lake Ca
The body of a murdered 14-year-old Humboldt County boy has been unearthed after hundreds of people searched the same area fruitlessly for 18 years.
Curtis Huntzinger lay so long in a shallow grave near Blue Lake that his bones were intertwined with the roots of redwood trees that grew up since he disappeared in May 1990.
Relatives and police using metal detectors and cadaver-sniffing dogs had crisscrossed the same area, digging numerous holes without finding a trace. But a searcher with a metal detector heard a faint click from the youth's long-buried watch this month.
Searchers returned to the site at the direction of Stephen Hash, who pleaded guilty to Curtis' murder.
Dental records confirmed the boy's identity.
This article appeared on page B - 2 of the San Francisco Chronicle
Last edited by bettybrown1623; 12-29-2008 at 02:00 AM.
|Thread||Thread Starter||Forum||Replies||Last Post|
|Discovery Of Decomposing Body Leads To Murder Charge||bettybrown1623||ELECTRIC ALERTS !!!!!||0||10-02-2008 09:36 AM|
|Oklahoma Body May Be That Of Man Missing A Year||Starless||NEWS SPOT||0||09-24-2008 01:25 AM|
|Archaeologists Find Unique 7,000 Year Old Statue||Starless||Topics Of Interest||1||09-05-2008 01:32 AM|
|Suicide Note Leads to Dismembered Body||bettybrown1623||ELECTRIC ALERTS !!!!!||0||09-01-2008 10:55 AM|
|Tot's Body Leads To Suitcase Full Of Bones||Starless||NEWS SPOT||0||04-30-2008 04:45 PM|