It was clear to Debbie Hawk's family that she probably met a grim end when she disappeared 10 years ago.
When her three children walked into her Hanford home in June 2006, they found a trail of blood leading to the garage. Her van was missing.
Though she was never seen again, her ex-husband, Dave Hawk, was convicted in 2009 of murdering her and sentenced to life without parole. Hawk had embezzled more than $300,000 from his children's trust funds, and his ex-wife had discovered it so he killed her before she could alert police, authorities said.
Since her ex-husband's conviction, however, the whereabouts of Debbie Hawk's body has remained a mystery. Or at least that was the case before this week.
On Monday, an observant farmworker unearthed a mandible in a field about 10 miles south of Lemoore, Kings County Sheriff David Robinson said. Dental records were used to link the jaw to the missing woman.
Her body had been buried at least three feet deep in an area that no one was farming at the time she was killed, Robinson said.
"Dave Hawk is the murderer. We all know that," said Hanford police Capt. Karl Anderson. "His last bit of control was he was able to deprive the family of closure. They have that now."
When Hawk buried his ex-wife's body, he chose a spot that was familiar to him, but not to many others, authorities said. He knew, for a variety of reasons, that no one would farm the burial site anytime soon, officials said.
But that changed in 2010, Robinson said. The land owner decided to work the earth there and had a foot of top soil removed for grading. Over the next six years, the top two feet of soil were diced, churned and tilled until Hawk's jawbone appeared about 7:30 a.m. Monday.
Despite Native American bones routinely turning up because of old burial sites, authorities quickly suspected the jaw might be connected to Debbie Hawk, said Dave Putnam, the Kings County assistant sheriff.
After investigators matched the teeth to Hawk's dental records, the case's original investigators notified her family, who gave police some bittersweet news: Debbie Hawk's father has about a week to live. All he wanted was for his daughter's body to be found before he died.
"They just thought it wasn't possible that after 10 years of not finding her, that they would find her in the next week," Anderson said. "It was really emotional for us."
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