As sheriff’s deputies searched a remote Agoura canyon for clues, parents and teachers tried to help children cope with the killing of a 6-year-old boy whose body was discovered near the entrance to a religious commune.
The body of first-grader Miguel Antero was found hidden in brush less than 200 yards from his Triunfo Canyon Road home late Tuesday, 7 1/2 hours after he was dropped off by a school bus.
Investigators for the Los Angeles County coroner’s office said the boy’s body showed signs of “physical trauma,” although the cause of death will not be determined until an autopsy is conducted today.
Sheriff’s homicide detectives said Wednesday night that they have no suspects.
Search for Clues
Sheriff’s detectives and deputies with mountaineering experience scoured the crime scene and questioned residents throughout Triunfo Canyon, which is a mile south of the Ventura Freeway near Westlake Village and Agoura Hills.
Other deputies set up a roadblock on Triunfo Canyon Road and asked motorists if they had seen anything suspicious Tuesday afternoon.
Detectives said the body was found by a searcher from the Shanti Anantam religious compound five hours after deputies and volunteers launched Tuesday’s manhunt. Authorities had been called after the boy’s 11-year-old sister, Enid, became worried when he failed to come home from school.
Former Children’s Camp
About a dozen families live at the compound, a one-time children’s summer camp that includes cabins, houses and a bookstore on 40 acres along Triunfo Canyon Creek.
The boy’s parents, Anna and Shankara Antero, both 33, were secluded there in a yellow, wood-framed house under an oak grove next to the creek.
“People come to Agoura Hills to get away from this stuff,” said Radha Botofasina, the victim’s aunt and a retreat member. “We’re alerted now. This does reach Agoura.”
She said Miguel was “a very obedient child, very loving. He would talk to strangers. He was a friendly guy.”
Walk With Son
Botofasina accompanied her own son along a hillside trail, near where the body was found, to help him come to grips with the tragedy Wednesday.
“My son told me has no fear of dying,” she said of 8-year-old Surya. “He said that, if he dies, he knows he will be with God and that will be a very nice place to be.”
At the urging of residents of the retreat, the Triunfo-Lobo Community Assn., a canyon homeowners group, hastily scheduled a community safety meeting for today. It will be at 7:30 p.m. at the Sunny Skies Ranch, 3190 Triunfo Canyon Road, officials said.
Some in the canyon were reportedly arming themselves.
“One man got his shotgun out and that worries me,” said Steve Siegel, owner of the Sunny Skies Ranch. “This is already a very tight community, with Neighborhood Watch and an arson watch during fire season.”
Barbara Geary, whose hillside home overlooks Shanti Anantam, said the retreat’s residents have been active in the community, participating in the arson watch and helping neighbors, in her case with a plumbing problem.
Geary said strangers frequently park along Triunfo Canyon Road--mostly to hike in the area or fish. She said she noticed a car parked along the street about an hour before Miguel’s school bus dropped him off at 3 p.m.
William Johnson, a regional vice president of the Laidlaw bus company, said three of his company’s drivers noticed strangers in Triunfo Canyon on Tuesday while making their regular afternoon runs for the Las Virgenes Unified School District.
Bus Drivers Interviewed
Johnson said the drivers were interviewed Wednesday by sheriff’s deputies--throwing them off schedule and causing a flood of telephone inquiries from alarmed parents when other children were late coming home from school.
Las Virgenes school district Supt. Albert D. Marley said school psychologists met with children and with teachers Wednesday at two schools Miguel recently attended. Before enrolling in a special remedial language class two weeks ago at Round Meadow Elementary School in Calabasas, he attended a regular first-grade class at White Oak Elementary School in Westlake Village, Marley said.
“In a tragic situation such as this, we have to be careful not to cause more trauma,” Marley said.
Round Meadow Principal Robert A. DeBoise said the school flag was lowered--but students were not told of the slaying. He said he planned to wait to see students’ reaction before scheduling special counseling or new classroom safety lessons.
At White Oak School, students were told of the killing during a special outdoor flag-lowering ceremony, principal’s assistant Jim Robertson said.
“You talk about this sort of thing and try to explain it. But how do you reach children at that tender age,” Robertson said.