Woman’s Head Found; Identity Still Mystery

Times Staff Writer

A gruesome discovery Sunday afternoon--the finding of a young woman’s severed head--has only deepened the mystery of her three-day-old murder in Santiago Park in downtown Santa Ana.

Santa Ana police Sunday night said they still do not know the identity of the woman. They have no motive for the murder, they said. And they are baffled by the brutal way in which she was killed.

The headless body of the young woman, still unidentified, was found by a man walking his dog in the park at 4 p.m. Thursday. Police at the time said the victim had been “mutilated” but declined to confirm spectators’ reports that the body was headless when found.


But on Sunday, Santa Ana police confirmed that the young woman’s head had been severed. They made the confirmation while releasing a terse statement that said the woman’s head had been found--also in Santiago Park.

In an uncanny twist of events, the discovery of the victim’s head came at the same hour of the afternoon and under the same circumstances of the finding of the body 72 hours earlier. Police said two Santa Ana residents walking in the dry Santiago Creek stream bed in the park found the head at 4 p.m. Sunday.

Gruesome Find

The two who found the head were not identified. But police said the strollers might have been looking for something when they made their gruesome find. “The head was secreted in heavy brush and rock (in the creek bed area), some distance from where the victim’s body was originally discovered,” said the Santa Ana police press release Sunday night.

Lt. David Salazar said Sunday he did not know the exact distance from where the head was found in the creek bed to the bush in the park where the woman’s headless body was found Thursday afternoon.

The unidentified man and his dog discovered the body under a 6-foot-tall bush growing near the banks of Santiago Creek. The mostly dry creek traverses the well-kept, frequently used park. Santiago Park stretches eastward from Santa Ana’s busy Main Street to the city limits of Orange.

Police declined to elaborate on their press release or explain how the two strollers Sunday found the head that an intensive police search three days earlier had failed to discover.


The police press release Sunday night noted that officers Thursday afternoon secured the park and searched the area after the headless body was found.

Salazar said Sunday night that the victim had been determined to be in her 20s. Police had earlier disclosed that she was white. “The exact cause of death has not yet been determined,” Salazar said.

‘Neck Snapped Off’

A witness at the park Thursday, however, said that the body “looked like her neck was snapped off.”

Salazar on Sunday night said the victim’s head has been taken to the Orange County coroner’s office for autopsy, as was the body Thursday. “This is a very unusual case,” said Salazar. “We get used to bar fights and drive-by shootings. But we don’t get many like this one.”