The skeletal remains of a Goleta couple missing for nearly three years have been found in a shallow grave in a remote area about 40 miles east of Lone Pine in Inyo County, authorities said Tuesday.
Barry Berman, 36, and his wife, Louise, 52, were identified in Bishop through dental records. They disappeared in January, 1986, in Saline Valley, a rocky 12-mile-long corridor between the White Mountains and the boundary of Death Valley National Monument.
The remains showed no obvious signs of violence, according to Sheriff’s Lt. Jack Goodrich, but he said, “Our opinion is that it’s foul play.” He said a team was still “sifting the dirt” Tuesday in a search for clues.
The Bermans had been staying at a campground at Saline Hot Springs on the morning of Jan. 6, 1986, when they took a walk in the desert, wearing tennis shoes, jeans and thin shirts. Their remains were found about 7 miles northeast in a creek bed.
Recent rains had eroded the grave site. Someone walking nearby found a human skull and reported it to authorities by radio Sunday morning. Investigators arrived late in the afternoon and exhumed the remains, which were brought to Bishop on Monday.
At the time of their disappearance, an extensive search involving six agencies failed to find a trace of them. Their 1987 Nissan pickup truck was airlifted out of the valley, and investigators found that valuables in it had been untouched.
The Bermans had been married for about six years. They lived about half a mile from President Reagan’s ranch in Santa Barbara County, where Berman operated a shop specializing in hand-wrought ironwork.
Berman was the son of a wealthy Beverly Hills couple, Jules and Ruth Berman.
The elder Berman, 78, a real estate developer and liquor importer, offered a $25,000 reward and joined the search for the missing couple.
“The only thought that we can possibly have now is to find out who did it,” Berman said Tuesday. “What I want to do is find out who did it and see that they are brought to justice.
“Barry was our only child. It just leaves our lives completely empty. He was a completely happy guy. We used to feel sorry for our friends who had children they couldn’t control. Barry was a model son.”