Santa Ana yard excavated in search of possible human remains

Authorities have excavated a large pad of cement from the backyard of a Santa Ana home as a team of Orange County anthropologists searched Friday for a body that may have been buried there decades ago.

Santa Ana police detectives on Thursday began searching a property in the 600 block of South Center Street after receiving an anonymous tip that a body was buried there some 30 years ago, said Santa Ana Police Cpl. Anthony Bertagna.

For the record:

4:14 p.m. Oct. 5, 2022A previous version of this article incorrectly identified Capt. William Lackey as a member of the Orange County Sheriff’s Department. Lackey is a member of the Orange County Fire Authority.

When detectives arrived, a man living at the home offered a startling revelation: Ten years ago workers had found bones “from the knee down” and a knife in the backyard.


The man did not inform police about the discovery and discarded the items, Bertagna said.

“He said, ‘I knew someday I would see you guys,’” Bertagna said.

The tenants of the home told police that they believe the house is haunted. The male resident told police that “I’ve woken up with ghosts sitting on my chest and I couldn’t breathe,” Bertagna said.

A cadaver dog was brought in to search the yard and “showed some interest” in the same area the bones and knife were discovered, Orange County Fire Authority Capt. William Lackey said.

Fire crews drilled holes through the concrete patio in a couple areas and the dog continued to hone in on the same area, he said.

Crews then worked through the night to remove the 6-inch slab of concrete, which was about 20 feet by 20 feet in size, Bertagna said. Anthropologists from the Orange County Coroner Division were on site Friday morning combing through soil underneath the patio and looking for “bones or bone fragments,” he said.

“If there are remains in that yard, hopefully we find them and we give somebody some closure,” Bertagna said.


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