Since the first week of March, a film crew and psychics have been investigating the long- unsolved murder of La Cañada residents Harold “Skip” and Joni Tillman. Using traditional and psychic medium methods, the team traveled from the couple's home in La Cañada to where their bodies were found in shallow graves in Yucaipa on Feb. 9, 2000.
The team poured over records, interviewed friends and family, and used the psychics' skills to navigate through the spirit world. And, in the end, they think they just might have solved the case that has been cold for more than nine years.
“We think we have a lot of evidence that points to the [responsible party],” said filmmaker Stephen Hansen.
Hansen is not ready to reveal their suspect/suspects until they speak with the San Bernardino Sheriff's detectives in charge of the case.
“We don't want to [jeopardize] their investigation,” he said.
The fim team's investigation is part of a documentary/reality pilot demonstration reel for a TV program titled “Revisited” that Hansen and co-executive producer James Hafner are now shopping to networks. The premise of the program is to join traditional investigative techniques with psychic skills in solving cold cases. The Tillman murders included elements of embezzlement, mystery and the isolated desert area where the couple was buried.
The case had gone cold for detectives, but last year was reopened through the San Bernardino County Sheriff Department's newly-formed cold case division. A month after the case was reopened, detectives sought a “person of interest” when a witness came forward and informed investigators that he saw a man in the desert area about five days before the Tillmans' bodies were found. A composite drawing of the man was released to the public but no one has come forward with further information.
Harold and Joni Tillman went to dinner on Feb. 6, 2000 with friends in Pasadena. They parted with their dinner companions about 9 p.m. that night, and that was the last time anyone reported seeing them alive. Their bodies were discovered in two isolated desert graves in Yucaipa three days later. Their dog, a Maltese named Teddy, was discovered in the desert near the graves. He appeared, according to San Bernardino detectives, to have died of exposure.
Through hours of research Hansen found family and friends whom he interviewed. The team of investigators followed up on leads and looked through mounds of paperwork and newspaper articles covering the murder. The psychics walked through the desert area where the couple was found and visited the cemetery. Lead psychic Lenny Feldsott saw the image of Joni in the desert.
“She was dressed casual,” he said. “Normally she would not go anywhere without make-up and dressed [perfectly].”
Through her spirit's guidance, Feldsott and the other psychics on his team learned how the murder unfolded and believe they know what the couple went through in the last moments of their lives.
Hansen and Feldsott said they were continuously surprised throughout the investigation at what they were learning about the couple and their untimely deaths.
When they were murdered, the Tillmans had various legal problems, including embezzlement litigation, but what investigators found was that the couple were much more complex than the lawsuits and scandal that surrounded them.
In the DVD that followed the investigation, friends talk about how much they loved Joni and what a great friend she was to all of them.
“We found that, yes, [Harold] probably did embezzle money, but it didn't seem that he did it from [greed] but just because he wanted to give Joni everything he could,” Hansen said.
The DVD demo takes the audience through many twists and turns as investigators interview not only those that were the couple's closest friends, but also people that detectives had interviewed as “persons of interest.”
At one point in the DVD, the psychics are seen walking through the desert near the graves.
“That was amazing,” Feldsott said. “There were so many [souls] there. Hundreds.”
The team will now present what they found to the detectives in charge of the case. Hansen feels strongly that what his team has discovered will lead to the capture of the murderers.
“We feel the murder was well planned,” Hansen said.
“It was meticulous,” Feldsott added.
Hansen started this project not only because of how intriguing he thinks audiences will find it, but to help those who have lost loved ones to crime find closure.
“The couple's friends all talked to us because they were glad somebody was looking into the case,” Hansen said. “They want closure.”