SDMRT 2020-19

SDMRT Operations Report 2020-19
Full Callout, Search for Body Parts, Kit Carson Park, Escondido, CA
9 August 2020

SDMRT Responders: Manuel Belmonte, John Hatala, Brad Hernandez, Bill McNaul, Eila Miller, Kelly Sloan, Michael Winter, and Richard Yocum

SDMRT ITC: Hugo Bermudez

Other Responding Organizations: SDSD SAR, and Escondido police and homicide detectives. Total SAR personnel was approx. 51.

Short Summary:

  • Type of Callout: Full callout
  • In County or Mutual Aid: In-county
  • Type of search: Body parts recovery
  • Environment: Rural open space, very dense brush
  • Location
    • LKP: Partial body located in extreme western part of Kit Carson Park, Escondido (11S MS 93529 59535)
    • Command Post: Northwest corner of Westfield mall north county, outside old Sears location (UTM 493796, 3659460)
    • Found: Dismembered head located by SAR HRD dog team
  • Operational Period 1
    • Searcher callout: Initial callout issued approx. 1336 hours on 8/8/2020 for 0700 briefing on 8/9/20
    • Conclusion of operations: Search discontinued after head located, and 10-22 issued at 1130 hours on 8/9/20
  • Information about the Subject:
    • Number/Name(s) of Subject(s): 1 subject missing head and right hand from body
    • Age/Gender: 62-year-old male
    • Level of fitness and experience: Deceased
    • Mental status: Deceased
    • Injuries: Deceased
    • How were they found: Dismembered head located by SAR HRD canine team
  • Injuries to Searchers: None reported
  • Aircraft used: None

Descriptive Report:

On 8/7/2020 at approx. 2130 hours Escondido PD (EPD) was notified of a possible deceased person in the extreme western part of Kit Carson Park, Escondido, in an area known to be a camp used by some homeless persons. EPD confirmed the presence of a body missing several body parts, estimated to be deceased for a couple weeks, only several yards from a tent. They searched the area and located two lower arm bones and part of a scalp in close proximity to each other. These body parts were removed. On 8/8/20, EPD contacted SDSDSAR for a scheduled search on 8/9/20 for the missing head and missing right hand. The scene is being treated as a possible homicide at this time. Notification of next of kin was pending.

Before SAR commenced field activities, EPD cleared the homeless encampment of persons. Three HRD canine teams were deployed 1 hour before any other searchers. Within 1 hour, the HRD teams found some small bones initially believed to possibly be finger bones but later determined to be most likely a very small animal pelvis and two vertebrae, and then a dismembered human head in a state of decomposition. The items were treated as evidence, not disturbed, and processed by EPD officers and a crime scene investigation specialist, and then the ME.

Meanwhile two closed line search teams, one 20 persons and the other 11 persons, were deployed to search Areas 1 and 2, working generally from west to east. And additional team of 2 persons was assigned as oversight of the entire search area. An equine team of 1 horse and rider was deployed to assist the line search teams. Both line search teams had completed the majority of their assigned areas without finding any additional clues when the ME had removed the head and determined they had the evidence they needed, and Team 5 was diverted to do a very detailed search of the immediate area around the tent in which the body, head, and arm bones/scalp were all found. This involved dissembling at least 2 rat habitats. No additional body parts were found. The hand was not found. Search efforts were discontinued and a 10-22 was issued at 1130 hours.

Lessons Learned/Suggestions for Future Operations:

  1. It was learned on this search that a horse and rider can be very helpful for line searches of areas with dense vegetation because of the line of sight height advantage of the rider and because the horse can more easily travel through dense vegetation. In the future, pairing an equine team with a line search team in such terrain may be helpful.
  2. Having a supply of N94 masks, as used on this search, is a good idea for a precaution when dissembling rat habitats, guarding against risk of inhaled pathogens such as hantavirus.