Entries in Head (4)


How Police Identified Severed Head After 24-Year Mystery

New Jersey State Police|Times of Trenton/Hopewell Police(HOPEWELL TOWNSHIP, N.J.) -- A severed head found on a golf course 24 years ago has been identified using DNA evidence and may be linked to a serial killer, New Jersey police said Wednesday.

The head of 25-year-old Heidi Balch, who worked as a prostitute around Manhattan in 1988, was found on a Hopewell Township, N.J., golf course in 1989, but was only identified this month after collaboration between the New Jersey State Police and the Hopewell Township Police Department.

“It was shocking,” said Hopewell Township Police Chief George Meyer, who was one of the detectives called to the scene after the head was found near the seventh hole.

“Periodically, over the years, detectives would pick up the case and make efforts at identifying her,” he said. ”I kind of thought, ‘No, she is never going to be identified.’”

A break came when detectives realized the dumped head matched a story from serial killer Joel Rifkin, who claimed to have dismembered and dumped a victim named Susie around New Jersey, State Police Det. Sgt. Stephen Urbanski told ABC News. Rifkin was never convicted for the alleged crime, but is serving 200 years in prison for other murders.

Detectives decided to chase the story.

“The team obtained the names of all the prostitutes that were registered around the same time [from the NYPD],” Urbanski said.

They then compared the photos to the composite of the severed head. A woman named Susan Spencer seemed to be a match.

After chasing aliases and false Social Security numbers attached to the woman, a face on a missing persons website jumped out at Urbanski.

It was Heidi Balch.

The problem was, Balch wasn’t reported missing by her aunt until 2001 and when making the report, she told police that her niece was last seen in 1995.

Still, the team decided to pursue the lead and paid the aunt a visit. Not only did they learn that the sighting in 1995 was secondhand information, but Balch’s parents were alive and living in Baltimore.

“After interviewing [the aunt], we went down to Baltimore and grabbed the mom’s DNA,” Urbanski said.

The DNA was a match to the skull, closing the 24-year-old cold case.

“Looking at the horrific case, and after a lot of people worked on it, it was amazing it came to this,” Urbanski said. “It was a matter of finding those clues.”

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Police Search Apartment of Hollywood Murder Victim

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(LOS ANGELES) -- Investigators have executed a search warrant at the apartment of the 66-year-old man whose severed head, hands and feet were found near Los Angeles’ iconic Hollywood sign.

Hervey Medellin’s head was discovered by two women walking their dogs last week in Bronson Canyon Park, near the famed Hollywood sign in the Hollywood Hills.

Lauren Kornberg said that her dog began digging under a bush when the head was discovered.

“He had something in his mouth that he immediately dropped and it was big and round,” Kornberg told ABC News.

Kornberg said that she initially thought that the head was a movie prop, since the park is a popular filming location, but soon realized that it was real.

Two days after Medellin’s severed head was discovered, his hands and feet were found 50 yards away by detectives combing the area.  Investigators say they believe that the man was murdered and his body parts were then dumped at the park.

According to neighbors in his nearby apartment building, investigators questioned them about Medellin and a young man who shared his apartment on the third floor of their building.

“We would walk our dogs together sometimes.  He was very nice, very friendly, always smiled.  I feel very sorry,” neighbor Terry Brown told ABC News' Los Angeles affiliate KABC-TV.

One neighbor reportedly heard “screaming and yelling,” and, “a lot of commotion on the floor above him” about three weeks ago.

Police say no arrests have been made and nobody has been detained for questioning.  Police would only confirm that a search warrant served at the apartment building was related to the murder investigation.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Police Find More Body Parts in Hollywood Hills

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(LOS ANGELES) -- Shortly after two severed hands were found in the Hollywood Hills where dog walkers discovered a head, police found two feet.

On a trail near the famed Hollywood sign, dog walkers first discovered a severed head Tuesday afternoon while hiking, authorities said.

“While the dogs were playing with it, at some point the object came out of the bag and they discovered it was a head.  A severed head,” Los Angeles police Sgt. Mitzi Fierro told ABC News Los Angeles affiliate KABC-TV.

Authorities said the head belonged to a male victim.

“The head appears to be rather new.  There are not a lot of signs of decomposition yet,” Fierro told KABC.

It is believed the hands, feet and head may all belong to the same individual. With the help of specially trained cadaver dogs, police will continue to search for more body parts. They are still working to identify the victim.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Human Head Found in California Home

Two daughters cleaning out their parents' house for an estate sale came across a human head and other remains in Bakersfield, Calif. (KERO/ABC News)(BAKERSFIELD, Calif.) -- Two sisters in an upscale Bakersfield, Calif., country club neighborhood were cleaning out their parents' garage for an estate sale when they came across a surprising find -- a human head.

"There was still some hair, there was still flesh on it, bones sticking out of the neck," said a neighbor named Joseph who was helping the daughters at the house, according to ABC's Bakersfield affiliate KERO. "You could see the jawbone and there was some hair around the ears and...the nasal areas."

The daughters threw the remains in the dumpster, but after some discussion decided they should call the police and let them know. Detectives were called to the house around 5:45 p.m. on Sunday.

"They initially believed it was possibly related to their father's prior medical practice and didn't think much of it at first," said Ray Pruitt, spokesman for the Kern County Sheriff's Department.

Police said skeletal remains that were "quite old" were also found in the garage.

"We're still attempting to determine who the person is, how they died, where the remains came from [and] why their remains were being stored at the residence," Pruitt said.

The girls' elderly parents no longer live in the house, after at least 25 years in the neighborhood, and have moved to an assisted living home in Los Angeles.

Donald G. Nelson is the homeowner and girls' father. He is a former ophthalmologist whose medical license was revoked in June 2006 by the state of California for "writing the wrong diagnosis on a prescription, enabling the patient to obtain Vicodin and for failure to maintain adequate and accurate medical records." Nelson was ordered to pay a fine of $1,500, but the documents show that he failed to pay the fine.

Police are treating the case as a suspicious death, but not as a homicide investigation.

Coroners are expected to inspect the remains on Wednesday or Thursday.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio