Dogs search for remains of Ramona Price, possible victim of Mack Ray Edwards
On Wednesday morning about 8:30 a.m., three specially trained cadaver dogs were led on long leashes across a bridge over the 101 Freeway in Santa Barbara, in search of the remains of Ramona Price, thought to possibly have been the victim of serial killer Mack Ray Edwards.
The dogs — described as a Labrador retriever, a golden retriever and an Aussie — were brought by volunteers from Santa Clara County Search and Rescue to a freeway embankment, where they methodically paced on the bare dirt and scrambled through brush.
Santa Barbara police watched and waited, hoping the dogs would find a trace of Ramona, who disappeared from the outskirts of Santa Barbara when she was 7, on a quiet Saturday morning in 1961.
Police now suspect she was killed by Edwards, who took his own life in a San Quentin jail cell in 1972 after being convicted of the murders of three children and claiming to inmates that he'd killed as many as 20 in all.
Edwards was a heavy-equipment operator who worked on freeway construction projects, including the building of the Winchester Canyon Road bridge over the 101. That bridge is about to be torn down, which means that it's a perfect time to excavate the site if the dogs appear to find anything of note in the area.
Santa Barbara Police Chief Cam Sanchez said Edwards joked in prison about his string of murders and said most of them would never be discovered because no one would tear up a freeway.
He also said that Edwards, while working on the bridge's construction, sometimes stayed in a fellow heavy-equipment operator's mobile home on a ridge in view of the construction site. Like Edwards, that man is now dead.
The dogs will continue searching the bridge area, as well as a median strip running down the freeway, through early afternoon, officials said. They may also return on another day.
Ramona's parents are now dead, he said. An older sister, who is 60, no longer lives in the area and is "still devastated," he said.
Everyone is hoping for closure.
"A cold case does not mean a forgotten case," Sanchez said.
-- Steve Chawkins in Santa Barbara
Photo: A volunteer with a dog helps Santa Barbara police search an area at Calle Real and the 101 Freeway in Santa Barbara County for the remains of a 7-year-old girl, Ramona Price, who disappeared in 1961. Credit: Anne Cusack / Los Angeles Times