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Paul V. Coates--Confidential File

July 2, 2007 |  6:52 am

Paul_coates July 2, 1957

This is a twist story--a reverse mystery.

I've been presenting, for the past few months, weekly missing persons cases on file with local sheriffs and police. Each started with a living, active person, surrounded by apparent normalcy.

Next came the disappearance. And last, the search--into the subject's background, personal habits, likes dislikes, associates.

On investigation, the missing person nearly always becomes a very known quantity.

Today, however, comes the switch.

To start, go back to the afternoon of April 7, 1957, when four boys were scrambling along the brush incline of the Crestmore Cement Co. property, three miles west of Riverside.

They were on their way fishing, but their plans met sudden interruption.

They stumbled upon a body. And they went, instead, to the Riverside County sheriff's office.

1957_0702_ad That was three months ago.

Immediately sheriff's investigators determined that the victim had been dead about three weeks. And that cause of death was a gunshot blast in the chest.

Two days later, when enough data had been collected, an emergency all-points bulletin was sent out.

The victim was described as male white American, late 20s or early 30s, 5 feet 10 inches, 160-170 lbs.

It was determined that the victim had brown hair, but the body's advanced state of decomposition left the color  of eyes and complexion unknown. No discernible scars or moles could be found.

There was also broadcast, however, the description of physical evidence at the scene:

The victim wore a white T-shirt and blue Wrangler pants. He wore socks but no shoes. Wrapped around his head was a pink military-type shirt. A bed pillow had been placed on his chest and then the entire body had been wrapped in a white muslin sheet and a green chenille bedspread.

Brown electric light cord bound his head and feet. A small braided rope was wound around his waist.

So where's the clue?

Riverside sheriff's deputies, directed by Det. Cmdr. Robert Presley, began a patient investigation.

From the start, they knew it would be a tough one.

Clue by clue, they attacked it.

CLOTHING: No laundry marks. In the pink shirt there was a ballpoint pen with the words "Cisco Ice Blower Service, Cisco, Tex."  A check with the sheriff of Eastland, Tex., revealed that some 800 similar pens had been distributed by the company, mostly to truck drivers.

FINGERPRINTS: Lab tests showed that the victim's hands had been encased in cloth containing lye in an effort to destroy prints.

But eight out of 10 prints were established and print copies were immediately circulated locally, at the state level, to the FBI, to Canada. No luck.

MISSING PERSONS: Local and state bureaus were checked. Hotels and rooming houses were checked to see if a guest had departed without notice, or possibly leaving some property behind around the 17th of March. Local papers published the victim's description. No response.

TEETH: The following description was included in the all-points bulletin:

Some evidence of pyorrhea. Dental restorations appear to be well done, carved and finished. Space between the upper front teeth. Upper left first molar is an alloy in the mesial and distal pits. Lower left second molar has an occlusal buccal filling. Lower right first and second molars have occlusal fillings. One huge cavity upper right third molar.

Such information will possibly serve well later for positive identification after tentative identification is made.

"A false dental plant solved one for us last year," Lt. Presley told me. "Through it, we identified the body of a woman 13 months after we discovered it.

"And," he added positively, "we found her killer, too."

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