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Police search for body 50 years after girl vanishes in Santa Barbara

June 15, 2011 12:00:00 AM PDT
Fifty years after her sudden disappearance, there was a renewed search Wednesday for the remains of a young girl believed to have been murdered and buried by a serial killer.

Seven-year-old Ramona Price was last seen in 1961 as she walked to her home in Santa Barbara County. Authorities have suspected her killer buried her body beneath a highway overpass near Goleta.

It was being torn down Wednesday, and cadaver dogs are looking for remains.

Cadaver dogs were sniffing every inch near a freeway overpass, trying to help solve Santa Barbara's oldest cold-case homicide. Price disappeared on September 2, 1961. She left her family's home on Oak Avenue and walked down Modoc Road. Investigators believe she disappeared near the entrance of La Cumbre Country Club about two miles from home. It was a case that shook an entire community.

"A frightening time because of the uncertainty," said Santa Barbara resident John Alhman. "Not knowing anything made it tough on everybody because they were then on edge for quite a while."

Ramona told her father she was going to walk to the new house the family was moving into that day, about seven miles away. Her father thought Ramona was joking.

Several witnesses described seeing a man with a thin face, wearing a felt hat, driving a Plymouth near the place Ramona was last seen. But all leads went nowhere until about four years ago when detectives learned that convicted serial killer Mack Ray Edwards was working for a construction company that worked on a stretch of the 101 Freeway and he looked similar to the man in the sketch.

"This bridge opened up just a few weeks after Ramona went missing and so we know from deduction that this bridge was being worked on at the time by the company that Mack Ray Edwards was working for," said Santa Barbara Police Detective Jaycee Hunter. "He had a friend that was living adjacent in a housing track adjacent to this bridge."

Edwards confessed to killing six children. Only two bodies were ever found, but while he was in prison, he told inmates he killed 12 to 18 more children, and that they'll never find the bodies unless they start digging up freeways.

Edwards hanged himself while in prison in 1972.

He also worked on a stretch of State Route 23 in Moorpark, where investigators tried digging up another of his victims three years ago.

Ramona Price's parents are now deceased. She has an older sister said to be still heartbroken over Ramona's disappearance.

Detectives say cadaver dogs can smell human remains buried 20 to 30 feet deep. They hope to get clues from the dogs in the coming days or weeks to begin digging for Ramona.


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