Mystery in the Mojave Desert: Questions remain after 6 bodies found near El Mirage

Rob McMillan Image
Friday, January 26, 2024
Questions remain after 6 bodies found in Mojave Desert near El Mirage
What exactly happened? Who made the 911 call? Two days after deputies found the bodies of six people at a remote dirt crossroads in the Mojave Desert, many questions remain unanswered.

EL MIRAGE, Calif. (KABC) -- Two days after deputies found the bodies of six people at a remote dirt crossroads in the Mojave Desert in San Bernardino County, a scene described as so grisly that images had to be blurred, many questions remain unanswered.

San Bernardino County Sheriff's deputies responding to a request for a wellness check reached the area off Highway 395 outside the community of El Mirage around 8:15 p.m. Tuesday and found five of the bodies.

The sixth was found Wednesday morning, sheriff's spokesperson Mara Rodriguez said. Authorities are still gathering evidence to determine what happened.

AIR7 HD footage showed numerous yellow evidence markers near the dirt crossroads, in scrubby desert land that stretched for miles. Evidence gathered so far suggests a massive amount of gunfire, with shell casings found scattered all over the area.

At least one of the vehicles was found riddled with bullet holes.

The area, about 50 miles northeast of Los Angeles and about 20 miles northwest of Victorville, is so remote that the San Bernardino Sheriff's Department called in help from the California Highway Patrol's Aviation Division to find the scene.

So what exactly happened? With so little information, the answer to that question remains a mystery.

"When I hear of a multi-victim homicide out in a very remote, desolate area like this, the first thing I think of is organized crime," said Bill Bodner, a former special agent in charge of the DEA who is now retired.

Bodner has no inside information on this case, but has extensive experience with organized crime rings. He shared some insight with ABC7 on Thursday.

"I know from my experience, that part of the Inland Empire, there's a lot of organized crime involvement in unlicensed cannabis cultivation," said Bodner. "There's also a lot of involvement in what are called methamphetamine conversion laboratories, taking liquid methamphetamine smuggled across the border, bringing it to a desolate area, and then converting it to crystal meth, where it can be sold."

The bodies appeared to have been burned, but why?

"A lot of times, that's done to try to disguise the identity of the victim, but also to destroy evidence," said Bodner. "If there was some type of struggle, there could have been a transfer of DNA, a transfer of hair particles."

There's also the question about how the call came into dispatch in the first place. Detectives said the caller requested a wellness check.

They did not call to report the discovery of the bodies or to report a fire. Bodner said that suggests that person may have somehow been involved in the incident.

"Whether it's friends of theirs, associates of theirs, who knows? But it sounds like, potentially, someone who was there, or someone who knew, at least, what happened there."

So who is that person?

The sheriff's department said at this point, detectives do not know the identity of the caller.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.