Police End Search for Bodies of Purported Ritual Victims
ATASCADERO, Calif. (AP) _ A four-day search for the bodies of 10 to 15 children purportedly killed and buried by a satanic cult turned up only animal bones, police say.
However, officials say they will continue investigating an alleged child molestation ring linked to the purported slayings.
″We haven’t ended,″ Sgt. Bill Watton said Thursday. ″I don’t feel this affects the credibility of the witnesses. We just have to do further investigation.″
Police stopped digging Thursday in three areas in an eight-acre thicket across the street from the former house of a fugitive couple charged with 33 counts of child molestation.
Two girls, who claimed they were molested, said they saw children and babies killed in satanic rituals and buried in the thicket.
″We have examined the three areas very thoroughly. We have come up with no human remains, to the joy of many,″ Police Chief Richard McHale said. ″The potential of finding human remains was a grim one.″
Electronic equipment determined something was buried there, police said.
Ten officers, aided by a backhoe and mobile forensics lab, worked 10 to 12 hours a day since Monday in scorching heat and dense poison oak.
On Monday they unearthed bone fragments. But Dr. Phillip Walker, an anthropologist at the University of California-Santa Barbara, identified them as the bones of a rodent and a domestic animal, such as a cow.
McHale said investigators will confer with the state Department of Justice to determine if excavations will be made in other areas.
San Luis Obispo County and federal authorities are helping police in the child molestation inquiry.
Rodney Allen Phelps and his wife, Linda, both 45, fled last year after four co-defendants, including their daughter, Deborah McCuan, were sentenced to between 240 and 268 years in prison for child molestation.
Police said investigators will continue examining written evidence and interviewing and possibly re-interviewing some informants, including the two girls.
Authorities in neighboring Kern County have also alleged a child molestation ring exists and that children have reported seeing babies slain during rituals, but no bodies have been found in the county during a five- month investigation.
Atascadero is 175 miles northwest of Los Angeles.