California police dug up a buried car and found themselves in a mystery

(AP)

It wouldn’t be shocking to see a convertible Mercedes Benz parked in the driveway of a house in Atherton, California.

A short drive from Palo Alto and San Francisco, where some of the most profitable tech companies on the planet reside, Atherton is home to tech moguls who have median household income that the US Census Bureau estimates to be more than $ 450,000. Surely these well-paid residents would want a car that would allow them to enjoy that California sunshine they pay so much for.

But the Mercedes Benz convertible in this story was not found in a driveway or cruising along a California highway – it was found buried under five feet of dirt in the backyard of an Atherton mansion. He had been reported for theft in 1992.

On Thursday, the landscapers were tending the back of the $ 15 million mansion when they made the curious discovery. Not even hidden deep in a grave underground was a car. Strange as it may be, they were further perplexed to find that the car had been weighed down with unused sacks of concrete.

Local police were alerted to the discovery and went down to the villa later that day. Officers brought cadaver sniffer dogs with them during the inspection, and the dogs’ reactions indicated the possibility of finding human remains.

When it comes to cadaver sniffer dogs, “human remains” takes on a broad definition. A positive storyline could indicate anything from a complete corpse to the presence of bones, blood, vomit, or any combination of guts and humor.

“They are tackling a landscaping project, so it’s entirely possible that this is a worker who has been cut down and dripped blood on the ground. We just don’t know what the dogs are reacting to until we find out.” Atherton police commander Daniel Larsen told CBS News.

In addition to the quagmire, police officers noted that the dogs’ reaction was far from definitive. The dogs – whose noses detect odors between 10,000 and 100,000 times that of humans, according to the Florida State University Sensory Research Institute – barely remained registered.

A complete excavation was needed and planned for the following days. Meanwhile, the police gathered the information they could extract from the vehicle and found that the theft had been reported in 1992 in Palo Alto. This led them to the conclusion that the car was probably buried in the 1990s.

With a stolen car buried in the villa’s backyard, the police turned their attention to the owners of the house. They quickly reached a dead end when police learned that the owners took possession of the property only after the car was allegedly buried.

They then examined the previous owner and builder of the house, which officials determined was Johnny Bocktune Lew. Lew, unfortunately for the police, was not available for questioning, as he died in 2015 at the age of 77.

However, her daughter, Jacq Searle, was able to offer some information about her father to the San Francisco Chronicle that could shed light on the mystery of the buried car.

Ms. Searle said her family lived on the property in the 1990s when the car was assumed to have been buried. Her father had a history of murder arrests, attempted murder and insurance fraud dating back to at least 1966.

That year, Lew was convicted of the murder of a 21-year-old woman in Los Angeles County, for which he went to jail. He was released two years after the murder, when the California Supreme Court overturned his decision, citing hearsay evidence that led to his conviction that he should not have been included in the trial.

But that wasn’t the last time Lew saw the inside of a prison cell. A decade after the first murder, Lew was convicted of two counts of attempted murder, also in Los Angeles County, and consequently spent three years in prison, between 1977 and 1980.

In 1999, Lew allegedly hired people to take a 56-foot, $ 1.2 million yacht “west of the Golden Gate Bridge into international waters and put it on the bottom,” the Chronicle reports, offering the men $ 30,000 in cash and $ 20,000 in gold watches as payment.

Lew, who grew up in Hong Kong and claimed to have ties to the Chinese Triad organized crime group, allegedly told his would-be accomplices that if they reported him, he would have them killed.

Unfortunately for Mr. Lew, the men he planned to hire to sink the yacht were actually undercover agents from the California Department of Insurance, according to Recordnet.com. The agents carried the yacht into the water as if they were about to sink it, but brought the ship back to the shelter of the night to put it in a dry dock as evidence.

Lew was in China at the time the sinking was expected, so on his return he would report that the ship had been stolen from American Yachts Limited, which had insured the vessel, in an attempt to cash in on the loss.

“This is the largest fraudulent insurance claim that I know of that has been filed,” then Deputy District Attorney Franklin Stephenson told Recordnet.com at the time.

He was arrested for the attempted crime, but it is unclear if he was ever prosecuted.

San Mateo County District Attorney Stephen Wagstaffe said this Chronicle that Lew had never been prosecuted for a crime in the county and said the San Joaquin District Attorney’s Office handled the insurance fraud case.

The independent contacted the San Joaquin District Attorney’s Office for comment.

With one case of pending insurance fraud, one homicide and two attempted homicides, this brings us back to the car. Lew buried a car, and if so, why should he?

Ms Searle could not answer this question but told al Chronicle that Lew’s involvement “wouldn’t surprise me, just based on how rough my father was.”

On Monday, two days after the car was successfully exhumed, the police provided an update on the vehicle. No human remains were found. Police said the current occupants were not considered connected to the car other than sharing a yard with the vehicle.

But was it related to Lew? Investigators don’t say, at least not yet.

“We heard that name emerge, but we haven’t confirmed through our sources that he actually owned that vehicle,” Larsen said, according to the Democratic Press.

For now, the mystery continues.

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