☛ TS Huntzinger's body found
An Arcata High School student, the 14-year-old Huntzinger went missing May 19, 1990, after last being seen at his sister's home. Last week, the DA's Office arrested Stephen Daniel Hash, 53, of Sebastopol, on suspicion of voluntary manslaughter after Hash gave a complete confession, according to District Attorney Paul Gallegos...
...The DA's Office said Hash has been very cooperative with the investigation, even leading investigators to the location where he said he buried Huntzinger.
On Monday afternoon, around 2 p.m., the boy's skeleton was located, entangled in a ball of roots under less than two feet of soil. The grave, which was dug about 35 yards from the road, was surrounded by a dense stand of young redwoods, and blanketed by a thick mat of leaf litter and poison oak.
But in 1990, when Huntzinger is presumed to have been buried, that grave site looked very different.
Chief DA Investigator Mike Hislop said when Hash allegedly dumped the body, the area looked like a “moonscape,” as a result of heavy logging and burning activity.
Despite those major changes to the landscape, Hash was reportedly able to recall the location of the grave well enough to lead investigators within 25 feet of where the body was found, said DA investigator Wayne Cox.
”It must be a vivid memory that's permanently imbedded in his (Hash's) hard drive,” he said.
The same tract of land was searched in 1999 by teams using cadaver dogs, but authorities came up empty. This time, Cox said investigators deployed new methods.
According to Hislop, the body was found by a volunteer who canvassed the area using a high-end metal detector loaned by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. The grave was located when the metal detector picked up a faint signal from a small piece of metal on Huntzinger's remains -- possibly a zipper or a coin.
Members of the Huntzinger family were immediately notified, and brought to the site before the body was exhumed, said District Attorney Paul Gallegos.
As the redwoods grew back after the logging, they lifted nutrients from Huntzinger's grave, entwining the remains in roots.
According to Deputy Coroner Roy Horton, the search team excavated the approximately 400-pound root ball, which contains Huntzinger's remains.
Now the Coroner's Office is tasked with the painstaking removal of those remains from the root encasement.
Horton said that while they have not been able to positively identify the remains through DNA or dental records, there are other signs it is Huntzinger. The clothing found around the skeleton -- a black jacket and tennis shoes -- are consistent with the outfit Huntzinger was last seen wearing. And there appear to be signs of blunt force trauma to the skull, Horton said.
Although Gallegos and the DA investigators have declined to release the cause of Huntzinger's death, a criminal complaint in Hash's court file charges him with using a barbell to kill the 14-year-old.
The body was found unbound, and Horton said he believes Huntzinger was dead before he was buried.
☛ TS Never too late for resolution
☛ TS editorial Never too late for resolution
☛TS Hash receives 11 years in prison
◼ Curtis Huntzinger's mother wins wrongful death lawsuit