The remains of Roger Dale Madison, a 16-year-old San Fernando Valley boy allegedly murdered by a serial killer 40 years ago, probably lies beneath the 23 Freeway in Moorpark but cannot be recovered, police said when they ended a 5-day excavation on Friday.
The dig started Monday, and search teams used cadaver dogs as they excavated.
Chaplains were called to the dig site as it ended, to preside over a memorial service for Madison attended by Madison's sister.
Investigators believe that in 1968, the remains of Madison, who was from the San Fernando Valley, were buried at the dig site, which is located near the Highway 23 interchange at Tierra Rejada Road in Moorpark. The site is about 25 miles west of the Arleta home where Madison was last seen alive on Dec. 14, 1968.
A construction crew chief who was building the freeway, Mack Ray Edwards, confessed to kidnapping and murdering the boy, throwing him into a hole and covering him up with rocks and fill dirt as the 23 was being built.
The cadaver dogs led searchers to the same spot Wednesday and Thursday. Crews dug about 20 feet, but did not find remains.
Earlier, a ground-penetrating radar unit from Caltrans indicated a likely burial location, and a particle detector that sniffs out decaying human bones "went off like a Geiger counter in the same place," said Los Angeles Police Detective Vivian Flores.
"The ground-penetrating radar shows the anomaly 3 feet down," LAPD Lt. John Romero said Monday morning.
A front-end loader was being used to dig down about 2 feet, with the rest of the work to be done by hand. Flores said the exhumation will be conducted "with hand shovels, trowels and toothbrushes" and may take as long as 10 days.
Given that Edwards has been linked to at least 18 murders in the 1950s and '60s, investigators said it's possible a different victim may be buried at the site.
The dig began about 10 a.m. Monday. Tents, trailers and dozens of police vehicles were clustered around the Moorpark interchange. Authorities closed the southbound Tierra Rejada Road offramp of the 23 freeway and the onramp from westbound Tierra Rejada Road to the southbound 23. The closures were to be in effect until Friday.
High-tech devices, include police satellite data links, were being used in the operation, and the LAPD is streaming a live video feed of the project on its Web page lapdonline.org.
Edwards, the most notorious serial killer of children in California history, confessed to as many as 18 kidnappings and murders dating back to at least 1953. Although he was never charged with killing Roger Madison, he confessed to the crime shortly before he hanged himself with a television cord while on death row at San Quentin.
Flores said Edwards' confession in the Madison case was not followed up in 1970, but the reasons may never be known because the records of that investigation have not been located by LAPD archivists.
"He told detectives, 'You'll never find Roger, he's under the concrete, his family is not rich and he's under the freeway," Flores told the Star.
Several dozen police officers, aided by 44 FBI agents and police dogs, will work on the exhumation of Madison's remains. If they are located, his three sisters and brother plan to have them cremated and buried with the ashes of the boy's parents, who moved away from California and died in the intervening 40 years, Flores said.
"The mother and father have passed away, and one of the sisters told me the family hasn't placed the ashes anywhere permanently," Flores told the Ventura County Star. "Now that they might get Roger's remains, they hope to place all three in one place. It means closure for them."
Edwards, a construction foreman for a company that was building freeways throughout Southern California, used heavy equipment to bury children whom he had abducted and abused in the 1950s and '60s.
Edwards claimed his conscience was bothering him when he walked into the LAPD Foothill Station in 1969 and confessed that he had just kidnapped a girl, who was found alive in a nearby orange grove. He eventually was linked to as many as 18 murders.
One of the children was Stella Darlene Nolan, who had disappeared in 1953. Edwards led detectives to her body on the side of the Santa Ana (5) Freeway in Downey, and she was reburied.
Flores said Edwards' confession in the Madison case languished in LAPD files for decades until Pasadena writer Weston DeWalt started looking into a missing child case from 1957 in Altadena.
DeWalt noticed that a suspect sketch in that case resembled a photo of Edwards from 1970, and started looking into the files.
The LAPD detective found out that Edwards had claimed to dump the Madison boy's body somewhere along a freeway north of Thousand Oaks, and Flores went to a Caltrans meeting for engineers who were widening the 23 Freeway recently.
They put her in touch with a retired Caltrans engineer in Northern California "who kept detailed construction logs for everything he had ever done. This man had a Caltrans calendar that said Mack was working on the Tierra Rejada offramp on Dec. 14, 1968," she said.
Click here to see live streaming video of the excavation