Spotlight on Ohlone:
Teacher consults in Garrido case
By Kathryn Dixon, Staff writer.
Thursday, September 24, 2009—Reprinted from Monitor.
Ohlone College professor Mark Dobbs, a forensic anthropologist, has provided his expert opinion to law enforcement that the bone fragments found by Contra Costa County criminalists in the yard outside the Antioch home of Phillip and Nancy Garrido are American Indian remains.
This rules out their being the remains of Ilene Misheloff and Michaela Garecht, Caucasian girls kidnapped within two years before the Garridos allegedly kidnapped Jaycee Lee Dugard.
The Garridos are being held in the Placerville jail, charged with kidnapping Dugard, 11, from the street outside her home in South Lake Tahoe on June 11, 1991.
The bone fragments inspected by Dobbs came from the filthy yard at 1554 Walnut Ave., Antioch, where the Garridos held Dugard and her two children hostage in a makeshift cage, shed and tarp tents for 18 years.
During her captivity, Dugard gave birth to Starlet, now 15, and Angel, now 11, fathered by Phillip Dugard, according to police.
On Aug. 25, 2009, a UC Berkeley campus police officer questioned Phillip Dugard who was wandering around the campus passing out religious literature while accompanied by two female children.
Suspicious of his erratic behavior and the children’s unusual condition, she and a fellow police officer ran a background check and discovered Garrido was a registered sex offender on federal parole.
Responding to the Berkeley officer’s report, Garrido’s parole officer ordered him to be interviewed. The next day Phillip Garrido, accompanied by his wife, Dugard and her two children, allegedly confessed that he and his wife Nancy kidnapped Dugard.
On Aug. 27, Dugard was reunited with her mother who also met her grandchildren Angela and Starlet.
On Aug. 28, in El Dorado County Superior Court, Phillip and Nancy Garrido pleaded not guilty to 29 charges including kidnap, rape and false imprisonment.
According to Dobbs, “Given his history, Phillip Garrido is capable of anything.” Dobbs is forwarding the bone fragments to the DNA laboratory at the California Department of Justice, Bureau of Forensic Services, where technicians will examine his findings, attempt to extract DNA from the bones and compare their DNA profiles to those in the data base of missing and deceased persons who are victims of unsolved crimes.
Dobbs is employed as forensic anthropology consultant and criminalist by Contra Costa County Coroner Warren E. Rupf, who is also the sheriff. Dobbs examined specimens provided to him by the coroner’s criminalists, who did a meticulous search of the Garrido’s home and yard and dug into the dirt looking for remains and graves.
This search yielded bone fragments which Dobbs said were “miniscule teeny pieces such that only an expert could really determine if they were human. Technicians collecting them thought some of the fragments were plywood rather than bone.”
Dobbs based his opinion that the remains are Native American on their very small size and fragmentation, their deteriorated condition showing they have been in the ground a long time, and their age, possibly in excess of 100 years. Dobbs said he gets called out to locations in East Contra Costa County all the time to look at bones people discover, which turn out to be American Indian remains.
However, despite Dobb’s findings and the Contra Costa coroner’s extensive digging, the search for more human remains at the Garridos’ Antioch home continues. This is because Phillip Garrido has shown a potential modus operandi of snatching young girls and driving off with them, and because the proximity of the time and location of the kidnaps of Dugard, Garecht and Misheloff are close.
On Aug. 26, 1988, Phillip Garrido was released on parole after serving 11 years of a 50-year sentence for a kidnap and rape of an adult in 1976.
On Dec. 19, 1988, Michaela Garecht, 9, was kidnapped from a store in Hayward by a man who, according to a witness, used a gold-colored getaway car. This car allegedly resembles one towed away from Garrido’s home, after his recent arrest, and a sketch of Garecht’s kidnapper provided by an eyewitness resembles Phillip Garrido.
On Jan. 30, 1989, Ilene Misheloff, 13, was kidnapped in Dublin while walking home from school. There are no known eyewitnesses to this kidnap.
Dobbs said that last week the Dublin Police focusing on Mischeloff’s kidnap and the Hayward Police focusing on Garecht’s kidnap began a new search for remains and evidence, thereby repeating some of the Contra Costa County Coroner’s search. These officers are using magnetometers and ground-penetrating radar to search about 20 feet below the surface. Dobbs said that these techniques are being handled by Alameda County authorities and that they may obtain evidence of additional remains, make independent findings and submit any additional evidence to the state’s crime laboratory.
Dobbs teaches forensic anthropology (108) and physical Anthropology (101) at Ohlone College. He obtained his Bachelor and Master’s degree at California State University, Fullerton. Dobb’s forensic anthropology class meets on Fridays from 6 to 9 p.m., in Building 8, room 8109.
The class is packed with enthusiastic future criminalists and forensic anthropologists who listen to Dobbs lecture while three model human skeletons mounted on the wall peer down at one and all.
Dobb’s class is popular and important because law enforcement agencies are using increasing sophisticated DNA technology and more extensive data bases to attempt to solve cold criminal cases. To make a case in court, they must look to forensic anthropologist to try to answer questions about such old remains.
Forensic anthropology applies physical anthropology and the study of the human skeleton to form expert opinions about remains, usually in a state of advanced decomposition. Age, sex, ancestry, trauma, disease, cause of death, post-mortem interval and reconstruction of the face and body are topics of this forensic science.
A forensic anthropologist’s findings and opinions can be the basis of an investigation leading to the arrest and trial of a suspect especially when the identification and condition of human remains are at issue.
A judge may allow a qualified forensic anthropologist to testify in court about his findings and opinions. A judge’s or jury’s finding of the guilt or innocence of a defendant and the truth about what happened to the victim may be determined, in great part, by a forensic anthropologist’s work and expertise.