Long Beach police have found the 1995 Ford Mustang missing since last week from a hilltop mansion in Lemon Heights, where a 49-year-old man and his mother were shot to death and set ablaze along with the home.
The car, with the license plates removed, was found at 11:23 p.m. Sunday by officers on routine patrol in Long Beach near the border of Signal Hill, Long Beach Police Officer Maria Luisa Mendez said. The Mustang had been the subject of an intense search since Wednesday, when it was reported missing after sheriff's investigators found the charred bodies of John Tyler Hancock VI and Helen Bauerle Hancock, 76.
Orange County Sheriff's Lt. Ron Wilkerson said that Hancock and his mother died from "strangulation and bleeding as a result of gunshot wounds" at their rented million-dollar home about 12:30 p.m. Wednesday. Authorities said the killer or killers then set fire to the home and the bodies.
Authorities hope the Mustang will contain clues to the identity of the killers, but they would not say what they hope to find. The car was impounded by sheriff's investigators and brought to Santa Ana, where it was being examined Monday by forensic experts.
Mendez said Long Beach police found the car parked on a street, which they would not name. On Monday, Wilkerson said, sheriff's investigators were walking through the area interviewing people, looking for possible witnesses.
"We're working the area right now. It's possible that the suspect or suspects may still be in the area," Wilkerson said. "Hopefully, by talking to people, we'll come up with something."
Investigators don't know if the killings were committed by one or more people, nor whether they were related to John Hancock's financial problems, Wilkerson said.
In 1988, Hancock was sentenced to three years in prison for failure to pay $3 million owed to banks and other lenders.
At the time of his death, he was under investigation in Arizona for allegedly running up a $40,000 bill on a credit card he obtained in the name of another person.
The fire that gutted the 4,000-square-foot home at the 11300 block of Dannen Drive was intentionally set, Orange County Fire Authority spokesman Scott Brown confirmed Monday, but he would not say how it was started.
Last week, authorities said evidence at the scene indicated the fire was set both upstairs and downstairs.
Both bodies were burned beyond recognition, authorities said. Helen Hancock's body was found in the kitchen, and her son's body was found in the backyard.
His two teenage children, John and Ashley, were not home at the time.
The missing red Mustang belonged to Ashley Hancock and had personalized Arizona plates that read "Ashley."