A La Habra teenager may have discovered the final body part of 12-year-old Juan Delgado, who was found dismembered and encased in concrete blocks dumped on neighbors' lawns last March.
Fourteen-year-old Robert H. Hall went looking for his younger sister's missing pet rabbit Saturday and stumbled across a cylinder of concrete in a planter behind an abandoned nursing home in the 600 block of Walnut Street.
"I knew right away," Hall said. "I told my dad, 'Hey Dad, you remember Juan Delgado?' "
Most of Juan's body was discovered March 21, 1998, in half a dozen concrete chunks scattered across his quiet La Habra neighborhood. One chunk weighed more than 200 pounds.
The Halls said they were among the first to notify police last year after discovering one of the concrete pieces on the sidewalk in front of their house.
The only part of Juan's body that police have been unable to find is his pelvis. Orange County coroner's officials said early Sunday that La Habra police had turned over the evidence to them, and they were trying to determine if the cylinder contained any of the boy's remains.
A source familiar with the investigation said Sunday that if the latest discovery is the pelvis, it could provide strong forensic evidence of a sexual assault. A deputy coroner said that an anthropologist was among the experts lined up to do a thorough autopsy today.
John Samuel Ghobrial, 28, a one-armed Egyptian emigre who was a panhandler well-known to neighbors, is accused of molesting and murdering the boy. He had been seen with Juan and sometimes gave candy to area children. He has pleaded not guilty. He could face the death penalty after going to trial, which is set for January.
But Saturday's discovery renewed residents' fears that more than one person was involved in the dismembering of the sixth-grader.
"Somebody had to have helped him. How can a one-armed man push a 200-pound piece of concrete?" said Robert V. Hall, 42, father of the teen who stumbled onto the cylinder Saturday.
Hall's son said a friend of his later found the family rabbit decapitated under a bush nearby.
The Juan Delgado case began a little more than a year ago, when the Washington Middle School student was last seen leaving school on a Tuesday afternoon.
Five days later, shocked neighbors noticed the first of the large concrete pieces--oozing blood and tissue--half a block from where the latest one was found.
Sheriff's deputies and dogs conducted a dragnet search in a 10-block radius that day, turning up bones and several more concrete blocks that contained pieces of the boy's body.
Juan's clothes and a school detention slip, a bloody blanket, children's toys and adult magazines were all found in or near a tiny backyard shack that Ghobrial had rented on Greenwood Avenue. Saturday's find was two blocks from the shack.
Investigators last year had not ruled out the possibility that somebody helped Ghobrial. La Habra police declined comment Sunday.