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Digging for body in 1968 slaying

Several agencies join to seek the remains of a serial killer's victim.

October 07, 2008|Andrew Blankstein | Times Staff Writer

Dozens of law enforcement and forensics experts began excavation Monday beside a freeway offramp in Moorpark where four decades earlier, they believe, child serial murderer Mack Ray Edwards disposed of a 16-year-old boy he had fatally stabbed.

Law enforcement experts planned a multistep approach in their search along the 23 Freeway for the bones of Roger Dale Madison, a neighbor and family friend whom Edwards stabbed to death in December 1968 in a Sylmar orange grove. First they will use a backhoe to remove the top layer of dirt; then they'll dig with shovels, and finally they'll brush dirt away with paintbrushes.

Traffic did not appear to be disrupted by the activity, although the southbound Tierra Rejada Road offramp will remain closed for the next 10 days as the excavation continues.

Edwards confessed to Los Angeles police in 1970 that he had killed six children in the 1950s and '60s. He later told a Los Angeles County jailer the real number of his victims was closer to two dozen.

The heavy-equipment operator and Caltrans contract employee was unable to provide a precise location where he dumped Madison's body other than to say it had been somewhere near the 23 Freeway, which was under construction at the time.

Now, after more than a year of investigation, authorities believe they know the location: beside what are now the southbound lanes of the 23 Freeway at the Tierra Rejada Road exit, just south of where the freeway bends east, becoming the 118 Freeway.

The dig for Madison's body is expected to take anywhere from days to a week or more to complete. Taking part are several dozen law enforcement and forensics personnel from agencies including the Los Angeles Police Department, Pasadena Police Department, the Los Angeles County and Ventura County sheriff's departments, Caltrans and the FBI. Forensic scientists from as far away as the Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee are providing assistance.

Work will take place each day in 10-hour shifts, beginning at 6 a.m. The LAPD is also taking the unusual step of live-streaming the work on LAPD TV, part of the department's official website. They are also letting the media view the operation from a vantage point above the Tierra Rejada Road offramp.

Police hope this latest move brings closure for Madison's surviving family members. They also hope publicity about the case could lead to more clues about Edwards' other victims.

Edwards hanged himself in a San Quentin State Prison cell in 1971.

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andrew.blankstein@ latimes.com

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