was the most conspicuous head disposal in living memory.
It’s been four weeks since a decapitated human head was
found beside a well-traveled hiking trail leading to the
iconic Hollywood Sign. The head was in a plastic bag underneath
a bush, virtually right next door to Brad Pitt and Angelina
Jolie's Hollywood Hills home.
It was there for no more than a few hours, investigators
believe, before a golden retriever belonging to a top Hollywood
publicist nosed it out and plopped it down for all to see.
It was a moment many have dreaded, when the vicious drug
war raging in Mexico finally spilled over into Anytown USA.
Being just a hundred or so miles north of the country that’s
the world capital of severed heads was enough to make some
think of names—Los Zetas, the Sinaloa Cartel— that Americans
have so far only had to read about in newspapers.
But the moment passed without notice. The police agency
in charge of the case, the LAPD, went all out to discourage
speculation that the head was the grisly work of a Mexican
Head had 'no idea' it might be discovered
On the four week anniversary of the discovery, authorities
have nothing to report on efforts to solve the crime. A
phone call to the LAPD’s Robbery-Homicide Division revealed
only that “the investigation is ongoing.”
A detective who identified himself as being assigned to
the case answered a question about the frequency of decapitation
in Southern California by saying he had "no clue"
how many decapitations Southern California experiences annually.
Has beheading become an indigenous phenomenon in L.A. just since I left?
Still, however rare it may be, it was completely safe to
say that the head was no — repeat not — a message left in
the heart of America's dream factory by any Mexican drug
The reason, according to LAPD Commander Andrew Smith, was
simple. "The head was never meant to be found.”
Severed Head Disposal 101
"The remains may have been disturbed by animals at
some point” Smith stated. “But we believe that everything
was hidden off the trail. Whoever put it there did not want
it to be found.”
If true, it instantly became the most inept severed head
disposal in recent history. Disposing of a decapitated human head by leaving
it next door to Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie’s house is
clearly not a winning criminal strategy.
People sell maps to the stars on almost every corner leading
into the Hollywood Hills. Picking a neighborhood less flush
with A-list movie stars would have been the way to go.
Moreover Pitt already had a history with severed heads, Entertainment
Tonight reported breathlessly, going back to when he starred
in the movie Se7en.
Maya Rudolph & the Hollywood Head
Finally, if it is even remotely possible for the first dog to stumble onto
where-ever you've decided to drop the head will belong to
a top Hollywood publicist... you're asking for trouble.
The dog that found the head, Ollie, a golden retriever,
belonged to a good friend of SNL and Bridesmaid’s star Maya
Rudolph, who told her story on Conan.
When Ollie dragged a plastic bag with the head of Hervey
Medellin out from under a bush, it signaled more than
just a dashed bit of bad luck. It was beyond incompetent.
However, if on the other hand,
you wanted the head to be found, the placement
was brilliant. The celebrity connection quickly turned the
story into a three-ring media circus.
But, LAPD Commander Andrew Smith emphasized to reporters,
that's not what happened. "Whoever put it there did
not want it to be found.”
“Without identifying the victim, and without identifying
who he was associated with, it could be anything,” Smith
“There is no indication that this was a serial case;
there’s no indication that there’s more than one victim
here. What we have, by all appearances, is a single
A freshly-carved head, visible to all
the severed head just a case of a criminal scratching his
head at his hide-out, wishing, in retrospect, he’d buried
the head somewhere where it would have been less noticeable?
Probably not. For starters,
LAPD Commander Andrew Smith’s statement was contradicted
by an LAPD officer who was physically present at the crime
scene on the night of the discovery.
The remains had not been there long enough to have been
disturbed by animals.
“The head appears to be rather new," stated LAPD Sgt
Mitzi Fierro, as the coroner prepared to remove the head
later that night. “There aren’t any signs of decomposition
More importantly, there had been no attempt to conceal the
crime. The head was clearly visible from the hiking
“It was not far off the trail,” Fierro told reporters. “It
was visible to passers-by. They were able to see it without
walking off the trail.”
"Its not that kind of severed head"
It is safe to say this was one of the more conspicuous head
disposals in recent memory. The head couldn’t have
more publicity if it had bounced out of an open trunk into
the fast lane of the Hollywood Freeway at rush hour.
It was all over the news.
The LAPD sent a spokesman to shape the wild imaginings of
an unruly crowd of reporters from the international media.
But he did it by saying things which were not—in point of
Still, it worked. No one questioned him closely. No one
demanded proof. Police had no motive, and no suspects, didn’t
know where Medellin had been the last three weeks of his
life, nor where he was murdered.
But what he did know, with an apparent rock-solid
conviction, was that the head was never meant to be found.
Getting ready for the real drug war
Drug Cartels regularly use the placement of severed heads
to make statements. And leaving a decapitated human head
next door Angelina Jolie’s house is certainly one way of
making a statement.
Even Nancy Grace could see that.
“It appears to many crime scene analysts, including
myself,” she said on her show on Headline News, “that its
as if the perpetrator wanted the severed human head to be
found. It was not left in a dumpster to be sent to be crushed
and put into a landfill. It was not in some remote area.
It was right there on a hiking trail.”
"You're right," replied a correspondent from the
"There are people around here all the time, hiking
walking sight-seeing. Almost every day someone says to me,
"how do I get to the Hollywood Sign?"
seems this person had nothing to fear, and nothing to hide."
The severed head was intentionally-visible, and placed at
a spot almost guaranteed to provide maximum media exposure.
Right out in the open in the middle of the day and in front
of everybody... somebody sent a message to somebody else.
And this is how something big—the
intrusion of Mexican drug cartels—was
concealed in a news story that received saturation coverage
around the globe for three days in a row.
NEXT: More on the Hollywood
Head, Mexicana Airlines, and the Corporatization of the