Hollywood Head Was Mex Drug Cartel Hit
It was a murder mystery made for Hollywood, as well as made in Hollywood…
Two weeks ago, on a hiking trail in the shadow of the iconic Hollywood Sign, a decapitated human head was found in a plastic bag.
It was a moment many have dreaded, when the Drug War raging in Mexico and along the U.S.-Mexican Border finally spilled over into Anytown USA.
The LAPD, the law enforcement agency in charge of the investigation, has apparently been too busy with local crime to realize that decapitation has become a Mexican drug cartel’s signature atrocity.
They announced that until they had a motive, the killers could be anyone.
"Without identifying the victim, and without knowing why this person was killed, and the people that's he's associated with, it could be anything," said Commander Andrew Smith, the officer in charge of the investigation, and chief spokeman in the case.
But that's not strictly true. A lot of men kill their wives. Very few cut their heads off. That shrinks the pool of potential suspects somewhat.
The LAPD announced they had a 100-person crime team of detectives, criminologists and search & rescue specialists on the severed head case. Maybe they should get them all in a room somewhere to brainstorm a little. Get their thinking caps on. Ask questions. Think outside the box.
Guys, you've got a severed head case to solve. Hmm. Severed head, severed heads… Where are they seeing a lot of that sort of thing these days?
Few noticed the potentially dire consequences. Police didn’t mention it. Neither did reporters. Why?
Because there was a cover-up. Yes, but why was there a cover-up?
Ay, that's the real question, now, isn't it? This is the story of how it went down.
Dog days in Hollywood
Two professional dog-watchers, a mother and daughter, are running nine dogs in their charge on a hiking trail which leads up to the famous Hollywood Sign, a half-mile past the road that winds up through Bronson Canyon Park's front gate.
The neighborhood is filled with the homes of the rich and famous, like Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie, whose mansion is nearby. Many of them are willing to pay dog-watchers to exercise their dogs for them.
And it’s a dog who steps up to fill the hero’s role in the story. On the hike, a golden retriever named “Ollie” strayed from the pack—as is his wont, say the dogwatchers—to go off and explore.
"One of the dogs ran into the brush,” walker Lauren Kornberg told local reporters. "He was going crazy. He was digging, digging, digging… Digging, and barking."
Ollie emerged from the bushes carrying a round plastic grocery bag in his mouth. “He trotted back with a shredded plastic bag, and then dropped it, and let it roll down the hill.”
Before the bag came to rest, something fell out that looked like a human head.
An alternate Universe
The area where the head is lying, Bronson Canyon, dead-ends at a rustic park that’s been used for filming movies and TV shows for decades. It’s the home of the Bat Cave. It's where they used to film Batman.
When they’ve stumbled into the presence of a recently-severed head, many say they experienced the event as unreal in the middle of an atmosphere of unreality.
For her part, Lauren Kornberg’s reaction wasn’t shock and horror. She didn’t go ‘eeek!’ “I didn’t think anything of it,” she explained to reporters. “I thought it was a prop.”
Her older companion disagreed, and started scrambling down the hill. She said, “It looked like a redhead to me.”
The women moved in for a closer look. ""Even as we got closer, we still couldn't say for sure whether it was … real,” Kornberg said. “Until my mom was literally about a foot away, face to face, and could see bloody hair and eyeballs…”
“I heard her gasp. ‘It's real, oh my God, it's real.’”
Police immediately closed the park. A search for more body parts commenced. Late the next day a coroner’s cadaver dog named Indiana Bones found two hands and two feet.
Police got fingerprints from one of the hands. They belonged to a missing 66-year old Hollywood resident named Hervey Medellin.
The head was his too.
Hacking the story of the Hollywood Head
The head found in Hollywood, or the Hollywood Head, as it inevitably came to be called, received extensive but not very serious news coverage.
Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie’s Hollywood Hills mansion was very near the spot of the gruesome discovery. There was a rumor (erroneous) that someone from his security detail might be involved.
The location of Medellin’s death was unknown. But police said it did not occur inside Medellin’s Hollywood apartment, and not inside Griffith Park either.
What police did know was one important piece of information about the grisly find that was somehow kept from the public, a detail which must have been instantly-obvious to investigators at the scene, and to any well-informed journalist.
The murder, decapitation, and placement of the severed human head— in a spot where it was sure to be found—was the work of one of the brutally-murderous Mexican Drug Cartels.
Who's in the business of cutting people's heads off these days? Ask any 14-year male. Beheadings are their signature atrocity. Decapitation is an almost-daily occurrence in Mexico.
Police didn’t mention it. Neither did reporters.
Let’s Play Lead Detective
A human head is lying in the shadow of the Hollywood Sign, after being discovered by a dog belonging to a Hollywood publicist.
It’s a drug cartel's dream. It's the ultimate narco-banner.
And it’s a circumstance that more than hints that the murder was left intentionally-visible, done in a way 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.
For the next 48 hours, police helicopters and news-station choppers would be jockeying for space over the site.
Location location location
"Griffith Park is a huge, rugged expanse on the other side of the hill,” explained LAPD Officer Bruce Borihahn. “Usually that’s the dumping place for bodies.”
“This marked the first time police could recall finding a head or other body part,” an on-air reporter from KTLA intoned, “on the Hollywood side of the hill.”
Hervey Medellin’s partner in an apartment reported him missing to police on January 9, after the resident failed to return.
He was a Mexican national with no local relatives. But he had a brother and sister in Laredo, Texas, a city which is to drug traffickers what Vienna is to opera buffs.
Medellin was retired. He was a flight attendant on Mexicana Airlines for 20 years.
At the same time, he is said to have owned what became an immediate source of concern to many of his friends and family: an extensive and highly-valuable art collection.
The initial reaction of several friends and family members in Laredo was to inquire of reporters whether the art collection had been stolen.
It was an art collection, it would seem, which was clearly way out of reach for someone working on a flight attendant’s salary.
The criminal hierarchy of Mexico
Hervey Medellin, a Mexican national, resided in Hollywood for years. Before that he spent 20 years as a flight attendant at Mexicana Airlines.
Anecdotally, when it comes to drug smuggling, Mexicana Airlines was for many years known as, drug-wise, Mexico’s national carrier.The reason was simple.
While Hervey Medellin worked at Mexicana, his boss, the airline’s owner, was a powerful Mexican “industrialist” named Jose Serrano Segovia.
Serrano was a man with a checkered past.
Today Serrano stands at Number 68 on the list of 100 Richest and Most Powerful Men in Mexico…
But Chilean prosecutors once accused Serrano of being a member of the Cali Cartel. (Back in the day, when Cali was the most powerful cartel in the world.)
Serrano was more recently accused in published reports of using his numerous transportation companies (airlines, trucking companies, and railroads) to smuggle drugs into the United States.
Moreover Jose Serrano Segovia is a figure in the most visible drug move of the century so far, the seizure of a St. Petersburg-based DC-9 carrying 5.5 tons of cocaine onboard which eventually led Wachovia Bank, at the time the nation’s 4th largest, to cease to exist.
(A closer look at Medellin’s employer, and the criminal hierarchy in Mexico, will be in a second story. There’s a lot to tell.)
"A gay man in Griffith Park, what'd you expect?"
“It's like something out of 'The Godfather!' " exclaimed L.A. city council member Tom LaBonge, who hikes in Griffith Park almost every day.
Renee Dake Wilson, who walks her boxer-pit bull mix Sweet Pea near the park, told the L.A. Times she’d been unnerved by the find. "I'm a little worried,” she said. “It's a concern to have such an event happen in your neighborhood. But I do think it's an isolated event."
A Medellin friend named Vilma Aguilar told KCBS-TV that Medellin often hiked through Griffith Park, and that during one hike last year met a new “friend.”
This will become one line of speculation, that there was something about Griffith Park so that travelers there could reasonably expect to face a greater than usual chance of decapitation.
The other line of speculation was: Medellin was gay. He lived with a man. Maybe gay men in Hollywood regularly turn up decapitated. Who knew? Newspapers said Medellin’s boyfriend told friends Medellin left their home after Christmas to vacation in Tijuana.
That alone—at this point in time—was more than passing strange. There’s a war there. Who vacations in Tijuana?
"Go back to your homes and wait for the All Clear!"
The LAPD understandably wanted the citizens of Los Angeles to know that the murder was targeted, and not the act of a serial killer. Police said they were working round the clock to hunt down the retiree's killer.
'They did serve a search warrant last night. They are following clues, and the case is progressing,” Commander Andrew Smith told reporters a few days later.
Medellin's boyfriend wasn't convinced. The last time he heard Hervey Medellin’s voice, he told police, was in a phone call in early January. On January 9th he reported him missing.
That was all he knew. He said, "I am afraid for my life.”
"The detectives continue to make progress in investigating the case and reveal more details as possible," said a Police Department spokesman. While generally a safe area, "we ask visitors to be cautious, to be walking with friends, do not go alone."
“This is an unusual occurrence,” said Officer Rosario Herrera with the Los Angeles Police Department. “There’s no evidence at the scene that the crime occurred there. In fact, it looks like the head was placed in that location.”
“There’s no reason to believe that this is part of any kind of a series,” said Smith in a news briefing. He noted that the canyon is well-travelled by both cars and hikers, with picnic areas and a children's playground. “There’s no other evidence to indicate that this is anything besides just a single, individual isolated occurrence.”
"A single isolatated occurence"
Two weeks later, the decapitation of Hervey Medellin remains unsolved, and officially mysterious and baffling. “A motive for the murder has not been determined,” said the L.A. Times.
“The death of Hervey Medellin, the dismembered resident of Hollywood, remains a mystery,” reported the Associated Press.
The discovery did reveal something, however, but its only a mystery to people who haven’t been paying attention: the lengths the U.S. Government will go to suppress news it finds inconvenient in America’s “War on Drugs.”
The fiercely-fought Drug War in Mexico has until now been largely confined inside Mexico, and along the U.S.-Mexico Border. But the public beheading of Hervey Medellin is a salvo across the bow from that conflict that landed in the U.S.
“Was it a random attack?” asked a headline in a London tabloid. In a sub-head, the paper supplied its own answer.
"Hollywood beheading victim regularly hiked through park where his body parts were found. Lived near rugged, hillside and met roommate while hiking with his dogs."
Peddling wolf cookies to the Great Unwashed
“You can report that story if you want to,” he said, “but we have nothing new to report about any aspect of the case, other than to say that we’re doing our investigation.”
In any event, the decapitation is already yesterday’s news. After the initial flurry of publicity, there have been no new stories about the Hollywood Head mystery for at least ten days now.
Think. Just since then, in the last ten days, Pat Sajak’s admitted hosting 'Wheel of Fortune' while drunk… A helicopter rescued a woman from a cliff in Pasadena… And a mother got death from a jury for killing her husband and children with a pillow and a sword.(?)
A Great White Shark was spotted off Imperial Beach… Police said a woman offered sexual favors for Chicken McNuggets… And a man was awarded $7 million in a penis-shortening accident.
I mentioned to the police detective I had on the phone that any list of career flight attendants with museum quality art collections must be a short one. Then I asked:
Could Hervey Medellin’s career as a flight attendant have just been his ‘cover’ for a more lucrative kind of employment?
The detective’s response was to repeat his previous no comment.
And why not? Time is clearly on his side.