SANTA BARBARA – In 1961, 7-year-old Romona Price struck out for an adventurous trek from her family home in Santa Barbara to a new house the Price family was moving into several miles away. While in the vicinity of an exclusive Hope Ranch country club, Romona vanished. No trace of her has ever been found.
Now, 50 years later, Santa Barbara Police Department investigators have unearthed several new leads.
According to department spokesman Lt. Paul McCaffrey, four highly-trained cadaver dogs dug up an “area of interest” near the foundation of an offramp-bridge on U.S. 101 in Goleta on Wednesday.
“It’s about as strong a reaction as we could have expected,” McCaffrey announced to the media.
McCaffrey added that detectives are working leads in connection with the missing girl’s possible contact with Mack Ray Edwards, the confessed killer of a half-dozen children throughout Southern California. Edwards was a construction worker on the Winchester Canyon Bridge, which went into service shortly after Romona Price vanished. Edwards, who had boasted of as many as 20 murders while incarcerated in San Quentin following his attempted kidnapping of three San Fernando Valley girls, hanged himself in his prison cell in 1972.
Santa Barbara police Chief Cam Sanchez held an impromptu press conference at the site of the Winchester Canyon Bridge canine search.
“When Edwards was in San Quentin, he told other inmates he had victims no one would ever find because no one would ever tear up the freeways,” Sanchez noted.
While Sanchez was speaking with the press, four dogs from the Santa Clara County Sheriff’s Office volunteer Canine Specialized Search Team were alerting to brush-covered areas at the base of the bridge, which is scheduled for demolition and reconstruction this summer.
“We’re hoping and praying that some great things come out of this,” Sanchez said. “Everyone deserves some kind of closure.”