Jeep Recovered from Malibu Canyon Bottom May Hold Clues to Double Murder
• Evidence Recovered from Crash Scene Indicates Simi Couple’s Death ‘Was Not an Accident’
BY ANNE SOBLE
BY ANNE SOBLE
A Sheriff’s Mountain Search and Rescue crew and a sizable contingent of law enforcement personnel oversaw use of a Vietnam-era Sikorsky helicopter crane to hoist a vehicle from the bottom of a 700-foot cliff on Malibu Canyon Road in the search for evidence in an apparent double homicide.
The 1999 Jeep Cherokee belonged to a Simi Valley couple, whose bodies were found near its wreckage in September 2007. Robert Callender, 63, and his wife Barbara, 62, had been reported missing by family members a month earlier.
The Callenders’ deaths were first described by authorities as accidental. Their SUV remained in the spot about two miles above Pacific Coast Highway where it had landed, and began to be assimilated by the rugged terrain.
Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Homicide Lt. Liam Gallagher told the Malibu Surfside News that suspicions surfaced not long after formal investigation got under way. “Experts studying the case began to raise questions.”
Gallagher said, “It was not an accident. We have been investigating this for over a year,” and added, “We have physical evidence we recovered at the crash site that indicates it was a homicide.”
The detective said that he could not provide any other details, but Gallagher indicated the vehicle went over the cliff “at the hands of others,” which is being interpreted to mean that the LASD believes someone may have pushed the car over the cliff.
Members of the Search and Rescue team that were lowered into the steep ravine in Sunday’s dangerous retrieval effort told The News that the remains of another half dozen vehicles are still scattered about the canyon floor.
The California Highway Patrol, the lead agency in most of the traffic accidents on local canyon roads, announced last year that it has been removing dozens of vehicle hulks from the Malibu-Santa Monica Mountains area.
CHP West Valley Public Information Officer Leland Tang said, regarding the ones that remain, “The high cost and risk to personnel involved in removing vehicles in extremely inaccessible areas has to be weighed against any detriment to the environment.”
The need to remove the Callenders’ vehicle at this point in time was mandated by the evidence it is expected to provide, according to Lt. Gallagher.
He estimated the cost of bringing the car up from its yearlong resting place to be about $12,500.