The following article first appeared in the Wednesday, March 31, 1971 edition of “The OJAI VALLEY NEWS” on the front page. It is reprinted here with their permission. The author is unknown. The photo of Ronald Hughes was added to this article by the “Ojai Valley Museum”.
Body found in Sespe area probably Manson attorney
Ventura County sheriff’s deputies traveled to Los Angeles today to pick up dental records which will conclusively tell if the body found Saturday in the Sespe area is that of missing Manson case attorney Ronald Hughes.
Although the body is the right size and a friend has said he is “firmly of the opinion that it is Hughes,” tests conducted so far by the Sheriff’s Department and the county coroner have proved inconclusive. The body was of a large man. Hughes weighed 235 pounds.
Hughes disappeared in the remote area of the Sespe Hot Springs during a sudden storm Thanksgiving weekend. The body, found Saturday by two fishermen, lay in ice cold water about 7 miles south-east of the hot springs, the Sheriff’s Department said. The spot is in the middle of the Condor refuge near Pigeon Flat, close to the west fork of the Sespe Creek and Alder Creek.
Although search and rescue teams and a mystic-led party had combed the general hot springs area, they had not entered the region where the body was found.
“It was not searched before because the area is so rugged and the creek was up so far it was inaccessible,” a sheriff deputy said. “The area is known as the narrows. The creek runs from mountain to mountain.”
Although the fishermen found the body Saturday, it was not reported to the Sheriff’s Department until Sunday night. The body was lifted out by helicopter Monday and taken to Skillin Mortuary in Santa Paula.
Same head form
The body was naked except for remnants of a shirt around the neck. Although the head was battered beyond recognition apparently from the body being washed downstream, officials said the remains were quite well preserved by the icy water.
Autopsy work began Tuesday and is expected to take another couple of days. There were no outward signs of foul play. Along with dental records, fingerprints will be used to aid in the identification.
Samples of Hughes’ fingerprints were provided by the lawyer’s friend, Paul Fitzgerald, also a defense attorney in the Manson case. Fitzgerald was in Ventura County Tuesday to view the body. He said he was positive it was Hughes’:
“He had a strange shaped head, sort of a majestic configuration,” Fitzgerald said. “The head is the same. Some of the beard is still there.”
The discovery of the body came on the same day that Charles Manson and his three female co-defendants were given the death penalty for committing the Tate-LaBianca murders.