Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

The Murder of Radio Legend Steven B. Williams

What the Coroner Found


On May 22, 2006, Los Angeles Sheriff's Sgt. Ken Clark was on a rotation from the Homicide Unit to receive the next case. He was summoned to the Coroner's Office to witness the autopsy of the man found floating near Santa Catalina Island.

The medical examiner had x-rayed the skull of the victim and found a bullet lodged inside with the entry wound on the back of the head. The body was practically devoid of blood. The three missing fingers appeared to have been surgically removed and the body was clad in expensive deck shoes, the kind that would likely be worn by a yacht owner or skipper.

No other form of identification was found on the body. The coroner took dental records and inserted fluid into the fingertips so that they could be expanded enough to give fingerprints. So far, they had no particular missing persons to whom to compare the records. The area where the body was found is a major international shipping line between Asia and the West.

"I thought, 'Please don't let this be Vladimir from some Russian trawler or I'll never figure this out,'" Clark said.

After Clark left, the Coroner's Office received a phone call from Leo Rossi. Rossi was a high-powered entertainment executive who had once managed the rock bank Fleetwood Mac. He had been friends with notable disc jockey Steven B. Williams, who was missing, and wanted to know if the coroner had any unfortunate news.

Barnacles example
Barnacles example
The call was passed along to Clark, who asked, "Can you tell me anything that would identify him?"

"Well, he had three missing fingers that he lost in high school," Rossi said. A dental record match confirmed Rossi's fears.

The barnacles were removed and given to a curator at the Natural History Museum in Los Angeles. His job was to determine the age of the tiny creatures that affix to seagoing objects and then decide how long Williams had been floating in the ocean. The answer: somewhere between five and 15 days.

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