Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Juan Corona: Rush to Judgment?


Unnamed victim
Unnamed victim

People were able to put some of the victims who were quickly identified with Juan Corona. It was circumstantial evidence, to be sure, but a sufficient amount of circumstantial evidence can often make the case — especially in the days before DNA analysis and high tech crime equipment. As the DA said, it can piece together a "mosaic" so compelling that the lack of physical evidence won't become an issue. For example, one victim had been talking with another job contractor when Juan Corona had driven by. That victim had shouted to the man, asking for work, and when Corona stopped to talk with him, he'd gone off with Corona.

Other victims, too, had been seen with Corona or had worked for him. In some cases, the last time a person had been seen was in Corona's company. Thus, within a day of stumbling over the graveyard, the sheriff and DA felt they had solid leads that supported a warrant for searching Corona's home, car and office. Thus prepared, they went looking for him.

Unnamed victim
Unnamed victim

They arrested him late in the afternoon of May 26 in his home. His wife and four daughters were shocked, but the sheriff ordered a team to start looking around. Kidder writes that in Corona's home, they turned up a number of potentially significant items:

  • a posthole digger
  • a hatchet
  • a meat cleaver
  • more meat receipts
  • a ledger with the names of thirty-four men
  • a stained wooden club
  • a van parked outside that appeared to have bloodstains inside, a shovel, a bag of bullets, bundles of clothing, and an eighteen-inch machete
  • Corona's Chevrolet Impala with apparent bloodstains inside

Unnamed victim
Unnamed victim

Corona also had an office on the Sullivan ranch, where the second body had been unearthed, so deputies entered it to look around. There they found a loaded pistol and a long knife on which the phrase "Tennessee Toothpick" was printed. They also found more meat receipts and a smaller knife. All of this was collected for evaluation and testing.

As they identified some of the victims, they searched the ledgers and were able to link some of the men with Juan Corona (Kidder says six, Frasier indicates seven). Yet even as these tasks were accomplished, some deputies continued to search the grounds to make certain they hadn't overlooked anything. Aircraft taking infrared photography, according to Cartel, helped to pinpoint suspicious areas. This killer had chosen a secluded spot for mass burials, but that did not mean he hadn't done the same thing elsewhere. It was a good instinct. In fact, there was more than one such clandestine graveyard.


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