Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

The Kidnapping and Murder of Brooke Hart

'Hardly Recognizable!'

Police divers continued their search for Brooke Hart in the murky waters of San Francisco Bay. As they scoured the bottom of the channel near the San Mateo Bridge, other officers used grappling hooks from rowboats to drag the muddy flats for possible remains. Almost two weeks had passed since the day of the kidnapping and if the confessions were reliable, Hart would have been in the water since November 9. At the lower portion of the bridge, police found evidence that Hart was still alive when he was thrown into the water and may have even tried to climb the steel columns.

"A ring of broken and clawed barnacles on one of the piles, high above the water line." The San Francisco Chronicle reported, "showed where the boy had clung, desperately hurt, in a frantic battle of youth against death. Weakened by loss of blood, and possible wounds inflicted by his two confessed murderers, his cries lessened as he slipped into the dark waters." Though Hart was a strong swimmer, it was doubtful if he could have held on for long after being hit with a rock and perhaps several gunshots. Divers at the bridge location retrieved a quantity of bailing wire and several concrete blocks. Strands of blonde hair were plainly visible on a section of the wire. Police became revitalized by the discovery. Following the tide tables of November 9-10 and making an educated guess, they concentrated their search on the western side of the bay and along the rocky shoreline. Investigators knew that in the past, bodies drifted from the bridge area onto the mud flats of the Alameda shore.

On the morning of November 26, two Redwood City residents, who were hunting for ducks, noticed a small bundle floating in the water less than one mile south of the San Mateo bridge. When they saw it was a corpse, they pulled it on board and notified the coroner's office in Alameda County. The body was decomposed and severely damaged by crabs and eels. The face and hair had been eaten away and the hands and feet were destroyed. Dr. Proescher, who performed the post-mortem examination, told the press, "The remains were hardly recognizable...the abdomen had been entirely removed and practically all of the upper portion of the body was missing." However, the clothes were still mostly intact. There was also a gold clasp inserted into the shirt's collar. The Arrow shirt and the pants were the same kind carried by the Hart's department store. One of Hart's closet friends, Charles O'Brian was summoned to the coroner's office. After careful consideration, he was able to positively identify the remains as that of Brooke Hart.

Only a few hours after Brooke Hart was found, someone threw a rock at the front door of the county jail in downtown San Jose.

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