In 2012, a professional dog trainer was taking a pup on a casual stroll down a trail close to the popular “Hollywood” sign in Los Angeles, when she made a gruesome discovery: a human head, severed just below the chin. Two years later, while excavating a cave near the famous sign, a city worker found severed human body parts and human tissue, wrapped in a plastic sheet.
The remains were identified as Hervey Medellin, a 66-year-old Mexicana Airlines clerk who’d been missing from his Los Angeles home since December 27, 2011. Police later found his hands and other body parts in the same area. It was the well-preserved hands that allowed authorities to identify Medellin through fingerprints.Medellin was at a “comfortable stage in his life,” according to a family member. He’d been traveling frequently, but he never failed let his friends and family know where he was going, and when he planned to return.
Detectives scoured Medellin’s immaculate apartment with a fine-tooth comb, but nothing out of the ordinary turned up. Whoever brutally murdered the airlines clerk apparently didn’t do it in Medellin’s apartment. Authorities focused on a number of different theories, but couldn’t find a connection to the murder until they focused on Medellin’s ex-boyfriend, Gabriel Campos-Martinez.
Campos-Martinez, who reported Medellin missing after he never returned from Mexico, was adamant that he had no clue why his boyfriend never came home to their shared apartment. He gave detectives a calling-card number that Medellin supposedly used while in Mexico, but Campos-Martinez said the calls simply stopped one day.
When questioned about any known enemies, Campos-Martinex mentioned William Ladewig, a man who’d dated Medellin for three years. The duo recently broke up, and according to Campos-Martinez, Ladewig became a “jilted lover,” extremely jealous of Medellin’s new relationship.
During questioning by detectives, Ladewig admitted that he’d vandalized Medellin’s apartment after they broke up. Yet, he insisted he did so only because Medellin was the “love of his life,” and that he would never physically harm him. An airtight alibi proved Ladewig was telling the truth.
With another lead cleared, several months passed without any break in the case. Stumped, detectives turned to a possible connection to Luka Magnotta, a Canadian gay porn actor convicted of killing a date and chopping up his body. Afterward, he mailed off his victim’s body parts to various addresses.
Ironically, Magnotta had previously lived in Los Angeles, and the two killings were so similar that it was definitely worth investigating. Yet, the lead turned cold when detectives discovered Magnotta was nowhere near Los Angeles during the time when Medellin was killed.
Once again out of suspects, the case was quickly turning cold. Medellin’s family members panicked, thinking that whoever killed him would get away with murder. Detectives turned their focus back to Campos-Martinez, who had, by then, moved out of state.While investigating the calling card supposedly used by Medellin while in Mexico, detectives discovered that Campos-Martinez had lied. Medellin had never used the calling card. Instead, records indicated that a close friend was using the card to call and check on Medellin. A red flag was immediately raised. Why would Campos-Martinez lie?
In September 2011, Campos-Martinez and Medellin opened a joint bank account. Shortly after Medellin’s disappearance, Campos-Martinez began transferring Medellin’s Social Security checks from Medellin’s personal account into their shared account. Was money the motive? Detectives began to suspect as much, but with only circumstantial evidence, it was difficult to prove Campos-Martinez’s involvement.
Authorities got a badly needed break after they discovered that the remains found in the Hollywood-area cave were wrapped in the same type of plastic sheeting found in Medellin’s apartment. Medellin used the sheeting to cover his art work, sheeting that Campos-Martinez had immediate access to while living with the victim.
With the suspicious bank transfers, the calling-card discrepancy, and the plastic sheeting connection, detectives had enough information to detain Campos-Martinez and charge him with Medellin’s murder. Campos-Martinez was arrested in San Antonio, Texas, where he was living with a woman he’d recently began a relationship with.
According to Los Angeles prosecutor Bobby Grace, Campos-Martinez had been financially dependent on Medellin, and became anxious and frightened when Medellin began “pulling away” from the relationship. “I think he felt the victim was going to leave him or ask him to move out,” said Grace. “He was totally dependent on Medellin financially.”
Upon further investigation, authorities learned that Campos-Martinez had pulled up an Internet article entitled, “Butchering the Human Carcass for Human Consumption” shortly before Medellin’s disappearance. The article detailed how to cut up various human body parts, and how to drain the blood. The process eerily resembled the exact manner in which Medellin had been killed and butchered.
Further, authorities located two medallions in a pawn shop that had belonged to Medellin, that were generally kept in a safe. Receipt records indicated that Campos-Martinez pawned the medallions.
Gabriel Campos-Martinez was convicted of murder in 2015. A Los Angeles judge sentenced him to 25 years to life behind bars. To this day, he still refuses to say why he killed Medellin, or give any explanations behind the bizarre decision to leave his severed body parts behind the famed “Hollywood” sign.
Tune in for more episodes of the 10-part true-crime series, People Magazine Investigates, on Mondays at 10/9c on Investigation Discovery. And watch full episodes with ID Go.
The Daily Beast
Main photo: Hollywood sign [Pixabay]