Investigators continue digging for clues in Glendora woman’s 1978 disappearance

WENDY BYRON

Sheriff’s and coroner’s investigators embarked on a second day of digging in a Glendora backyard Thursday as they continued searching for clues in the missing person case of a 24-year-old woman who vanished without a trace in 1978.
Sheriff’s Homicide detectives and a coroner’s Special Operations Team joined Glendora police in the search, which began about 8 a.m. Wednesday in the 500 block of Essex Street, Deputy Kim Manatt said in a statement.
They were seeking information about the disappearance of Wendy Susan Byron, a former resident of the home who was last seen in Glendora on Aug. 26, 1978 , according to the California Department of Justice.
The disappearance was considered “suspicious,” Lt. Holly Francisco of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Homicide Bureau said. “Why does a 24-year-old just disappear.”
“Nothing’s been found at this point,” Francisco said Thursday morning, adding that the current homeowners have been “highly cooperative” with the investigators.
Officials worked through the day until sundown Wednesday, and resumed their dig Thursday morning.
The case was reopened as Glendora police were going through cold case in recent weeks, Francisco said.
After determining the department had exhausted its investigative avenues, the case was turned over to sheriff’s officials about two weeks ago, the lieutenant added.
The search on Essex Street was simply follow up on that investigation, and not the result of a new clue which directed detectives back to the missing woman’s former home, Francisco said.
“No new piece of evidence popped up in the past two weeks,” she said.
Investigators hoped advances in technology might help them unearth clues that were not found during the original investigation.
“Thirty-five years ago, obviously, they didn’t have the equipment and technology we have today,” Francisco said.
Officials Wednesday used ground penetrating radar to get a glimpse beneath the soil.
“There was an anomaly,” Francisco said. “They can’t say what it was. It could be a rock.”
Officials had not yet unearthed the anomalous object Thursday.
The search focused on a patch of the northeast corner of the backyard about 12 feet by 12 feet across, Francisco said. She declined to discuss what led investigators to focus their attention there.
Coroner’s officials completed digging “spot holes” in the excavation area Thursday morning, and investigators were waiting on a backhoe to begin peeling away layers of the ground, down to about 3 feet in depth, Francisco said.
Cadaver dogs from the Los Angeles County Department of Coroner were also used in the search Wednesday and Thursday, Francisco added, though their ability to detect any potential human remains after such a long period of time was uncertain.
The case has remained classified as a “suspicious missing person” investigation, and authorities had not confirmed foul play.
Shortly after her disappearance, Byron’s car was later found at Ontario International Airport, according to the NamUs and Doe network national missing persons databases.
Byron and her husband used to live at the Essex Street home. The husband couldn’t be reached for comment Thursday.
The name Robert G. Byron appears in deed documents on the Essex Street house until May 1994. World Savings & Loans bought the property the next month. It was sold two more times.
As officials continued their work Thursday morning, a small group of neighbors gathered to talk.
One said she had lived in the neighborhood since 1975, but declined to comment further.
A woman who lives next door described the current residents as “a very nice couple.”

- Brian Day and Ruby Gonzales

PHOTO of Wendy Byron courtesy of the California Department of Justice.

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