Crime & Courts

Merc stolen in 1992 found buried behind killer’s mansion

A Mercedes-Benz reported stolen decades ago was found filled with bags of unused concrete and buried about 1.5m underground on a SIlicon Valley mansion property.

Cadaver dogs searched the Atherton property and authorities used a ground-penetrating radar to search for “anything unusual”, the Atherton Police Department said in a news release.

Despite the dogs making what authorities described as “a slight notification of possible human remains”, police said no remains were found. The Mercedes, a convertible, was reported stolen in 1992 in nearby Palo Alto. The car, police said, may have been buried on the property sometime that decade.

The property on which the buried Mercedes was discovered near the back of the garden.

Police have not said to whom the car belonged. They said they believe the owner was dead, though they are awaiting confirmation from the state’s Department of Motor Vehicles. Police added that they believe the vehicle was buried long before the current owners moved into the $15 million home. The owners notified police when the landscapers made the discovery.

The owner of the house at the time the car was reported stolen in 1992 was Johnny Bocktune Lew, who sold the house in 2014. Lew had a criminal history and spent time in prison after convictions for murder and attempted murder.

So far, police have not confirmed a connection between Lew and the buried car. Lew built the Atherton house in 1990, the San Francisco Chronicle reported. His daughter, 34-year-old Jacq Searle, who once lived there with Lew and her mother, told the paper she was shocked to learn the car was buried on the property. Her father died in 2015.

Karen Gervasi, the woman the former owner of the home, Johnny Bocktune Lew, was convicted for killing.

Lew was convicted of second-degree murder for the shooting death of his mistress, Karen Gervasi, in 1965.

In 1968, the California Supreme Court overturned the conviction, citing hearsay statements that were improperly admitted into evidence.

In 1977, Lew was convicted of two counts of attempted murder in Los Angeles County in a separate crime and spent three years in prison, the Chronicle reported.

In 1999, Lew was again arrested. Law enforcement officials said he paid undercover agents tens of thousands of dollars in cash and gold watches to sink a $1.2 million, 56-foot twin-engine yacht to pocket insurance money, the Chronicle reported at the time. The outcome of the case is unclear.

Searle told the Chronicle that she spent her early years visiting her father in prison and described her upbringing as dysfunctional.

“I feel like all of us grew up with a certain amount of trauma in the household,” Searle told the paper.

And of the car found buried in her childhood yard, she said: “This wouldn’t surprise me, just based on how sketchy my father was.”

The Mercedes was removed from the property over the weekend. Atherton police said it had not been determined whether their investigation was “criminal or non-criminal”.

The Washington Post

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