CALIFORNIA CITY – NBC’s Dateline news magazine show featured the eight unsolved cases in California City on a broadcast that aired recently.
The story include interviews with then California City Police Sgt. Tim O’Quinn who was recently promoted to interim Police Chief upon the retirement of Chief Eric Hurtado.
The video “Eight Cold Cases, One Small Town” also shows police investigating a tip on a possible body at the bottom of a mineshaft in Randsburg.
Phillip “Pete” Hammond has been missing since July of 2017; Deverrie Schiller was found strangled to death in Central Park on June 26, 2016; Robert Austin Tharp has been missing since July 5, 2014; Demetri Thomas was the victim of a drive-by shooting in 2014; former California City Planning Commissioner Charles Pieper was murdered in his home during what police believe was a home invasion robbery in 2012; Desiree Thompson has been missing since January 2012; Matthew Lininger was killed as he slept in a bed at his girlfriend’s house in 2010 and Dr. Burdette Thorbus was murdered in 2001 in what police believe was a botched burglary.
There is a $25,000 reward for information leading to arrest and conviction on each case.
Debi Fones, mother of Schiller, says she is pleased to see the cases getting more attention.
“I can assure you the evidence is definitely there,” she said. “Something will happen and very likely sooner than later. “It may not be a direct result of the above video but as a result of good police work.”
Fones has also started a gofundme page to fund a memorial for the eight victims at Central Park. The project is called 4 Our 8 - Boo’s Oasis – Boo was one of the nicknames Fones had for her daughter – and can be found at: www.gofund me.com/f/1qgjrs7u2o
“After almost three years of praying for an arrest, I got permission from the city to carry out my tribute for Our 8,” said Fones. “I contacted the best contractor in our area to help make my dream a reality. It just so happened that the best contractor is also the brother of missing person Philip “Pete” Hammond and that’s how we came to this place and this moment. This campaign is all about raising the money to make this dream a reality.
“It’s all about honoring Our 8. I need to make this happen, not just for my baby girl, but for all the loved ones still waiting for closure. Our 8 mattered and I need them to know that.”
The Kern County Secret Witness line is (661) 322-4040; O’Quinn can be reached at (661) 752-3074.
The Dateline video can be viewed online at: https://youtu.be/_gE_e7-l0jg