SAN ANDREAS, Calif. — After more than three decades of not knowing the whereabouts of their family members, DNA technology may finally identify those missing in the Leonard Lake and Charles Ng murders from the 1980's in Calaveras County.
"The advancement of DNA technology has greatly increased over the years, specifically to a point where we think we're very hopeful we can return or legally find out who the victims are in the crime." said Lt. Greg Stark of the Calaveras County Sheriff's Department.
Following a two-year process, the sheriff's department's Cold Case Unit got court approval to open the crypt at the People's Cemetery in San Andreas.
About a week ago, the remains kept in the crypt were exhumed. More than 10 "next of kin" were notified, according to Stark.
73-year old Sharon Sellitto of Granville, Ohio was notified in July by law enforcement to have a DNA sample taken.
Her brother, then 39-year old Paul Cosner, is believed to be a victim of Lake and Ng when he disappeared on November 2nd, 1984 in San Francisco.
"It's been many decades but I still hadn't given up hope finding my brother's body," Sellitto said.
Living in San Francisco in 1984, Cosner showed a car he had for sale to Lake who answered a newspaper ad. Sellitto said Lake and Ng initially passed on the car but later returned.
"Lake thought he looked like Paul enough to use his ID, so that's why they came back to steal the car and to kill him," Sellitto said.
Lake owned a cabin on a large piece of property in the remote mountain town of Wilseyville, northeast of San Andreas.
Victims were taken there and tortured, raped, and murdered while being videotaped inside a makeshift bunker and then buried on the property.
In 1985, Lake was arrested but swallowed cyanide pills that he had sewn in his clothing and died. Ng fled to Canada, but he was eventually extradited, tried and convicted for 11 murders. He is currently on death row at San Quentin State Prison.
Victim's family members like Sharon Sellito finally feel closure is within reach.
"I just don't want him in this killing fields for the rest of eternity. I want him back in Ohio and next to mother," an emotional Sellitto said via a Zoom call.
Investigators said it will take several months before they have the DNA results.