Human remains found near Castaic in 2017 identified

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After an investigation lasting more than three years, the human remains found in a hilly, rugged stretch of terrain near Templin Highway in 2017 have been positively identified as belonging to a Palm Springs man who vanished in 2008.

In April 2017, surveyors found what they thought were human remains and phoned the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, sparking a search by homicide detectives and investigators with the L.A. County Coroner’s Office, with investigators gathering a human skull, jawbone and some teeth before the week was out.

“The Special Operations Recovery team of the Coroner’s Department collected the skull and teeth and they’re going back to the Coroner’s Office with them,” Sgt. William Cotter of the L.A. County Sheriff Department told The Signal in May 2017, noting it might be “months” before dental forensic work can point to a victim.

Only recently were those remains positively identified via DNA match to be from the body of Clifford Lambert, 74, Deputy District Attorney Robert Hightower announced during a court hearing in Indio on Sept. 30, according to Riverside County Superior Court records.

Lambert had been seduced, robbed and killed by a group of con men in his Palm Springs home 150 miles away back in 2008, with six defendants convicted for their roles in his murder in 2012, without the discovery of his remains, per the court records. 

Of the six, four initially were convicted of murder, one pleaded guilty to voluntary manslaughter and one was convicted of fraud.

Since then, the four defendants convicted of murder successfully appealed for new trials due to homophobic statements made by the since-retired trial judge, and it was during a procedural hearing in the retrial that Hightower confirmed the discovery of Lambert’s remains, according to hearing transcripts.

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