Body Positively Identified
Thursday, April 1st, 1971
VENTURA, Calif., Apr. 1 — A body found in a rugged wilderness area was positively identified Wednesday as that of Sharon Tate murder trial defense attorney Ronald Hughes who vanished mysteriously four months ago.
The Ventura County Coroner’s office said the body, found in a creek at the Sespe Hot Springs area, was identified through comparison of Hughes’ dental charts.
Deputy Coroner Merle Peters said findings of an autopsy were not complete, and that no cause of death had been established. He said there was no estimate of how long Hughes had been dead.
The portly, bearded Hughes, 35, disappeared last Thanksgiving weekend while on a camping trip in the Sespe area of Ventura County.
Torrential rainstorms hit Southern California that weekend, and those who later searched for Hughes said they felt he had been a victim of natural disaster, buried in a mudslide or swept away in raging creek waters.
The body was discovered last weekend by two fishermen about seven miles from the spot where Hughes was last seen.
Hughes was one of the most colorful characters of the trial. A novice attorney trying his first case, he represented defendant Leslie Van Houten, 21.
He openly admitted being a pauper, lived in a garage with holes in the roof and slept on a mattress on the floor. His wardrobe, he said, came from a movie studio auction, and his suit labels indeed bore such names as Walter Slezak and Raymond Burr.
His courtroom demeanor was sometimes flamboyant as he strode across the room, questioning witnesses in a booming voice. With his bushy beard and bald pate framed with a halo of long blond hair, he was dubbed the “hippie lawyer” of the trial.