Forensics team analyzing buried car for DNA connection to other crimes | November 11, 2022 | Almanac | Almanac Online |

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News - November 11, 2022

Forensics team analyzing buried car for DNA connection to other crimes

Police confirm Mercedes belonged to Atherton man with long criminal past

by Angela Swartz

Forensic specialists didn't find any human remains in a mysterious car found buried in the backyard of a home on the 300 block of Stockbridge Avenue in Atherton, but they are continuing to analyze parts of the vehicle for DNA to see if there is a connection to any other crimes, police said in a Nov. 3 press release.

Atherton police also confirmed that the Mercedes Benz convertible belonged to previous homeowner Johnny Bocktune Lew, who had a long criminal history that included murder and insurance fraud.

Detectives are waiting for the results of DNA testing and conducting interviews with Lew's relatives, said Atherton Police Sgt. Daniel Larsen in a Nov. 3 email to this news organization. San Mateo County Crime Lab investigators didn't find any human remains in the car, according to police.

Police said Lew received a $86,729 insurance payout for the 1991 Mercedes Benz 500 SL, which was reported missing to the Palo Alto Police Department in 1992. Police believe that the vehicle was possibly buried for insurance fraud.

The car, buried 4 to 5 feet deep, was unearthed by landscapers working on a project in the yard on the morning of Oct. 20.

Cadaver dogs picked up the scent of human remains in the vicinity of the car.

As The Almanac reported, Lew was convicted of the murder of Karen Gervasi, a college student with whom he was having an extramarital affair, in 1965.

The second-degree murder verdict was overturned by the California Supreme Court in 1967 due to an error in admitting hearsay statements.

In the 1977, Lew was sentenced to five years to life in prison for shooting and killing Marsha Dwyer, an 18-year-old freshman at University of California at Los Angeles, and the attempted murder of her father Leslie Dwyer in February 1970 at the Dwyer family's Westchester neighborhood home, according to a Santa Monica-Southside Advertiser article.

Email Staff Writer Angela Swartz at [email protected]

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