Santa Barbara police plan to release cadaver dogs at the Winchester Overpass construction site on Wednesday, in hopes of finding traces of the long-missing Ramona Price.
Price was just 7, with dark hair cut pixie-style, when she walked from her Oak Avenue home on Santa Barbara’s Westside home on Saturday, September 2, 1961. She was heading for the Price family’s new home, but never got there.
Her body has never been found. Now, the name of a possible suspect has emerged, a serial killer of children in another county with a connection to the Winchester Overpass that was being built at about the time of Price’s disappearance, according to police.
Police aren’t saying more, pending a press conference Wednesday at 10:30 a.m. at the overpass. They aren’t releasing the suspect’s name, other than saying that he died in prison many years ago. They concede that it’s a long shot that Price will be found.
In my 1992 book, Around Santa Barbara County with Barney, I wrote that Gerald Lowery, then a patrolman and later police chief, recalled that a highway construction worker was arrested in the San Diego area. He was accused of murdering children around the state and disposing of their bodies in fresh freeway cement. But he was never charged in Price’s case and does not appear to be the suspect police have in mind now.
Back on that fateful day in 1961, the Price family was excited, preparing to move to a new home in Goleta. Without telling anyone, Ramona decided to walk to her new home at about 11 a.m., not realizing that it was miles away. Just before noon, the family, busy packing, missed her.
But she was gone. Bloodhounds traced her 1.9 miles down Modoc Road. Then, nothing. Two brothers, 44 and 55, came under heavy suspicion after they told of speaking to Price when she walked past their parked car as they drank wine.
Price, they said, was walking purposefully. “Where do you think you’re going?” one brother said he asked her.
“I’ve got to go somewhere,” she replied and kept on walking. They were investigated and freed.
Her apparent abduction took place just two-tenths of a mile farther down Modoc Road, police came to believe. A mystery witness told police of seeing a child climb into a faded blue 1953 or 1954 Plymouth sedan at the point where the bloodhounds lost her scent.
Perhaps the weary girl decided to accept a ride from a friendly stranger, although her parents had warned her against it.
Over the years I’ve talked to retired officers who worked on possible leads, never giving up hope. Her parents moved out of state later in the 1960s.