The Murder Mystery of Orange County
Over 40 years ago, Dorothy Scott was abducted from outside a hospital, and her case has never been solved.
Pam Head and Conrad Bostron tried to wave down the car careering towards them at UC Irvine Medical Center. Blinded by the headlights, they assumed Dorothy was driving, but they couldn’t be certain. All they knew was that their friend and colleague was not slowing down, and soon the station wagon was speeding out of the car park. Dorothy never returned and was never seen alive again.
Described as a ‘quiet woman’, 32-year-old Dorothy was a single mother to her son, and the pair lived in Stanton, California. She worked as a secretary for two stores, though as a Christian, she didn’t partake in the products on offer, which included psychedelics and drug paraphernalia.
In the months leading up to Dorothy’s disappearance, she’d started receiving crank calls from an anonymous man. He’d call her at work, somehow knowing her routine, flitting the conversation between confessing his love for Dorothy and telling her how he was going to kill her.
One night, recalled Dorothy’s mother, he rang work and told Dorothy that he’d “cut [her] up into bits so no one will ever find [her]”. Soon after, Dorothy began taking self-defence classes and was considering buying a handgun for her purse, but both would prove fruitless as a week later, Dorothy would be gone.
On the 28th of May 1980, Dorothy and her colleagues sat down in one of the stores for a meeting. Her co-worker, Conrad Bostron, looked unwell, and the trip to the medical centre later that night would diagnose the strange red mark on his arm, causing him pain, was a black widow spider bite.
Dorothy had offered to drive Conrad and another colleague Pam to the centre to diagnose the mark. First, however, the convoy needed to stop at her parents’ home on the way to the hospital to check on Dorothy’s son and tell her parents where she was going. While she was there, she changed her scarf from the black one she was wearing to a red alternative.
Around 11 pm that night, two hours after noticing the bite mark, Conrad was discharged and prescribed antibiotics. Unfortunately, he still didn’t look well, which prompted Dorothy to get her car from the parking lot and drive it to the entrance. She used the bathroom quickly, then trotted off to find her Toyota station wagon amidst the sea of other cars.
A few minutes later, Dorothy came speeding towards them and out of the centre’s parking lot.
“We waved our hands,” claimed Pam, interviewed in the Los Angeles Times. “There was no way she could have missed us. The car made a right. We started running after it and it sped up.”
The pair considered that Dorothy was racing home because her son had fallen ill, and they waited a good few hours for her to return for them, but that never happened.
Pam and Conrad reported Dorothy missing to the police in the early hours of the 29th of May, but by then, her trail was cold. Then, a few hours later, Dorothy’s white Toyota station wagon was found. It was only 10 miles from the hospital and had been set on fire and abandoned in an alley. The car was empty.
One of the first people questioned was Dorothy’s son’s father, Dennis Terry. However, he was in Missouri at the time of the abduction.
Jacob and Vera Scott were distraught about their daughter’s disappearance. The police told them not to speak to the press to ensure Dorothy’s safe return, but the positivity soon began to wane as the weeks turned into months. Even Police Chief Michell believed there was little hope that the police would find Dorothy alive, saying, “They [the Scotts] are probably reaching the point that we have reached – that we probably won’t find her alive”.
While the investigation continued, Jacob and his wife received phone calls from the anonymous man again. The caller would ask if they were related to Dorothy and tell them that he had her.
By that point, Jacob was ready to spread the word of his daughter’s disappearance and contacted the Register in Santa Ana. The newspaper ran the story, which prompted contact from the caller.
On the 11th of June, the day the article was published, a man called into the Register claiming he was Dorothy’s lover and that he’d killed her.
“He said, ‘She was my love…I caught her cheating with another man. She denied having someone else – I killed her’”, claimed the Managing Editor of the Register, Pat Riley. “After a lot of years you get a feeling about people“, he recalled. “He did sound genuine.”
The man also knew details of the case that hadn’t been revealed to the public, including the colour of Dorothy’s scarf and the reason for Conrad's late-night trip to the emergency room. That was the last contact the paper received from the anonymous caller.
It wasn’t until August 1984, over four years later, that Dorothy’s body was found.
A construction site was being dug up on Santa Ana Canyon Road for new telephone lines, and within the dirt was the remains of a dog and the bones of a human. Among the bones was a turquoise ring and a watch, both of which belonged to Dorothy.
Deputy Coroner Richard Rodriquez said the official cause of death was listed as ‘questionable’. He said the charred bones had been there a couple of years because of a bush fire two years prior but may have been moved around by animals.
According to the LA Times, both parents felt a weight lifted when they heard the news that the skeletal remains were Dorothy, with Jacob saying, “Before you didn’t know whether she was…or she wasn’t…it’s a big relief. It’s one hell of a relief.”
At her memorial service, where the few bones that had been excavated from the site could now be buried, Dorothy’s brother stepped up to the podium.
“I spent time with her in her last days – a lot of time,” began Jim Scott. “To me, she exemplified the word ‘give’. She’d just give and give and give, no matter what it cost her…she spent her last hours giving and being concerned about others.”
Dorothy’s remains were buried at Forest Lawn Memorial Park on the family plot.
The phone calls stopped in 1984, but they were never traced despite the number of calls received. To this day, no arrests have ever been made in Dorothy’s case.
According to one publication that spoke with Dorothy’s son, a suspect was named in the case. Mike Butler, who was allegedly obsessed with Dorothy, lived an alternative lifestyle in the Santiago mountains, and his sister worked at the same shop as Dorothy. Unfortunately, Butler has since passed away, but the entire update can be read here.
Jacob Scott died in 1994 and was followed by Vera in 2002, not knowing what happened to their daughter. The case is still considered open, and tips can be called into the Orange County Crime Stoppers website: https://occrimestoppers.org.