Body found near car last seen being driven by wanted pilot
Jun. 25, 1997
SAN ANDREAS, Calif. (AP) _ A body was found Tuesday near a car that was last seen being driven by a pilot accused of stockpiling thousands of boxes of cremated remains instead of scattering them from his plane.
Several boxes of cremains also were found in the car, which was discovered in a remote area of the state, in brush about 10 miles east of San Andreas. A gun also was found near the body. Authorities believe the person died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound.
Police believe the person died up to two weeks ago. The body was not immediately identified. Investigators were working to obtain the dental records of pilot Al Vieira.
The car belonged to Vieira's girlfriend. A note was found in her Volkswagen station wagon, but Lt. Randy Grasmuck would not release details.
Vieira, 52, is wanted on suspicion of felony grand theft charges. He disappeared after 2,000 boxes of cremated remains were found earlier this month in a storage facility and thousands more in an airplane hangar where Vieira kept his plane.
Vieira has been licensed by the state to scatter cremains since 1986, when he established Vieira's Flying Service. He worked with perhaps 200 funeral homes, offering bargain-basement prices of between $60 and $100.
His girlfriend, Denise Hembree, 42, turned herself in on June 10. She has been charged with grand theft, conspiracy and filing false documents and was released pending further investigation.
Authorities said the cremains of up to 5,000 people may be involved in the case. The containers appeared to have been piling up since 1986.
Three class action lawsuits have been filed against Vieira and the funeral homes in connection with the abandoned ashes.