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Calif. Sightseer Case Evokes Grief

March 22, 1999

EUREKA, Calif. (AP) _ The discovery of two people’s remains in a torched rental car near Yosemite National Park has added an element of fear to this town’s feeling of grief.

And a new mystery: Where is the third victim?

The disappearance of Carole Sund, her daughter Julie and family friend Silvina Pelosso on Feb. 15 prompted a massive search in this mining country just outside the park.

Hope of a possible innocent misunderstanding faded when, within days, Mrs. Sund’s wallet was found in the middle of a busy intersection in a town two hours away.

Then nothing for almost a month before someone spotted the burned-out shell of their rental car Thursday and two unidentified bodies were discovered in the trunk.

``I think people here are sort of waiting for the other shoe to fall,″ said Weldon Benzinger, a science teacher at Eureka High School, where saddened students built hallway displays honoring Julie, 15, and Silvina, 16, an exchange student from Argentina.

Jens Sund, Carole’s husband and father of Julie, was in seclusion over the weekend while relatives made a pilgrimage to the site in remote Long Barn where the charred car was found.

``The senseless waste of these precious lives is so incomprehensible I can’t even begin to understand why it happened,″ he said in a handwritten statement.

The last confirmed sighting of the trio was in El Portal, a tiny mountain town at the edge of Yosemite where the three sightseers had dinner at the Cedar Lodge.

On Thursday, the burned hulk of their red 1999 rented Pontiac was found off winding Highway 108 in rugged Tuolumne County. The family’s hopes were raised: There was no word that the three had been found.

But a day later, FBI agents disclosed the discovery of the incinerated remains of two people in the vehicle’s trunk. Authorities may release their identities today.

``That was the worst moment for the family, the worst. That was a very, very long day,″ said Ron Caton, who is related to the Sund family by marriage.

Carole Sund’s father, Francis Carrington, was visibly anguished Sunday as he sat, head in hands, at the site where investigators made their grisly discovery. He and his wife, as well as FBI agents, Silvina’s tearful parents and Sund’s brother marked the spot with flowers and a cross.

``It’s the worst feeling of all, not knowing what happened,″ Carrington said. ``Can you imagine not even finding out if your relatives are dead? It’s just terrible.″

In Eureka, a tranquil community of 30,000 about 100 miles south of the Oregon border, residents and students took the news of the deaths hard. Orchestra practice continued Friday in honor of Julie, who was a violinist.

But outside, a sign read: ``Senior Student Night _ Canceled.″

``People think this is too small a town to have something like this happen to one of them,″ said Katherine Strethewey, who runs a souvenir shop on the Samoa peninsula west of town.

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