Mysterious Buried Car Saga Gets Even Weirder: Mercedes Dug Up at California Mansion Was Reported Stolen

Mansion where buried car was discovered.
The Atherton, California, mansion where a mysterious buried car was found.Zillow

Landscapers at a $15-million mansion in Northern California found the buried car, now identified as a Mercedes reported as stolen years ago.

The already strange saga of a car buried on the grounds of a $15-million mansion in Northern California has gotten even stranger.

Landscapers discovered the vehicle last week. It has now been identified as a Mercedes convertible reported as stolen in 1992, police said. The owner of the sprawling estate at that time was a now-deceased man with a history of arrests, according to local reports.

Investigators removed the car, buried about 5 feet deep in the exclusive enclave of Atherton in the Silicon Valley, on Saturday. It was discovered two days before, and was filled with unused bags of cement, police said.

Cadaver dogs were brought in and "made a slight notification of possible human remains," said Atherton Police Cmdr. Daniel Larsen. 

The dogs could have reacted to old bones, blood, vomit, or a combination of those things, Larsen said. There was no initial discovery of human remains, he said.

The home was built by John Bocktune Lew, a man with a history of arrests for murder, attempted murder and insurance fraud, his daughter, Jacq Searle, told the San Francisco Chronicle.

Lew died in 2015 at age 77. 

“You know I've seen how many strange cases over the 45 years I’ve been in the business, this one's in the very upper echelon,” San Mateo County District Attorney Steve Wagstaffe told KNTV on Sunday.

“It may be a fraud case, maybe foul play.  Hey, it could just be an eccentric who thought it would be fun to bury a car in the ground," Wagstaffe said.

Lew was convicted of second-degree murder in the 1965 shooting death of a young woman with whom he had been having an affair, according to court records. But that Los Angeles conviction was overturned in 1968, based on hearsay evidence that was wrongly admitted at trial, court records said.

In 1977, Lew was convicted of attempted murder and served three years in prison, according to local reports. In 2000, he was convicted of insurance fraud and making false claims after he offered $50,000 to undercover officers to sink his $1.5 million yacht near the Golden Gate Bridge, several news agencies reported.

The current owners of the home had no idea there was a car buried on their property, police said.

The estate has five bedrooms, seven bathrooms and was sold to its current owners for $15 million in March of 2020, according to a real estate listing. The mansion covers 12,634 square feet and sits on 1.63 gated acres.

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