BARSTOW — More than three years after the death of Priscilla Delzell, a Barstow woman who went missing in June 2013 and whose decomposed body was found some months later, authorities confirmed foul play was officially ruled out.
“The cause and manner of death is undetermined, however the investigators found no evidence of foul play,” San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department spokeswoman Cindy Bachman told the Daily Press. “The investigation became inactive following the autopsy. At that time the Coroner ruled the cause and manner of death as undetermined and found no evidence that Ms. Delzell’s death was suspicious. Additionally, the homicide investigators found no evidence of foul play during their investigation. If any new information should surface, the case would become active.”
Delzell’s body was found near her home in the desert by a mountain biker, about 200 feet east of Irwin Road and roughly one mile north of Old Highway 58 on Oct. 23, 2013. She was positively identified by dental records.
Delzell’s family reported her missing after she went for a midday walk into the desert on July 18, 2013 and never returned to her residence in North Barstow Irwin Estates.
Delzell battled bipolar disorder and was given a modification to the dosage of her medication around the time of her disappearance. Immediately following her disappearance, sheriff’s officials, family, volunteers and members of First Baptist Church began to search but found nothing. All leads ultimately led nowhere.
Her husband, Carl Delzell, believes he immediately became a suspect. He understands it’s an avenue that authorities had to investigate with his wife mysteriously missing.
But he claims there were “many possible explanations” for her disappearance and death that were never investigated.
“They made the assumption from the start that I did whatever happened to her. They made it very clear from that start,” he said. “I've lived in this town for 40 years and have worked here for 27 years at a public institution and go to a church well known in the community. I would invite anyone to talk to anyone from those places to find out what kind of person I am or what kind of people my family are.
"It wouldn't have taken them long to figure out they were wasting their time and effort. And in the end that was all they ever looked at with any focus. What a shame because we could have found her with more searching. We could have at least recovered her body with sufficient integrity to discover the cause of death.
“My kids were devastated by their total disregard for our need to search for their mom. They took everything I was using to organize the searches, that they failed to do. They took our maps, computers, cell phones, cameras, cut my internet access for two days during the most crucial time of our lives in terms of being able to reach out to family and friends for help. They just cut us off. Like we had no right to search for her but they did. ... Remember Erin (Corwin) over in Twentynine Palms? How much do you think they spent on that investigation? I'll bet more than 100 times what they put in here."
Carl Delzell was referring to a 2014 search for a Marine’s wife in Twentynine Palms. Corwin disappeared in June 2014 and her body was found hidden in an abandoned mine shaft in a remote area of the High Desert near Joshua Tree National Park nearly two months later. Her killer, who she was having an affair with, was convicted of murder in 2016.
Bachman said Barstow Sheriff’s Station personnel requested search-and-rescue help after receiving Delzell’s missing person report.
“The investigation and search continued until July 23 with negative results,” Bachman said. “Each missing person case has its own set of circumstances and it is difficult to compare them based only on the type of case. I don’t have enough detailed information about the case to respond to Mr. Delzell’s concerns.”
Carl Delzell claims he and his family were “treated like criminals” during the investigation.
Authorities served a search warrant at the Delzell home on Aug. 21, 2013 seeking items that may have contained evidence. After the search, Carl Delzell wrote that the home was “ransacked” on the family-established Facebook page, “Search for Priscilla Delzell.”
Authorities arrested Curtis Delzell, her brother-in-law, for interfering with a second search warrant being served at the family home in October, just a few weeks before the discovery of her body. Authorities returned to the home to seize a pickup truck belonging to Carl Delzell which had not been there during the first search warrant in August 2013.
Authorities said Curtis Delzell entered the vehicle as it was in the process of being towed and began throwing items out of it. After being “told several times to stop throwing items and to get out of the truck ... he refused to comply with these orders.”
“I was arrested for interfering with an investigation,” Curtis Delzell wrote on the Facebook page in 2013. “We have received an $800+ bill for towing and storage of the truck. ... My attorney has advised me to limit my comments about the arrest to what I have said here because any other comment would be turned out of context, spun to mean something other than the truth and used against me in court.”
Prosecutors charged Curtis Delzell with resisting or obstructing a peace officer or other public safety official in April 2014. He is next due in court May 5 for trial readiness and May 8 for jury trial, court records show.
“They are still trying to prosecute my brother for interference in an investigation,” Carl Delzell said. “I'm completely clueless as to why. … So getting his clothes out of my truck, which he had just returned from Kansas in, turns into an arrest of someone they didn't even want. Talk about a bunch of screwups. So they refuse to investigate what happened and resort to harassing my family because they deemed us ‘uncooperative.’
“Apparently my wife laid out there in the desert and died from a cause we don't know.”
Jose Quintero may be reached at 760-955-5332 or JQuintero@DesertDispatch.com. Follow him on Twitter at @DP_JoseQ.