Search for missing L.A. woman leads to Castaic landfill

LAPD detectives have served a search warrant and are looking at Chiquita Canyon Landfill in Castaic for evidence in the disappearance of Heidi Planck, who was last seen Oct. 17 at an apartment building in downtown Los Angeles. (Al Seib / Los Angeles Times)

The tortuous search for a missing Los Angeles woman has led investigators to a landfill in Castaic, police said Monday.

Heidi Planck, 39, was last seen Oct. 17 at a luxury apartment building on South Hope Street in downtown L.A., according to the Los Angeles Police Department. Her former husband, Jim Wayne, reported her missing three days later when she failed to pick up their son from school.

In the days and weeks that followed, the case generated headlines and raised eyebrows as investigators gathered leads. By Oct. 29, it had been turned over to the LAPD's Robbery-Homicide Division, with Wayne at one point voicing concerns about his former wife's position working for a high-profile wealth management executive under investigation by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.

Police said Monday that Planck's dog was found inside the Hope Street apartment building, where she did not live.

“Forensic evidence was located inside the building which has led detectives to believe an incident occurred resulting in Planck’s death,” the LAPD said in a statement.

An LAPD spokesperson would not elaborate Monday on what evidence was found or how Planck may have died. In early November, her Range Rover was found in the underground parking garage of a residential building several blocks away.

Reached by phone Monday, Wayne said Planck had been at their son's football game in Downey the day she was last seen, but she left at halftime and seemed “a little antsy.”

“I just remember her saying, 'I've got to leave,'” he said.

He couldn't think of any connections she may have had to the building on Hope Street but said the dog's microchip is what helped lead police there. Video footage showed her walking the dog in an alley nearby. The dog was found loose on the building's 29th floor, Wayne said.

Officials said the search at Chiquita Canyon Landfill in Castaic could take up to 10 days to complete.

“The ultimate outcome would have been to find her,” Wayne said. “Now it's recovering her remains, and that in itself is just so sad on so many different levels, and so awful and so ugly.”

Wayne previously told reporters that he thought Planck's disappearance could be connected to her job as a financial controller at Camden Capital Partners. Her boss, Jason Sugarman, is facing SEC charges for his alleged role in a scheme to bilk $43 million in client funds intended for Native American tribal bonds.

Attempts to reach Sugarman on Monday were unsuccessful.

Sugarman's father-in-law, Peter Guber, is chief executive of Mandalay Entertainment and co-owner of several sports teams, including the Dodgers and the Golden State Warriors.

Wayne also said the SEC had contacted him four days after Planck's disappearance to ask about Sugarman and the company. Later, security footage from Planck's Mid-City home appeared to show Sugarman leaving muffins on her doorstep after her disappearance.

But on Monday, Wayne said he did not want to continue to speculate about who may have been involved in Planck's disappearance, even though he felt Sugarman was “more worried about where his laptop was” than Planck's whereabouts.

The LAPD has “really dug deep, and I've got to take a back seat and let them do their job,” he said.

Police said they have no information on a suspect.

Aerial footage of the Chiquita Canyon Landfill on Monday showed heavy machinery digging amid the dry dirt.

Landfill officials said in a statement that they were “fully cooperating with investigators” and following all health and safety protocols.

Wayne said that “there's somebody out there for sure” who knows what happened and that he hoped anyone with information would come forward.

Few need resolution more than their son, he said.

“An 11-year-old boy needs to know what happened,” he said.

This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.

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