Dental Records Give ID for Berkeley Burnt Body

By Richard Brenneman
Wednesday January 14, 2009 - 06:55:00 PM

East Bay Regional Parks District Police last week announced their identification of a body found in a burning trash can along Interstate 80 beside the Berkeley shore. 

The dead man, identified through dental records and fingerprints, is Peter Allen Whigham, 49, of Richmond. 

His vehicle, a 2000 white Chevrolet van with California plates 6EMB905 is still missing, as is his dog, a yellow Labrador retriever, said park Police Sgt. Tyrone Davis. 

Berkeley police and firefighters rushed to the freeway frontage road near the city’s shoreline early Dec. 30 after callers reported seeing someone set a fire in a trash container. On their arrival, emergency workers discovered a gruesome sight: a cadaver set alight with liquid fuel and burning in a trash container. 

The dramatic scene that led to the discovery of Whigham’s body began shortly after 6:30 a.m. at the Virginia Gate to Eastshore Park west of Interstate 80. Berkeley police spokesperson Officer Andrew Frankel said BPD and firefighters initially responded to the scene, then called the East Bay Regional Park Police when the site was determined to lie within park district boundaries. 

“We immediately sent investigators and patrol officers, and I responded as well,” said Capt. Mark Ruppenthal of the park police force. “Berkeley police and firefighters were on scene at the time I arrived, and they transferred the scene to us.” 

A week later, Capt. Ruppenthal was able to report that a subsequent examination revealed the corpse to be that of a male approximately 48 years old. 

“We are still waiting for the Alameda County Coroner’s Office to make a positive identification,” he said at the time. “Because the body was severely burned, it’s been a very difficult process.” 

Capt. Ruppenthal said investigators “have an idea of who we think it is. We have a missing person whose vehicle is also missing, but we can’t say for sure if there is a connection.” 

Identification was announced the next morning. 

Sgt. Davis said on Jan. 8 that he couldn’t offer any information about how Whigham died. “I don’t know when that’s going to be announced,” he said. 

Sgt. Davis asked anyone with information about Whigham and his missing vehicle to call him at 881-1833. Those wishing to remain anonymous can call the park district’s Confidential Tip Line at 690-6521. 

Whigham is described as an Anglo American who is believed to have been a resident of Richmond and had a prior address in San Jose, said the sergeant.