What made this case particularly jarring, Ells said, was that the Tillmans seemed like a normal couple. Harold was an accountant and Joni was a homemaker.
“[In San Bernardino County,] you tend to work a lot of drug and gang cases and people who have disputes in the world the Tillmans lived in. Gangs take care of business like this. But in the world of accounting, you don’t see people resolve issues [by murder]. People litigate.”
According to the initial report in The Valley Sun, the case began to unfold when the body of the Tillmans’ dog, Teddy, a Maltese, was discovered by the hiker at 5:30 p.m. The dog’s tags were from a La Cañada home. A person from the San Bernardino Sheriff’s Dept. called and left a message about the dog’s discovery on the Tillmans’ home answering machine.
Concerned after not being able to reach the Tillmans, friends went to their house to check on them and listened to the answering machine. They returned the call to the sheriff’s department and reported the Tillmans missing.
On investigation, law enforcement personnel found the Tillmans’ bodies near where their pet had been found.
It was determined the Tillmans, residents of La Cañada for the previous three months, were last seen with friends at J.J. Steakhouse in Pasadena the night of their disappearance.
“You couldn’t have called the Spiegel catalog and ordered better neighbors,” said Bramblewood Road neighbor Michael Miller in the Feb. 24, 2000 issue of The Valley Sun.
Miller said he had seen the Tillmans’ Dodge Durango pulling into their driveway on Feb. 6 at 10 p.m. They were not reported seen after that. Their car was discovered in Van Nuys five days later.