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  1. #1
    Jenna's Avatar
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    Ex-cop PIs seek UFO photographer who vanished from online UFO forum

    Private eye T.K. Davis has worked his share of oddball cases. Once he tracked down a one-armed woman wanted for child endangerment. He staked out a backyard to catch a guy throwing dirt clods into a pool. When you make your living answering life's mysterious questions at $100 an hour, you take a few calls out of the blue.

    He can look around, ask a few hard questions -- even if it means risking his reputation built over 30 years as a deputy sheriff.

    That's more or less where Davis finds himself now, behind the wheel of his blue Ford Explorer, with his partner Frankie Dixon. They're cruising down streets, looking at utility poles and trying to figure out: Is that the one in these three pictures, the pictures with the unidentified flying object?

    The photographs came from -- surprise! -- the Internet. In May, someone using the name Raji posted them on Craigslist. All three show a lone wooden power pole with its jumble of crossbeams and wires. Hovering just above it is some kind of flying saucer.

    The thing looks part campy "Star Trek" prop, part slapdash collection of handyman tools, with metallic limbs jutting from a cylindrical sphere. Examined closely, one of the arms bears some kind of writing.

    Raji told people he took the photos in Capitola. Then he vanished into cyberspace.

    UFO hunters around the world started buzzing. Apparently, Raji wasn't alone. Elsewhere, other alleged eyewitnesses posted pictures and video of the quirky little craft. It became known as the "California drone" because it was clear from the photos that no human could have fit inside to fly the thing.

    A onetime captain in the Santa Clara County Sheriff's Department, Davis considers himself an expert in scam artists and nut cases. So his radar went up in January when he got the call from a woman in London.

    She said she was from the Open Minds Forum, an Internet group specializing in "UFOlogy." She said she represented people who were interested in the drone and wanted to contact Raji and others who claimed in Web postings to have seen the craft.

    Before calling Davis, the Open Minds group had e-mailed Raji. He told them he snapped the picture from his fiancee's parents' home. They hoped to ask more questions, but he suddenly closed his e-mail account. They spent months looking for him before deciding to hire a professional.

    Find the power pole in the photo, the woman told Davis, and you'll find the house. And Raji.

    Oh, and one more thing: She didn't want to be identified.

    Davis doesn't believe in UFOs, but he said that "she seemed like a logical person who wanted answers."

    He thought the thing in the pictures looked far too intricate and sophisticated to be the work of some bored teenager using Photoshop. So what was it?

    He went to the Internet, trawling for witnesses.

    Some who said they saw the craft likened it to a dragonfly or an upside-down egg beater. They described it variously as an exploratory craft dispatched by a mother ship and a top-secret government project.

    But in chat rooms, Davis also found plenty of drone doubters, who made comments such as "Looks like a new kind of torque wrench" and "Did you folks get a picture or two of the crop circles?"

    In one exchange, when someone asked about the meaning of the writing on one of the craft's arms, the snide responses flooded in: "Made in China." "Martians for Obama."

    Word of Davis' case quickly spread among his ex-cop cronies. T.K. had gone galactic, they joked at their weekly drinking sessions.

    "I'm not chasing flying saucers," he said. "I'm knocking on doors, looking for people, just like I've always done."

    Then he got a call from Dixon, a fellow retiree he'd known since the two worked on a 1970s narcotics task force. Dixon, also a private eye, had heard about the case on the golf course. He wanted in. "I'm your man," he said. "I can find that pole."

    Before hiring Davis, the woman from the Open Mind Forum called Capitola police to report the photo and request an investigation. Chief Richard Ehle considered the whole matter a farce, but assigned a detective to it just in case.

    Sgt. Mark Gonzales found nothing.

    "We're a small beach town, and residents report everything from cat feces on lawns to sick sea gulls," he said. "If someone saw something, I'd know about it."

    But he said he wouldn't immediately close the case. "I keep an open mind," he said.

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    Robert Durell / Los Angeles Times
    SLEUTHS: Private eyes Frankie Dixon, left, and T.K. Davis at a park in Capitola, Calif., where they’re investigating reports that a UFO was photographed by a man with the Internet name of Raji, who later vanished into cyberspace.

    By John M. Glionna, Los Angeles Times Staff Writer
    March 18, 2008 [/color]


    http://www.latimes.com/news/printedi...971,full.story

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