Dian Harlin: Found dead in Morro Bay in 1982

August 25, 2011 

Dian Harlin, whose partially decomposed and partially nude body was found near Morro Bay High School under a stand of cypress trees on Oct. 13, 1982, was strangled with a nylon dog leash.

The motive was though to be sexual, a police sergeant said at the time.

The 43-year-old Morro Bay woman was last seen walking her two dogs - a black Afghan and a small brown dog - between 5:30 and 6:30 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 2, near the school.

According to police, Harlin often walked her dogs in that area - the west side of the school near the dunes - and was a familiar face around town. Residents at the time said she attracted attention by her clothes and her mannerisms.

About an hour after she was last seen, Harlin's dogs were seen running away from the row of trees. They returned home around 11 p.m. that evening.

Harlin's body was found 11 days later by a coach's wife during a cross country meet at the school. The body was found about 10 feet from the three-mile course in the grove that separated the high school from the beach.

A dark-colored, web-meshed dog leash about 3 to 4 feet long was found near the body.

Harlin's husband, Hugh, did not file a missing person report after she disappeared because he said he was used to her being gone for awhile.

The couple lived rent-free on a ranch on Atascadero Road, less than a half-mile from where Dian Harlin's body was found. The owner of the ranch urged Hugh Harlin to call police after the dogs returned home without their leashes and their master, but he declined, saying her disappearance was nothing unusual.

Shortly after her body was identified, Hugh Harlin accused police of "bringing disgrace" by investigating her death as a homicide.

Hugh Harlin told the then Telegram-Tribune that he believed his wife died of an aneurysm, a blood vessel disease, and that his astrologer backed that theory.

Harlin thought at first his wife had gone to Colorado, and then thought maybe to see her Swami in Orange County to seek condolences over the death of her Afghan dog, Ratzelle.

Hugh Harlin said his wife thought the dog's death had special significance.

"She had a dream that if anything happened to Ratzelle, she was also going to die soon," Hugh Harlin said in October 1982.

Harlin said he believed his wife, who he said had special gifts of predicting the future, foresaw her own death. He said she was undergoing treatment for an aneurysm, and sometimes forgot to take her medication.

Police at the time said Hugh Harlin was not a suspect in his wife's death.

Hugh Harlin disappeared four years after his wife was found dead.

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