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1996 cold case resurfaces in Redwood City: FBI, Belmont PD search Farm Hill property

FBI and local authorities searched Stulsaft Park and a home on the 3700 block of Farm Hill Boulevard for evidence related to the disappearance of 42-year-old Ylva Hagner

FBI crime scene investigators, along with local law enforcement, on Wednesday searched the backyard of a Farm Hill home for evidence in connection to the 1996 disappearance of a Palo Alto woman.

Ylva Annika Hagner. Courtesy California Attorney General

The Belmont Police Department and other local agencies closed off Stulsaft Park to the public and the home on the 3700 block of Farm Hill Boulevard. It’s unclear how the park and the home are connected. 

Ylva Hagner went missing on Monday, Oct. 14, 1996, and was reported missing to the Palo Alto police two days later by concerned coworkers after she did not show up to work, according to a 1997 Palo Alto Weekly report. Hagner was 42 years old at the time of her disappearance.

Multiple missing person reports state that Hagner lived in Palo Alto and attended Stanford University at the time of her disappearance. According to her family, Hagner had been stalked by a male acquaintance before her disappearance, a missing person report said. She worked as a business-marketing manager for a German-American software company called iXOS.

Hagner's vehicle was found in San Carlos unlocked with her keys in the ignition, six blocks from her work, four days after she was last seen in her office in Belmont on October 14, 1996. Authorities said in multiple missing person reports that Hagner's purse was missing and there was no sign of a struggle in the car.

Shortly after 10 a.m. on Wednesday, crime scene investigators were seen bringing out multiple shovels, buckets and other tools into the backyard of the Farm Hill home. The front yard of the home was blocked off by caution tape. Later in the day, investigators could be seen bringing bags of varying sizes marked "evidence" from the backyard into the FBI van parked in front of the house as a Belmont police officer stood in front of the house. The FBI told the Redwood City Pulse it is providing forensic support with its evidence response team.

County records show NASA Scientist Thomas Pressburger owns the deed to the Farm Hill property where investigators were digging on Wednesday. According to the IEEE Database, a professional association for electrical and electronics engineers,and the NASA website, Pressburger works in the Robust Software Engineering area at NASA Ames Research Center. 

According to an SFGate article from 1997, Pressburger was Hagner’s boyfriend at the time of her disappearance. Police have not named Pressburger as a suspect in the case. 

Farm Hill Neighborhood Association President Johanna Rasmussen said the people who have lived in the home had lived there since Hagner's disappearance and are not active members of the association.

A Redwood City Police officer stands behind police tape on Wednesday, May 10, 2023, during an investigation into the disappearance of Ylva Hagner, who went missing in October 1996. Photo by Michelle Iracheta

Stulsaft Park, also cordoned off by authorities, is one of the most popular parks in the neighborhood and frequently hosts events, including an Easter egg hunt, where children search the park grounds, Rasmussen said. 

Multiple agencies— including San Mateo County District Attorney's Office and the San Mateo County Sheriff's Department —are assisting in the investigation. The Redwood City Police Department provided traffic assistance on Wednesday. 

It is unclear what sparked the renewed interest into Hagner's case.

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