The Santa Barbara Police Department started an excavation search Tuesday morning for the remains of Ramona Price, who went missing in 1961 at age 7.

Authorities recently connected her case with now-deceased serial killer Mack Ray Edwards, who confessed to killing at least six children — and perhaps as many as 18 more — in Southern California in the 1950s and ‘60s.

Edwards was never considered a suspect in the Price case since there was no apparent Santa Barbara connection. But author and researcher Weston DeWalt found one: Edwards buried his victims at highway construction sites where he worked as a heavy-equipment operator and he had worked on the Hollister Avenue overcrossing around the time Goleta girl vanished.

Police Chief Cam Sanchez and cold case Detective Jaycee Hunter held a news conference last week while cadaver dogs trained to find human remains scoured the area near the bridge, later finding an “area of interest” on the northbound side.

On Tuesday, the search for her remains began with the help of a Caltrans equipment team, a Los Angeles police detective familiar with Edwards’ burial sites, a search dog team and an anthropologist. Soil will be removed in thin layers, and the “area of interest” is perhaps the size of a living room, Santa Barbara police Lt. Paul McCaffrey said.

McCaffrey said Price’s family, including an older sister, was notified but did not plan to be at the site.

By coincidence, Caltrans this week is demolishing the concrete overpass and its foundations, which were built before Price disappeared. The concrete roads and ramps leading up to it were not yet built, and authorities are prepared to tear them up and dig underneath, McCaffrey said. They could dig as deep as 20 feet and spend days at the site, with the search dogs smelling for signs of decomposition at each layer.

“There’s no bone detector,” said McCaffrey, emphasizing the importance of the highly trained historical human remains detection dogs, or “cadaver dogs,” for a search like this.

McCaffrey said that even 50 years later, bones should still be intact. If any are found they’ll be collected and analyzed to determine a cause of death, if possible. The anthropologist on site can help date the bones if any are discovered.

Noozhawk staff writer Giana Magnoli can be reached at Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk or @NoozhawkNews. Become a fan of Noozhawk on Facebook.