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Bodies tentatively identified as missing Swedish women

SANTA MARIA, Calif. -- Two nude bodies discovered in the Los Padres National Forest were tentatively identified as those of two young Swedish women who had promised their fathers they would stop hitchhiking and return home.

The fathers, Ove Lilienberg and Lars Wahlen, Thursday identified jewelry found on the bodies and the Santa Barbara County sheriff's office tentatively identified them as the missing Swedish women. The bodies were found in brush-covered hills.

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An autopsy was scheduled today to see if positive identifications could be made for Marie Lilienberg, 23, and Maria Wahlen, 25, who had been missing since July 22 when they left to Redwood City to hitchhike to Los Angeles.

The bodies were so badly decomposed, Lilienberg and Wahlen were unable to determine whether the corpses they viewed Thursday night were their daughters.

'We won't get a positive identification until we do an autopsy,' said Sgt. Bob Rogers, adding the coroner would also examine dental records being sought from the Swedish consulate.

Hunters found the bodies Thursday in the Los Padres National Forest, about 25 miles east of Santa Maria.

Miss Lilienberg and Miss Wahlen disappeared July 22 after visiting a friend in Redwood City. They were scheduled to fly from Los Angeles on the first leg of their return flight to Sweden.

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Redwood City Police Detective Robert Prevot said the women had planned to hitchhike to Los Angeles.

The fathers of the two women came to the United States two weeks ago to help search for their daughters, and when they learned of the discovery of two unidentified bodies Thursday, they immediately flew to Santa Maria.

The fathers went on television Tuesday night in the San Francisco area asking for help from anyone who may have seen the women.

Lilienberg, 58, a former Swedish representative for a U.S. oil company and now a drug counselor, and Whalen had started their search each day from the Swedish consulate in San Francisco.

They would travel by rented car along the highways from the city to Big Sur on the central California coast.

The fathers said their daughters met during the ski season in Colorado and had planned to return to their homes soon.

Lilienberg said that in his last telephone conversation with his daughter -- a week before she disappeared -- she promised to stop hitchhiking.

'She was giggling, she was so happy here,' he said of the conversation. 'She thought California was one of the most pleasant places in the world. People were so friendly here. She had hitchhiked twice with fine results.'

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Lilienberg added that the girls had been 'looking forward to coming home.'

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