On the eve of the eve of Halloween (October 29th, 2012) just one year ago, a local man and his daughter kayaked to their favorite mushrooming spot on the Eel River just south of the Humboldt County line. As his daughter played, the man noticed something odd. For years there had been the pale crescent of one sneaker tip protruding up from the ground in this area but the man and his family had ignored it. Unfortunately, trash is not a rare occurrence by the riverside. This time though, the man uneasily noted the presence of a second sneaker tip slightly lower than the first but lined up with it as though someone were laying under the soil. The idea of a body being buried there crawled up his spine and chilled him.
Using a stick, the man began excavating the shoes. Mostly, he was convinced he was just removing some trash but a part of him worried… A worry that solidified into a dark truth as he dug out a shoe with a sock still in it full of bones.
His wife described the situation in a story from the LoCO last year.
“When my husband pulled the shoe out,” explained the wife who prefers the family remain anonymous, “he thought it had roots grown into it and had to really pull. At that point the foot came off the leg-bone…” The husband dumped out the shoe discovering both a sock and foot bones. “…[He] was just freaked out and full of disbelief. He was focused on the bones in the shoe, the sock, could they really be from a skeleton. There was still dirt in the hole around.” This hid the leg-bone from his sight. He and his wife discovered that fact when they returned later.
Once he found the bones, they were put in an empty bag he had with him,” explained the wife. “…When I went back with him to confirm [around dusk], we brought a little shovel and dug out a little more until we could see the [leg-bone]. It was only a round little end…but it was obviously a bone leading up the leg …[and we] could see there was a leg-bone going up inside what looked like denim pants. That is what confirmed to us we really were seeing a human body and it was time to call the police about it.”
First, the couple tried to reconstruct the scene a bit for a photo to show what they had seen to the police. “We placed the sneaker back in place to take that first picture. I turned it sideways to show the type of sneaker to take the second one [see below],” described the wife.
After spending a restless night, early on the day before Halloween, the wife phoned law enforcement. “I called in to the sheriff switchboard at 6:59 but they never called back and only showed up a few hours later. He seemed suspicious that it might be a Halloween joke….first thing we did was give him the bones….and show him the pictures. He totally believed us at that point…”
The body was excavated, removed, examined, and catalogued.
The clothing items found were a t-shirt, pants and, of course, the shoes. There was also a pocketknife found.
The shirt says, “Before I started working here, I drank, smoked, and used foul language for no reason at all. Thanks to this job, I now have a reason”
Later, in March of this year, the Mendocino Sheriff’s Office put out a press release:
On 03-11-2013 Sheriff’s Detectives received a report from the CSU-Chico Human Identification Laboratory in regards to the analysis of the human remains found on 10-30-2012 in Piercy, California.
The results of the analysis showed that the human remains are believed to be that of a white male adult, approximately 25-45 years of age with a height between 5 feet 11 inches and 6 feet 5 inches tall.
Sheriff’s Detectives have enlisted the assistance of the California Department of Justice in recovering DNA from a bone to help establish a DNA profile for the remains.
Sheriff’s Detectives hope to enter this DNA profile into the Combined DNA Index System (CODIS) and use the DNA profile to compare against Mendocino County Sheriff’s Office active missing persons cases.
As of publishing time, LoCO hasn’t heard back from the Mendocino Sheriff’s Office as to the latest information but we understand that DNA analysis is still being completed and the remains have yet to be identified.