Human head, remains found in hills; dead man may be a homicide victim
Jennifer Squires - Sentinel Staff Writer
Posted: 10/02/2008 01:30:32 AM PDT

SCOTTS VALLEY - A hiker found a decomposed human head on a trail in the hills above Scotts Valley High School, and Sheriff's Office detectives think it might be the remains of a homicide victim.

The grisly discovery was made around 2:45 p.m. Tuesday on a trail leading to the Redwood Glen Camp between Glenwood Drive and Bean Creek Road, according to the Sheriff's Office.

Detectives and CSST search dogs found a man's decomposed body hundreds of feet from the trail Wednesday morning, the Sheriff's Office reported.

The Sheriff's Office is considering the case a homicide, though neither the victim nor the manner in which he died has been identified.

"I really want to treat this as a homicide because possibilities do exist that it will remain one," said Lt. Phil Wowak, head of the Sheriff's Office Investigations Unit. "It just doesn't seem like a lost hiker and it doesn't seem like a natural event."

The man appeared to be in his late teens to mid-20s and had dark hair. His body was fully clothed and a "distinctive" ring was found with him, according to the Sheriff's Office.
Details about the man's clothing and a photograph of the ring may be released later this week in hopes that someone can help identify the man, Wowak said.

The man's body was found in a remote, heavily wooded area by a Santa Clara County Sheriff's Office dog trained to recover human remains. Wowak said it the body was badly decomposed and that the man had apparently died several months ago.

Wowak was unsure how the man's head became separated from his body.
"It was hundreds of yards away from where we found the body," Wowak said. "It's likely it was brought down there by animals, but we haven't ruled out the fact someone stumbled across it and put it there so it would be found."

The well-traveled trail where the man's head was found is near Redwood Glen Camp and Conference Center on Bean Creek Road, north of Scotts Valley. Wowak said he thinks the man was killed where his body was found.
"In my opinion based on the visit there, the person likely died at that location but we can't rule out that he died someplace else and was brought there," Wowak said. He added that no evidence of how the man died, such as a gun or a knife, was found in the area.

There were no other belongings -- including ID -- found with the man, according to the Sheriff's Office. Detectives are reviewing 150-200 missing persons report from Santa Cruz and Santa Clara counties to narrow down the number of people to compare against this case. An autopsy will be performed this week.

Sheriff's detectives asked that anyone with possible information about the dead man contact the investigations unit during business hours at 454-2311, the nonemergency dispatch number after-hours at 417-1121 or the anonymous tip line at 454-2847.


Contact Jennifer Squires at 429-2449 or jsquires@santacruzsentinel.com.