BURNEY: Officials seek information, clues, after human skull found in wooded area
BURNEY — Detectives from the Shasta County Sheriff’s Major Crimes Unit are seeking information and asking for the public’s help after a forester located a human skull about three weeks ago. The skull was found in a wooded area off Tamarack Road, south of Highway 299 East, in Burney.
Officials have not yet specified if the skull was that of a male or female and they have not speculated on a possible age yet, citing the need for further investigation and examination of the skull by coroner’s officials.
The skull, which was found by itself, was discovered Friday, July 21, by a forester who was marking trees designated for salvage cutting.
The investigation began about 4:30 p.m., when deputies from the Shasta County Sheriff’s Burney Sub-Station were dispatched to the area after SHASCOM emergency dispatchers were notified regarding the find.
When deputies arrived, they were guided to the heavily wooded area where the skull was located, which officials say was about three miles south of Highway 299 East.
Authorities described the wooded area where the skull was found as covered with ferns, leaves, pine needles and old brush and not was readily accessible by motor vehicle. In spite of the remoteness of the wooded area deputies, forensic technicians, coroner’s officials and others conducting the investigation were able to reach the area by foot.
During their initial investigation, deputies and other officials scoured the area where the skull was found, searching for any other human remains; however, they were not successful in finding any.
Forensic technicians documented, photographed and collected the skull and other various items of potential evidentiary value.
The skull, which reportedly had remnants of dried skin tissue still attached to bone and did not show any sign of animal activity, was later turned over to the Shasta County Coroner’s Office for DNA testing and further examination.
Officials said the fact that tissue was still attached to the bone indicated the skull had not been outside or exposed to the elements for an extended amount of time; however, they have not yet determined how long the skull had been in the woods.
During the subsequent investigation, detectives from the department’s Major Crimes Unit conducted extensive follow-up investigation into how the skull had come to be in the woods and if the skull was possibly related to any known missing or sought person’s cases in the area.
In addition to other investigative measures, detectives checked missing person cases in Shasta County and neighboring counties; checked abandoned vehicles in the area and contacted the registered owners of the vehicles; cross checked records and reports from other law enforcement agencies, which could indicate a missing or sought person with possible connections to the Shasta County area; and contacted other law enforcement agencies to determine if they were investigating any cases involving suspects or persons of interest who may have fled from authorities to the Shasta area.
Officials also contacted several local Native American Tribes to determine if there had been any ritual burials in the area.
On July 27, as the investigation continued, members of the department’s Search and Rescue team returned to the area where the skull was discovered to conduct a coordinated grid search in trying to locate additional remains, a burial site or other items of evidentiary value.
Officials searched an area of woods about ¼ mile in radius that included several nearby roads and other areas where human remains could be found or might have been hidden. Despite their efforts, they were unsuccessful at locating any additional remains or anything of interest to the investigation, which officials say are active and ongoing.
Anyone with information regarding this investigation is encouraged to contact the Sheriff’s Office Major Crimes Unit at (530) 245-6135 or by email.
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Trevor Montgomery runs Riverside County News Source and Shasta County News Source. Additionally, he writes for Riverside County based newspapers, Valley News and Anza Valley Outlook and also writes for Bonsall/Fallbrook Village News in San Diego County.
Trevor spent 10 years in the U.S. Army as an Orthopedic Specialist before joining the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department in 1998. He was medically retired after losing his leg and breaking his back in an off-duty accident.
During his time with the sheriff’s department, Trevor worked at several different stations, including Robert Presley Detention Center, Southwest Station in Temecula, Hemet/Valle Vista Station, Ben Clark Public Safety Training Center and Lake Elsinore Station, along with other locations.
Trevor’s assignments included Corrections, Patrol, DUI Enforcement, Boat and Personal Water-Craft based Lake Patrol, Off-Road Vehicle Enforcement, Problem Oriented Policing Team and Personnel/Background Investigations. He finished his career while working as a Sex Crimes and Child Abuse Investigator and was a court-designated expert in child abuse and child sex-related crimes.
Trevor has been married for more than 26 years and was a foster parent to more than 60 children over 13 years. He is now an adoptive parent and has 13 children and 13 – soon to be 14 – grandchildren.