Homicide detectives investigating “suspicious death” after human remains found at national park

JOSHUA TREE NATIONAL PARK, Calif. — Officials are investigating a “suspicious death” after a State Parks’ ranger discovered human remains inside Joshua Tree National Park earlier this morning. The official discovered the remains while patrolling the vast desert expanses of the popular hiking destination.

SEE RELATED: Stranded for 3 days with a shattered pelvis, NZ hiker rescued from Joshua Tree National Park

The Park Ranger located the human remains about 9:15 a.m., in the area of Big Horn Pass Road and Park Blvd., in the general vicinity of Barker Dam – known worldwide for its vivid petroglyphs drawn onto area boulders by Native Americans.

Thermal Station patrol and investigative personnel responded to the scene, according to Riverside Sheriff’s Sergeant Ben Ramirez. Based on their observations, Sheriff’s Central Homicide Unit investigators were summoned and responded to the location.

“Due to the suspicious circumstances regarding this incident, the Central Homicide Unit assumed the investigation,” Ramirez wrote in a press release.

Officials have not released any information about the victim, who remains unidentified at this time.

Today’s discovery comes on the heels of another major news story involving the national park and a New Zealand hiker who spent more than 80 hours stranded after falling 30 to 40 feet and shattering her pelvis.

Claire Nelson, 36, was spotted by a sheriff’s aviation crew searching within the park’s massive 1,235 square miles for her last Friday, May 25. The huge search effort began after the victim’s friends realized she hadn’t been active on social media for several days and reported the Kiwi hiker missing.

Last week’s search involved park rangers, Riverside County Sheriff’s and CHP officials, Joshua Tree Search and Rescue (JOSAR), and other volunteers, who responded to the scene with search crews, supplies, vehicles, and a Sheriff’s mobile command center.

After searchers found Nelson’s vehicle in the parking lot of the Lost Palms Oasis and Mastodon Peak trail-head, officials narrowed down the search area, focusing their efforts on the 7.2 mile trail and surrounding areas. Searchers then fanned out, deploying on foot, in recreational and 4-wheel-drive vehicles, and from the air.

After six hours of intensive searching the sheriff’s aviation crew spotted Nelson, frantically but wearily waving a signal she fashioned out of a shirt and hat tied to a stick. She remains hospitalized and is recovering from her injuries.

Today’s discovery was about 50 miles north of where Nelson was found last week.

Anyone with information regarding this investigation is encouraged to contact Investigator Johnson with the Central Homicide Unit at (951) 955-2777 or Investigator Aldrich at the Thermal Sheriff Station at (760) 863-8990. Callers can refer to incident file number C181530020 and can remain anonymous. Citizens may also submit a tip using the Sheriff’s Homicide Tipline online form.

 

Contact the writer: trevor.rcns@gmail.com

Trevor Montgomery, 46, recently moved to Shasta County from Riverside County and runs Riverside County News Source and Shasta County News Source. Additionally, he writes for several other news organizations, including Riverside County based newspapers, Valley News, The Valley Chronicle and Anza Valley Outlook, as well as Bonsall/Fallbrook Village News in San Diego County and The Mountain Echo in Shasta 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, breaking his back and suffering both spinal cord and brain injuries in an off-duty accident. (Click here to see segment of Discovery Channel documentary of Trevor’s 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 27 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 14 – soon to be 15 – grandchildren.

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