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UPDATE: Body found at burn site may be shooting victim

Posted: March 17, 2014 8:44 a.m.
Updated: March 17, 2014 5:45 p.m.

Homicide detective Karen Shonka, in yellow poncho, reviews items collected Sunday at the burn site where human remains were found. Signal photo by Jim Holt

A man whose decomposed body was found near Gorman last weekend by firefighters battling a 100-acre brush fire was the victim of foul play and may have been shot, a homicide detective said Monday.

“We’re mode-ing it as a homicide,” said Los Angeles County sheriff’s homicide Detective Karen Shonka.

“There were some injuries to the skull and at least one that leads us to believe a firearm was involved,” she said. “We’re waiting on information from the coroner to confirm.

“Once we have the autopsy results, we’ll know better,” she said.

Investigators, including Shonka, were at a remote area off Highway 138 near Gorman on Sunday collecting bits of bone and other material in a bid to find out who the victim was and what killed him.

Investigators said the victim is apparently a male adult and he may have been dead four years.

Ed Winter, spokesman for the Los Angeles County Coroner’s Department, said a medical examination is scheduled on the body Tuesday.

“All we have is that (the victim) is male,” Winter said. “There’s a medical examination pending.”

Although coroner’s officials are expected to determine an age for the victim, investigators believe the victim was an adult.

“Based on the development of the mandible and that he had (dental) fillings, we believe he’s an adult,” Shonka said.

On Sunday coroner’s investigators took a cadaver-sniffing dog to the remote Gorman site on a hillside blackened by the Pine Fire, which broke out Friday and burned more than 100 acres.

They also collected samples of earth placed in large bags at the scene.

“Detectives believe foul play was involved and that the victim’s body has been at the location for an extended period of time, possibly up to four years,” according to a statement issued by the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department.

Shonka noted, however: “Four years is just approximate.”

Anyone with information about this incident is encouraged to contact the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department’s Homicide Bureau at (323) 890-5500. Those who prefer to provide information anonymously may call “Crime Stoppers” by dialing (800) 222-TIPS (8477), or texting the letters TIPLA plus the tip to CRIMES (274637), or by using the website
on Twitter @jamesarthurholt



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