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San Jose Mercury News
By Gary Klien, Marin Independent Journal
More than six months after a distinctively dressed body was found in the Marin Headlands, coroner’s investigators have yet to order its burial because they haven’t given up on identification efforts.
Darrell Harris, a death investigator with the coroner’s division of the Marin County Sheriff’s Office, said the department has gone to extraordinary lengths to find the man’s name and notify people who knew him. So far, all the potential leads have gone nowhere.
“He’s a guy we’re still holding out hope for,” Harris said. “We want to say we did everything possible for someone’s loved one before we bury them.”
An off-duty firefighter found the body on May 15 while hiking above Kirby Cove, which is just west of the Golden Gate Bridge. The body lay southwest of the lower of two batteries, out of easy public view, and was too elevated to have washed ashore.
Investigators found a full-body hooded wetsuit with booties under the man’s shirt, jacket and jeans, Harris said. No identifying belongings or documents were found near the man, despite several searches up and down the hill.
The cause of death has not been determined, but the man had no injuries that suggested foul play.
As the investigation continued, several details were established. The jacket was a black zip-up Kenneth Cole. The jeans were by Kirkland, a house brand at Costco. The wetsuit was an O’Neill Hammer 3/2, over which the man wore a Reebok shirt.
Harris determined that the wetsuit was the lesser of two thicknesses offered by the manufacturer. After additional investigation, including calls to retailers and rental companies through the region, Harris concluded that the thinner material suggested the wetsuit was not purchased nearby.
“Odds are he’s from Southern California or a warmer climate, or bought it from a warmer climate,” he said. The boots did not show a significant amount of wear.
A check of campsites, motels, hostels and psychiatric units in the area turned up no potential matches. Kayaking and surfing groups had reported no one missing. There were no tagged or towed vehicles that could be matched to the man. He had no tattoos that could distinguish him.
The autopsy revealed that the man had chipped teeth and a inguinal scar, which suggested the removal of a hernia or testicle. The level of decomposition precluded an exact determination.
The man had the pain medication Levo-Dromoran in his system. He also had Lexapro, a medication for depression and anxiety.
The man was white, about 5 feet 11 inches tall and 180 pounds. Harris said he was probably in his late 40s to mid 50s, with short dark hair that was receding on the crown.
Missing persons databases offered several possible leads, including one as far as Pennsylvania, but all were ruled out.
The remains are being held at a local mortuary while the investigation continues.
“We really have done a lot of research on this case,” Harris said. “When someone’s not looking for you, you’re hard to find.”
Anyone with potential information about the man’s identity can call the coroner’s division at 473-6043.
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