Crime

Human Skull Found Near the Mendocino/Humboldt County Line Not Far From the 2012 Discovery of a Skeleton in Sneakers

On October 8, 2020, a forester conducting timber harvest inspections in a creek bed southeast of the convergence of Highway 101 and 271 near the Mendocino and Humboldt County line made a grim discovery–a human skull.

Mendocino County Sheriff’s Office Public Information Officer Captain Greg Van Patten confirmed his agency was alerted to the discovery at 2:29 p.m. that Thursday when the skull was recovered by detectives. Captain Van Patten specified that as of now “no other remains were located” and the “case is under investigation at this time.”

Captain Van Patten explained that MCSO’s Search and Rescue team has been delayed in search of the area where the skull was found due to “two major missing person’s searches on the coast from last weekend.” The two missing person cases Captain Van Patten is referring to are those of Sharon “Chris” Bear and Patricia Ahern who both returned home safely. Captain Van Patten said Search and Rescue will be engaged in a “large scale…search next week at some point” to comb the area where the skull was located.

The discovery of this human skull is within five-mile proximity of an unidentified human skeleton discovered on October 29, 2012. Known locally as the “Skeleton in Sneakers” case, a kayaker on the Eel River with his young daughter had for years noticed a sneaker sticking out of the riverbank. Then, a few days before Halloween giving into dark curiosity, the kayaker dug around the sneakers and found a sock full of bones. 

The tips of a pair of Pro Wing tennis shoes sticking out of the ground that led to the discovered of the “Skeleton in Sneakers” in October 2012. [Picture provided by a witness of the scene]

According to conversations with Captain Van Patten, MCSO was able to recover DNA from the “Skeleton in Sneakers”, but the DNA did not match any known missing persons. Captain Van Patten surmised the body could be someone from out of the area or “this could be a person that never was reported missing.”

The “Skeleton in Sneakers” case has entered Mendocino County’s cold case lore and the remains are unidentified to this day. Anyone with information about either of these cases is urged to call the Mendocino County Sheriff’s Tip-line at (707) 234-2100.

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