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Story and photos by Shiloh Ireland

Photo:  Steve White's body location on trail


November 6, 2022 (Santee) – Authorities have not yet identified the man found  last week on a trail near a homeless camp in Santee. But two men who live at the camp told East County Magazine that the deceased was Steve White, who was homeless.

He had trauma to his upper torso, but the Sheriff’s department said it is unknown if it was a factor into his death, which is being investigated by the Sheriff’s homicide unit.


Photo , right:  Michael MacKenzie, who found Steve White's body


On October 30 shortly after 2:00 a.m., Santee deputies received a call to assist Santee Fire Department for medical aid at the end of Chubb Lane, west of  Magnolia Avenue. According to the Sheriff’s press release, when deputies arrived, they found the man, a “known transient”, face down on a dirt trail near the encampment. Paramedics provided CPR, but the man died at the scene.


ECM visited the Santee Sheriff sub-station in hopes of acquiring more information, but learned this is a “locked case.” In covering suspicious deaths, this describes an active investigation where no information is disclosed including the decedents name. Also, the San Diego County Medical Examiners website notes that autopsies may take up to four to six months for completion.


Photo, left:  White's camp


ECM visited the transient encampment on Saturday, November 5 and found two witnesses.  One, Michael  MacKenzie, told ECM that he found the deceased collapsed on the trail, and the other, Michael Bishop, said he made the 911 call. Both men knew the deceased.


Bishop, a long-time encampment resident, identified the deceased as his friend, Steve White. Bishop told ECM”My friend has family in the Lakeside or El Cajon area and has an adult son named  Greg White. Steve White was overweight and had some undisclosed health issues and was a very private person.” 


Photo, right:  Michael Bishop, friend of Steve White 


Bishop wept twice as I interviewed him. It was evident there was a bond between the two men. He said White had a BB gun. 


The area is totally dark at night with no lights nearby; there are large trees on both side of the path.  What was White doing or going in the dark and why was he carrying a BB rifle, as Bishop noted?


Micheal MacKenzie is another resident of the encampment area. Seated near his bicycle having a meal, he spoke with ECM and said he knew White.


According to MacKenzieWhite served in the U.S. Marine Corps, but MacKenzie knew little else about his service. He also mentioned that White was in poor health, 63 years old (the Sheriff’s release says the victim was 66), and used crystal meth.” MacKenzie claimed, “I was not at the encampment the early morning hours of October 30th; but arrived in darkness to pick up some of my clothing as I  had slept elsewhere, and as I was walking on the trail, I discovered White's body. I did not touch him, but tried to verbally wake him up and he looked like he had been dead for a little while. I also saw a pellet gun near him, but I thought it was strange that it was covered with leaves.”


MacKenzie stated that he and White both had the same girlfriend and acknowledged that they had disagreements. 

MacKenzie told ECM that upon finding White’s body, “I yelled towards Bishop's camp and told him to call 911.”

When investigators arrived, MacKenzie, said he was detained and his clothes were taken, he was fingerprinted and an oral swab was obtained, as well as samples from under his fingernails. 

MacKenzie added, ”I cooperated with the Sheriff and believe Bishop's interview with interrogators was a factor in the lengthy processing of me. I had nothing to do with White's death.”

What happened that night? Was White a victim of foul play, an accident, or a medical condition? The investigation may take many months before any information is released to the public. 


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