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September 8, 2010 (San Diego’s East County) – Authorities battling the Monte Fire found a human skull on a trail in the Cleveland National Forest, East County Magazine has learned. The grisly find occurred on August 22 at 4 p.m., the San Diego Medical Examiner’s office has confirmed.

The Medical Examiner is conducting testing and cause of death has not yet been determined. The victim was not burned in the fire and may have perished in another location some time ago.


“The exposure appears to be one or two years,” Lt. Dennis Brugo with the San Diego Sheriff’s homicide detail informed East County Magazine. Brugo said the skull was consistent with a Hispanic male, age 30 to 50, though a Medical Examiner’s report is awaited for confirmation.

There are no indications of foul play, Brugo noted. “When a person dies in the backcountry, and it happens all the time, within a day or so it starts to decompose…then there is going to be animal activity.” Coyotes or a mountain lion may move body parts far from the location where the individual died, he said, adding that he once found an arm in the middle of a road in Jamul. Often such remains are those of migrant border crossers who succumbed to dehydration or injury traversing rugged terrain in East County.

After the Medical Examiner has completed a report, the Sheriff’s office will submit records including DNA results to the U.S. Department of Justice to enter into a database. “We will also check for reports on any similar missing persons in the County,” Brugo said.

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