Saturday, 15 June 2024

Death of man in forest ruled natural

MENDOCINO NATIONAL FOREST – A young man who was found dead in the Mendocino National Forest earlier this spring appears to have died of natural causes, officials are reporting.

As Lake County News reported previously, a young man who was in a remote part of the forest with his father died and his body was recovered by Lake County Sheriff's Office officials March 29 near Hull Mountain.

It was later discovered that the man's body was located in Mendocino County, so the investigation was turned over to the Mendocino County Sheriff's Office.

The young man, identified as Jovanny Perez-Ortiz, 22, was with his father, Alfredo Perez, when he died, reported Lt. Rusty Noe, the Mendocino County Sheriff's chief deputy coroner.

Perez then reportedly walked all day to reach the Soda Creek Store near Lake Pillsbury, where he reported his son's death and authorities were called.

Noe said he was lowered from a California Highway Patrol helicopter into the area where Perez-Ortiz's body was, on a steep hillside. There was no evidence of anyone else being with Perez-Ortiz and his father, Noe said.

This week, Mendocino officials reported the final results of Perez-Ortiz's autopsy and toxicology results.

Perez-Ortiz's toxicology results came back clear, said Tia Turner of the Mendocino County Coroner's Office. Nothing was found in his system that would have caused his death, which has been ruled natural, Turner said.

Last month, Captain Kevin Broin of the Mendocino County Sheriff's Office said he expected the toxicology tests would play a big role in understanding the young man's sudden death, and said at the time the department would wait for those results before making a final ruling on the death.

Resolution to the case was prolonged, said Broin, because of the involvement of several agencies, including the National Forest.

Noe said Perez-Ortiz was a Mexican national, as was his father, but both had Santa Rosa addresses.

The men were in a very rugged, remote area, said Noe. “They were up in an area where most people don't go hiking.”

Those circumstances had given rise to concerns that the men were there to locate a site for an illicit marijuana garden, which has become an increasing problem in the Mendocino National Forest. Last year, the forest was the site of the largest amount of illicit marijuana seized in the state.

As to what they were doing in the remote area of the forest, Noe said, “There was really no evidence to indicate that they were there to cultivate marijuana.”

Perez-Ortiz's death has been ruled accidental, said Noe, with no signs of foul play.

Mike Ricker, a Redding-based National Forest Service special agent, assisted in the investigation.

“When somebody is lost in the forest or injured, as it becomes more detailed, if they need more investigations done, they refer it to this branch,” he said.

Perez-Ortiz's situation was “a real sad case,” said Ricker.

Ricker said his part in the case was investigating the activities of the two men in the forest.

The Forest Service relies on the sheriff's determination on the cause of death, said Ricker.

On Friday, Ricker – who has since been working on another case – said he hadn't yet determined if he needed to continue an investigation into what men were doing in the forest.

E-mail Elizabeth Larson at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..


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