ESCONDIDO — A month-old death investigation at Lake Hodges has left county investigators puzzled.
In fact, the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department is asking for public assistance to identify a female victim found near the lake on Oct. 17. The county medical examiner’s office believes the remains found are either a Hispanic or African-American between 25 to 35 years old and 5-foot-3 inches to 5-foot-4-inches in height, according to a recent press release.
Deputies responded to a resident report of suspicious circumstances in the 19900 block of Lake Drive last month. Homicide Detail Lt. Kenn Nelson of the Sheriff’s department said the body was discovered in a thick patch of reeds on the shoreline.
“We are trying to find out who this person is, and that will be the jumping point for our investigation,” Nelson said. “Any time human remains are found, the Homicide Unit will be charged with the investigation because at this point, we don’t know if she is a victim of foul play or if she died of natural causes, an accident or it could be a suicide.”
The victim was found wearing a distinctive ring along with a pair of shorts (reptile pattern) and a San Diego Padres jersey. Nelson said no other unique jewelry or clothes were found with the body.
After conducting an autopsy, the medical examiner’s officer believes the woman died approximately one month before the discovery, although no cause of death has been reported.
Nelson said the investigation is ongoing, but without an ID it has been difficult to center on a theory of how the woman died.
“Since we’ve put it out, we’ve had multiple tips and we are vetting those,” he explained. “Really, it’s going to come down to identifying the person first and then following up to see if there was any foul play or any other situation.”
He said mostly bones were discovered because of decomposition, so a fingerprint ID was not an option. Instead, authorities are attempting to identify the victim through dental records and DNA.
However, both scenarios will be difficult for detectives to pinpoint the woman’s identity. A DNA match would require the victim’s genetic material to be on file with state or federal records.
“If we are able to identify her quickly, then it could take several weeks,” Nelson said. “If not, it could be several months down the road.”
Anyone with information is urged to call the Homicide Detail at (858) 974-2321 during business hours or (888) 580-8477 after hours. In addition, anyone with knowledge or tips of the woman’s death can also call Crime Stoppers at (619) 235-8477. Tips leading to an arrest can earn up to a $1,000 reward.