Skull identified as belonging to missing Malibu man

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Daniel May went missing two years ago. His skull was recently identified, which was found in November on the Backbone Trail.

Daniel May disappeared in June 2002. A skull found on the Malibu Backbone Trail in November was recently identified as his. His father says it is a tremendous relief to have a sense of closure.

By Jonathan Friedman/Staff Writer

Malibu resident Daniel May, a 27-year-old adventurer, went to his friend’s Long Beach home on June 20, 2002 to help clean the house. After leaving the house, he was never heard from again. Family and friends were left without knowing what had happened to May for more than a year. Then, on March 31 of this year, a skull that was discovered in November on Malibu’s Backbone Trail above Las Flores Canyon was identified through dental records as May’s.

Capt. Deborah Peterson from the Los Angeles County Coroner’s Office said the cause of death could not be determined, and no other parts of the body or clothing have been found.

“It is a tremendous relief to have the sense of closure that he is alive or dead, although there are many questions to be answered,” said May’s father, Don.

Don May said he is working closely with his daughter, Armaiti, to determine how his son might have been killed. The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department said it was unaware of the case. County homicide detectives did not return phone calls for this story. Don May said murder is a possibility, because his son was known to hitchhike. He said another theory of his is that Daniel could have been killed by a mountain lion. Don May said if that were the case it would not change his view on the species.

“The family wants to say loud and clear, ‘We want more mountain lions in Las Flores Canyon, not less,'” Don May said.

When May first disappeared, his family did not contact authorities for a couple days. Don May said his son sometimes would go into the wilderness for several days, so this situation was not unusual. Different governmental organizations, including the Santa Monica and Long Beach Police Departments, the Los Angeles Fire Department and federal investigators, helped with the search. Don May said his state of mind during that time was one few could relate to.

“You go to the Santa Monica Third Street Promenade and most people are just looking at the performers,” he said. “I’m looking at every face in the crowd to see if I find my son. I wondered if I would be doing that until I was 90, and then one day my son [would] walk into the house.”

Daniel May grew up in Santa Monica and Malibu. He skipped two grades before high school, and later attended UCLA, where he graduated with a degree in physics. His mother, Dhun May, said her son’s ambition was to start a hospital that emphasized compassionate treatment of patients. He was an avid mediator, and devoted himself to the Self Realization Fellowship religion.

Among the many careers May had, he taught disadvantaged children for one year at an elementary school in Compton. He took nine of his students to Disneyland in a limousine at the end of the year. He also started an Internet newspaper called Angels Weekly, which reported good deeds.

“He would find out about a good deed and pursue it further,” Dhun May said. “He was strictly doing it to be doing a good thing. He wasn’t getting paid. It was costing him time and money. He was just a very good man.”

Daniel May was also an avid outdoorsmen. He backpacked in the Sierras and Rockies, and hiked much of the wild areas of Malibu. Don May said he would go on hikes often with his son and daughter.

Daniel May is survived by his father Don, mother, Dhun, sister, Armaiti and grandmother Naju Daruwala. A celebration of his life will take place on April 27, which would have been May’s 29th birthday, at the Self Realization Fellowship Lake Shrine in Pacific Palisades. Donations can be made on May’s behalf to Self Realization Fellowship Lake Shrine, 17190 Sunset Blvd., Pacific Palisades, CA 90272.