The body of 63-year-old Jerry Mitchell, a Malibu native, was found Sunday by members of the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Department’s Search and Rescue Team. Mitchell’s body was discovered down a hillside about 200 feet from his residence on Torito Road in Montecito.
A coroners’ investigation revealed he died from a single gunshot wound to the head and concluded there was no foul play involved, Sheriff’s officials said in a press release issued Monday evening.
His body was discovered with the help of a cadaver dog, and was located in thick brush. “The body was under such thick vegetation that the search dog needed the assistance of brush clearing equipment operated by members of the Carpinteria-Summerland Fire District,” Sheriff’s officials said.
“Investigators have determined that Mr. Mitchell crawled underneath the thick brush to position himself away from others. Previous searches did not uncover the body due to Mr. Mitchell’s location in the undergrowth. He was found with a handgun which was registered in his name.”
Investigators used dental records to positively identify Mitchell.
Mitchell, the son of Richard Mitchell, a 50-year resident of Malibu, was reported missing Nov. 7 by a tenant who rented a portion of Mitchell’s Montecito home. He had not seen Mitchell for two days, and Mitchell’s wallet containing identification and cash, and his car and keys were all left at his home.
In an interview last week, the elder Mitchell said he had been worried about some recent behavior of his son’s that could indicate Alzheimer’s disease.
The father said he last heard from his son on Nov. 4, and that his son was last seen the following day, when he went out with four or five friends in Ventura early in the evening.
The Santa Barbara Sheriff’s Department was investigating the disappearance and the search, headed by Detective Alex Percorari of Carpinteria, had included the use of canines and a helicopter aerial search over the immediate area of his home.
However, a more intensive search into the rugged mountain area that was planned for the weekend of Nov. 15 was postponed due to the Montecito Tea Fire.
According to an official statement from the Santa Barbara Sheriff’s Department last week, neighbors had reported that Mitchell was “acting a little out of the ordinary. There were no signs of foul play at the residence; however, the investigation did determine that Mitchell may be despondent and a danger to himself.”