Skeletal remains found in Oregon identified as Bay Area man missing since 1979

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(AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

In 1979, a 22-year-old California man went missing as he was traveling to Washington state to visit family.

Decades passed, with no word of Kenneth Bell’s fate. But then a timber crew working in a wilderness area of Oregon on Jan. 8 found skeletal human remains, along with a white canvas athletic shoe and a gray metal ring with a red stone.

On Tuesday, the Clackamas County Sheriff’s Office announced it had identified the remains, which included a partial skull, as those of Bell. A DNA confirmation is underway.

Detectives believe someone killed Bell, who was from Contra Costa County near San Francisco.

“The cause of death has not been determined however during their investigation, detectives developed information that led them to believe Bell’s death was caused by homicidal violence,” Sgt. Marcus Mendoza of the sheriff’s office said in an email.

Bell’s mother has died since she reported her son missing in 1979, when he would have been 22 years old. He apparently disappeared while traveling from the Bay Area to Washington state, the sheriff’s office said.

Bell worked in the timber industry in the late 1970s, and frequented the Portland area. The remains were found near Molalla, a town about 35 miles south of Portland. The terrain was so steep that search-and-rescue volunteers set up ropes so authorities could safely access the site.

The sheriff’s office is encouraging anyone who knew Bell in the late 1970s to contact detectives.

“His immediate family have all passed away,” Mendoza said. “We have been in contact with an extended family member.”

He said that relatives and detectives were declining interview requests.

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