Investigation of bodies found at local campground continues

clambert@thetribunenews.com, jlamb@thetribunenews.comJune 14, 2013 

Two bodies were found Thursday afternoon in this tent at La Panza campground in the Los Padres National Forest west of the Carrizo Plain and south of Highway 58.

SAN LUIS OBISPO COUNTY SHERIFF'S OFFICE

Authorities continued working Friday to identify the two bodies found inside a tent at the far end of a remote campground nestled among oak trees in Los Padres National Forest.

Investigators do not believe that foul play was involved, but San Luis Obispo County Sheriff’s Office spokesman Tony Cipolla said he couldn’t comment on what led authorities to make that determination.

Since the bodies were badly decomposed, it could take some time for officials to determine their identities based either on medical or dental records, or DNA, Cipolla said. Investigators are also searching a national missing persons database.

A volunteer who patrols the area found the bodies about 2 p.m. Thursday in the La Panza Campground and alerted authorities, Forest Service spokesman Andrew Madsen said. The campground is accessible via Red Hill Road, west of the Carrizo Plain and about five miles south of Highway 58.

The volunteer checked the site about a week ago and noticed the tent, but “was struck by the fact that he didn’t see anyone,” Madsen said. When the man returned on Thursday and spotted the tent, he thought that was unusual and went to check on the campers’ welfare.

The campground, with about five sites, is more popular during hunting season, Madsen added. The campground is hot this time of year and doesn’t have running water.

Visitors don’t have to reserve sites, and the Forest Service doesn’t track how many people stay there.

“La Panza’s kinda off the beaten track,” he said. “Most people like to go to places where there are amenities.”

The bodies were found inside the tent, but not in sleeping bags, Cipolla said. Investigators found some form of identification but still need to complete the process to identify the bodies.

He said he did not know the gender of the individuals, nor could he comment on whether a note was found at the scene.

Reach Cynthia Lambert at 781-7929. Stay updated by following @SouthCountyBeat on Twitter.

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