Body found on Cerro San Luis could be homicide victim, police say


The body of a 63-year-old man was found Sunday on Cerro San Luis, a popular hiking and mountain biking spot in San Luis Obispo, and police said Monday that they are investigating his death as a possible homicide.

On Monday, police identified the man as local resident Charles Russell Lavenson and described him as an avid walker who was often seen around San Luis Obispo and on local trails.

A mountain bike rider spotted Lavenson’s body about 4:50 p.m. Sunday at the base of Cerro San Luis, near Lincoln and Mountain View streets.

He was found in a secluded area, visible from a nearby trail but about 20 to 30 feet from it, San Luis Obispo police Capt. Chris Staley said.

Lavenson had several injuries to his face and head. The cause of death has not been determined; deputy coroners with the San Luis Obispo County Sheriff’s Department will conduct an autopsy Wednesday.

Lavenson was found wearing khaki pants, a button-up, short-sleeve white shirt with blue stripes, and brown dress shoes with white shoelaces, according to police.

A plastic key card to a hotel room was found in one of Lavenson’s pockets, and detectives are trying to identify which hotel it belonged to.

If police confirm Lavenson’s death as a homicide, it would be the first on Cerro San Luis in recent memory.

On Monday afternoon, numerous hikers, mountain bike riders and a few runners weaved their way up and down Cerro San Luis.

A few said they take precautions, such as carrying a cellphone or bringing along a friend whenever they hike or ride on the mountain.

“I definitely like being outdoors, but it comes with weird accidents and weird people,” said San Luis Obispo resident Evan Millard, who was mountain biking the Lemon Grove Loop trail solo but carrying water and a cellphone.

Chris Gonzales and Branden Hustrei were making their way down the mountain on foot.

“I just think when hiking, take another person with you,” Gonzales said.

Investigators are asking anyone who saw or heard suspicious activity near Cerro San Luis or saw Lavenson on Sunday to contact the San Luis Obispo Police Department at 781-7317 or Crime Stoppers at 549-7867.