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Victim’s lifestyle hinders investigation of his death

There are no new leads in the investigation of the death of San Luis Obispo resident Charles Russell Lavenson, who was found dead nearly two weeks ago with his head smashed, close to a popular hiking trail.

Lavenson lived alone and didn’t spend much time with many people — making it difficult for investigators to learn much about his daily life, said San Luis Obispo police Capt. Chris Staley.

“He was out and about a lot and went to a lot of places,” Staley said. “But when you have someone who lives a lifestyle without close friends or someone he spent time with, it is hard to pin down what he did with his days and what issues he may have had. No one really knows.”

Investigators are trying to compile a timeline of Lavenson’s last day by talking with various restaurant and shop owners with whom he interacted. They are also using surveillance videos taken at places such as the Chase bank branch in downtown San Luis Obispo, where Lavenson withdrew money earlier that day.

Investigators think robbery may have been the motive, but they are not certain. Lavenson’s wallet still has not been found.

Staley said Lavenson likely did not have a lot of cash on him. A review of his bank records shows that he would take out small amounts of cash at a time, just enough to get by for the day, Staley said.

Lavenson, 63, was found near Lincoln and Mountain View streets at the base of Cerro San Luis with severe injuries to his face and head on the afternoon of Oct. 23.

An autopsy determined he died of blunt force trauma. A toxicological report is pending.

He 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.

Police plan to use the timeline to determine if anything that day might have contributed to his death.

“We are trying to find out if any part of his day contributed to his death, like someone he might have had a run-in with during that day or anything to give someone motive to murder him,” Staley said.

Another impediment in the case is that he was killed in an isolated but well-traveled place, leaving investigators to comb through physical evidence and determine what might be related to what happened that day.

Two investigators remain focused on the case full-time.

“It is a top priority,” Staley said. “It’s really a matter of running out of leads and things to follow up on.” San Luis Obispo investigators are asking anyone who may have seen Lavenson on Sunday to contact them at 781-7317 or Crime Stoppers at 549-7867.

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