The Mono Sheriff’s campaign has raised questions about a case that dates back to the discovery of a skull near Mammoth in 2008. Officers said that part of the investigation involved former Mammoth Police Officer Paul Dostie and his cadaver dog, Buster. Dostie said the Sheriff could have done a lot more to identify the still-unidentified skull.
A question during a candidates forum criticized the Sheriff’s Department’s handling of the skull case, alleging failure of an adequate investigation and failure to identify the skull. Mono Sheriff’s Lieutenant Rob Weber stands by the investigation which he said did include a “well-done search” of the area where the skull was found. Weber said it is likely the skull belonged to a suicide victim in Mammoth some 10 years earlier. The head of that victim was not found with the rest of his remains.
Former Officer Dostie believes that may be a premature conclusion. Dostie confirmed that he and his search dog did examine about an acre or two of the discovery site. He said that a larger search should have been done in a one-mile diameter, to look for other remains. Dostie said he had suggested using the Mono Search and Rescue team. He also said that he had provided names of DNA experts to Sheriff’s men and to the Sheriff himself. He suggested Dr. Phil Walker of UC Santa Barbara, an expert in skull measurement and analysis who offered his services for free.
Dostie said he also passed on the name of a Department of Justice scientist who would have provided DNA analysis at no charge. Dostie said that Search and Rescue did not inspect the area, that DNA was not found, analyzed or entered into the missing persons’ data bank. Dostie said through various scientific means, free services could have determined the sex and even race of the skull. Said Dostie, “If it’s not the suicide victim, a murder likely occurred.”
Lt. Weber had said the skull was not sent to a forensic lab because there was no DNA from relatives for comparison to determine identity. Dostie said valuable information could have been obtained from DNA analysis.
During the earlier Candidates Forum, Sheriff Rick Scholl said he believed this investigation was complete and that he doesn’t take such things “lightly.”