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Big Lead in Mystery of Skeleton Found Near Summit

Giichi Matsumura's body was found, buried in the area in 1945
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 24, 2019 8:20 AM CDT
Updated Oct 27, 2019 9:31 AM CDT
This photo shows the gravestone in Woodlawn Cemetery in Santa Monica, Calif., that marks the death of Giichi Matsumura.   (AP Photo/Brian Melley)
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(Newser) – Authorities may be close to solving the "huge mystery" of a full human skeleton found buried under rocks on California's second-tallest mountain. NBC Los Angeles reports the Inyo County Sheriff's Office will attempt to identify the body using DNA from a relative of a Japanese American man held at the Manzanar internment camp in the last days of World War II. No security remained at the camp on July 29, 1945, when Giichi Matsumura ventured to a chain of lakes beneath Mount Williamson with six to 10 others who planned to fish; he then walked off to paint, the AP reports. The 46-year-old would never return to the group. Matsumura apparently succumbed to a summer snowstorm while his companions huddled in a cave. Afterward, a search party found only his sweater.

Weeks later, however, a hiker found Matsumura's body and detainees returned to the mountain to bury him beneath a jumble of granite. Manzanar's newspaper described the event on Sept. 8, 1945, but the grave's location was never documented; some hikers have since tried and failed to find it. Matsumura's wife and four children have since died, according to a grandson. If the body discovered by two hikers earlier this month—face-up with arms crossed over its chest beneath a stack of stones—is indeed Matsumura, he'll be laid to rest for good in Santa Monica's Woodlawn Cemetery under a black granite headstone that bears his name and that of his wife, who died in 2005 at age 102. Investigators expect DNA test results in two to four months. (More on the discovery here.)

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