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State office to review Alpine County death

Kurt Hildebrand

MARKLEEVILLE – The California Attorney General’s Office is reviewing the death of William McKinnon in Alpine County last summer.

McKinnon was found dead on a trail about 200 yards from his cabin on July 7, 2005, after he was reported missing the previous day.

In a letter to Alpine County Sheriff John Crawford, Senior Assistant Attorney General Jo Graves said she had been contacted by family and friends of McKinnon who do not agree with the coroner’s ruling that he shot himself. The letter was forwarded to The Record-Courier by McKinnon’s father, Raymond F. McKinnon.

In the letter, Graves said the state prosecutor’s office has been asked to review all the investigative reports relating to McKinnon’s death to determine whether further investigation is required.

Graves said Thursday she had forwarded additional information to the family’s forensic analyst.

McKinnon’s friends and family have sought a grand jury investigation into the death.

After finding McKinnon’s body, investigators interviewed his landlords and a neighbor, who told them he suffered from depression.

Alpine County Detective and Chaplain Edward Braz said gunshot residue was found at the point of impact and on McKinnon’s fingers, consistent with the ruling that he shot himself.

Braz defended the investigation and the department.

“We’re a professional agency and we want to be as thorough as we can,” he said. “We explore every avenue.”

However, McKinnon’s father and a friend, both of whom have filed citizen complaints with the grand jury, said they spoke with McKinnon in the weeks leading up to his death and that he was not depressed.

They say he would not have killed himself and are asking for the investigation to be reopened, according to McKinnon’s father.

According to copies of the sheriff’s report on the death, McKinnon’s dog Betty was found wandering near Carson Pass 6 p.m. on July 1. The dog was taken to El Dorado County Animal Shelter and an attempt to contact McKinnon was made, but he didn’t have a phone and the address on the dog’s collar was not a valid Alpine County address.

One of McKinnon’s landlord tried to contact him on July 1 and 2 to say his sister was visiting and that they were all right to be there.

The sister arrived on July 2 and found a note on McKinnon’s door from a friend seeking him. The same day, McKinnon’s landlords returned home from Palm Springs, where they were vacationing. He was last seen by a neighbor at about 10 a.m. on July 2. According to the neighbor, McKinnon stayed for less than 5 minutes.

On July 3, the landlord said he heard a single shot that sounded like it came from a pistol. He later told investigators that the thought ran through his mind that McKinnon had killed himself.

It was noon on July 6, after learning McKinnon had not reported for work and looking around the area for him, that McKinnon’s landlord reported him missing. A search was conducted and at about 1 p.m. on July 7 McKinnon was discovered.

According to the coroner’s report, McKinnon was found lying face down on the ground with his arms tucked under his torso and his hands positioned near his neck.

McKinnon’s sister, Francis Martin, told the investigating officer that none of the family considered him suicidal.

His father said he last spoke with McKinnon in mid-June on the phone and he sounded fine.

“The evidence they gathered was that Bill was a depressed person,” his father said. “He was not depressed. They said in the report he was depressed because of the long, hard winter. It was the middle of July. Bill lived in that area for more than 20 years, he loved it. It just doesn’t add up.”

Ray McKinnon wrote at least two letters to Alpine County Sheriff John Crawford expressing his concerns.

He said he didn’t receive an answer until after he’d written the District Attorney’s Office.


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