Homeless remains identified as brother of former Grass Valley police chief
December 19, 2013
The remains of a man, found in late October in the San Juan Ridge woods, have been identified as belonging to Gerald Knuckey, 81, brother of a long-serving Grass Valley police chief and mayor.
Knuckey’s scattered remains were found Oct. 25 in the area of Tyler Foote Crossing and Oak Tree roads, where he was said to have been squatting, near Mother Truckers store, according to the Nevada County Sheriff’s Office.
Investigators believe he died between three and four months before his remains were discovered by a concerned acquaintance, said Nevada County Sheriff’s Sgt. Rich Fevinger, the coroner.
“There are no suspicious circumstances or foul play we are investigating,” Fevinger said.
Knuckey was a Navy veteran who served four years in the Korean War, said his brother, Jack Knuckey, a 78-year-old resident of Foresthill.
“We were raised as brothers, but we kind of lost contact over the years,” Knuckey said, noting he had not seen Gerald Knuckey since approximately 1984, when he expressed his desire not to see him.
“Gerald was kind of a loner. He didn’t want anything to do with any of us,” said Jack Knuckey, a retired forest serviceman who has attempted to locate his brother since their last meeting but was told by a mutual contact that Gerald Knuckey wasn’t interested.
“I couldn’t find him. I didn’t know where he was. All of a sudden, the sheriffs contacted me,” said Jack Knuckey. “I’m pretty sad. I don’t like to see anybody go that way, particularly a family member.”
The third and oldest brother was Frank Knuckey, who served as Grass Valley’s police chief from 1947 until 1974, when he retired and moved into public service. Knuckey served as a two-term Grass Valley mayor, as well as on the city council.
He was also once a fireman, and he initially worked in the Empire Mine, according to The Union’s archives. Grass Valley City Hall bears a plaque dedicating the building to Knuckey’s years of service.
“Gerald was quite a drinker, and he caused Frank, when he was a chief, quite a few troubles,” said Jack Knuckey.
Though all three Knuckey boys were not blood brothers, they were raised in Grass Valley as brothers and regarded each other that way, Knuckey said. Gerald Knuckey even named his brother Jack, he said.
“I wouldn’t begrudge him anything because we are still brothers. There are a lot of good memories,” Knuckey said. “We always did things together when we were younger.”
Like his brother Frank Knuckey, Gerald Knuckey worked with his hands after Korea, working some of Nevada County’s saw mills and subsequently as a laborer around North San Juan, his brother said. He had no children but once had a wife, though Jack Knuckey is uncertain of what happened to her.
“It’s kind of vague — his history — because he was kind of elusive,” Knuckey said, noting that his brother had secluded himself on the San Juan Ridge since at least the 1970s.
“He has always lived up on the Ridge,” Fevinger said. “He was living off the grid and wanted to live up around North San Juan.”
Knuckey plans to cremate and inter his brother’s remains at a Marysville cemetery with their mother, he said.
Gerald Knuckey’s death represented the most recent death of a Nevada County homeless resident. In April, prominent Nevada City homeless man William “Bill” Peach, 48, was found dead at his campsite.
In January, Jennifer Waddell, 42, died in a Sacramento hospital after last being seen in Grass Valley, and a 49-year-old homeless man, Kevin Lamar Kuhn, 49, was found dead behind Grass Valley’s old post office two days after Christmas in 2012.
To contact Staff Writer Christopher Rosacker, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 530-477-4236.