Car of missing man found – Body discovered 100 yards from vehicle is not yet identified |

Car of missing man found – Body discovered 100 yards from vehicle is not yet identified

Investigators found a vehicle Saturday evening that belonged to a Nevada City man who was reported missing Sept. 4 and the body of a Caucasian man 100 yards north of the vehicle Sunday morning.

While the body has not been determined to be that of Jim Smith, to whom the vehicle belonged, and foul play has not been ruled out, the death appears to have been caused by a self-inflicted gunshot wound, according to the Nevada County Sheriff’s Office.

At 3:30 p.m. Saturday, a U.S. Forest Service employee reported that a car matching the description of Smith’s was parked at the back of a parking lot in a picnic area near the White Cloud campground, off Highway 20. At the time of his disappearance, Smith was believed to have been driving a golden brown Nissan Xterra.

Investigators confirmed the vehicle belonged to Smith Saturday, but darkness prevented a search of the car and the surroundings until the next morning.

The Nevada County Search and Rescue team searched the area at first light Sunday and found the decomposed body 100 yards north of the car. The body could not be positively identified because it had been disturbed by wildlife, Sheriff’s Sgt. Frank Koehler said.

The man most likely died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound, Koehler said, but no firearm was found in the vicinity.

It was not clear Sunday how long the car or the body had been at the picnic area.

Smith was last seen by a friend on Sept. 4. The friend reported the disappearance two days later after he did not show up for prearranged plans. Concerned, the friend went to his home and discovered that Smith had left his dog and two cats by themselves.

Smith and his ex-wife, Alta Sierra resident Kristi Merten, have a 9-year-old son whom Smith is responsible for two weekends a month.

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