Remains thought to be those of missing man |

Remains thought to be those of missing man

County investigators have yet to positively identify the remains of a man found near a sport utility vehicle reported missing from Nevada City, but the remains are believed to be that of Jim Smith.

A firearm that is believed to have caused a self-inflicted gunshot wound was also found Monday next to where the remains were discovered.

Smith was last seen by a friend on Sept. 4. She reported the disappearance two days later after he did not show up for prearranged plans and she went to his home to discover 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 for whom Smith was responsible two weekends a month.

Saturday, a U.S. Forest Service employee reported a golden brown Nissan Xterra 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.

By the time the vehicle was determined to be Smith’s, darkness prevented a search until the next morning.

Sunday, at first light, the Nevada County Search and Rescue team scoured the area and found the remains 100 yards downhill from the car. The body could not be positively identified right away because of decomposition. It was not clear how long the car or the body had been at the picnic area. Foul play has not officially been ruled out.

Nevada County AnimalSave volunteers have adopted out Smith’s cats to his friends, but have had trouble finding a home for his dog, a yellow Labrador/Staffordshire Terrier mix.

The dog was very close to his owner, and has had problems adjusting to life in a kennel, volunteers said. The dog, between 1 and 2 years old, currently goes by “Andy.” He spent two weeks at the Grass Valley Animal Shelter, but no one adopted him and he had to be moved or risk euthanization. The Nevada County Animal Shelter has housed him since then, and he will be staying there as long as space allows.

To adopt Andy, call AnimalSave at 271-0220, or log on to

Students at Sierra Foothill High School, where Smith used to be a security guard, will be holding a candle-lighting and prayer service in his honor Monday in front of the school. The service will run from 7:55 a.m. through 8:35 a.m. Students and teachers will also plant a tree in Smith’s honor.

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