The death of former Carlsbad High School student who went missing earlier this month in the Angeles National Forest is being investigated as a homicide, the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department said Thursday.
Glendale resident Nicholas Carter, 25, died of blunt force trauma and was left near Big Tujunga Canyon Road, Deputy Kim Manatt said in a news release. The fully clothed body was found near mile marker 2.72, several miles ino the national forest, northeast of Sunland-Tujunga.
Carter was last seen Jan. 7, but a missing persons report was not filed with Glendale police until Jan. 18.
Carlsbad High School officials confirmed Carter graduated from the school on 2005. A friend of Carter told NBC7 that Carter's roommate got a text message from him around the time he went missing saying he was going to see his Grandma in Sacramento, but later learned he doesn't have a grandma in Sacramento.
Investigators found his remains on Jan. 19, but they could not immediately be identified because they were in poor condition, authorities said at that time.
A shallow 3-foot-by-5-foot grave had been found in the area about 10 days before the remains were discovered, but it was empty, investigators said. Detective found a "blood trail" at the scene, but no body.
Detectives were still trying to figure out exactly how Carter died. Earlier, the Los Angeles Times quoted a homicide investigator saying that Carter was beaten to death. But Manatt said that she could not confirm that information.
The coroner's office determined the cause of death to be blunt force trauma.
Initial news reports, including from NBC4, said the man was a hiker, but authorities said he was dressed in everyday clothing and did not appear to be ready for a hike.
At the apartment building where Carter lived in Glendale, residents said they weren't aware of their now-deceased neighbor. His home was some 20 miles from the site where his body was found.
NOTE: An earlier version of this story stated that a missing persons report for Carter was filed Jan. 7, based on incorrect information initially supplied by the Sheriff's Department. In fact, Jan. 7 is when Carter was last seen. He was reported missing Jan. 18.