Human skeletal remains found in a remote area of Malibu Canyon next to a smashed pickup truck are probably those of a UCLA student missing since October who was last seen driving the vehicle, a detective said Wednesday.
The red Ford Ranger pickup truck driven by Michael Niemeyer, 22, of Redlands was spotted by passersby at the bottom of a steep slope 600 feet from Piuma Road, east of Malibu Canyon Road, police said.
"Based on the truck and the ID we found next to the body, we are pretty sure it is him," Redlands police Det. Rick Smith said. "The coroners will make a final determination."
The scattered remains were found by police five to 10 feet from the severely damaged truck, its air bag deployed and the keys still in the ignition. Possessions were visible strewn around the crash scene, including sports memorabilia.
Smith said the Los Angeles County coroner's office will determine the cause of death. California Highway Patrol officers said the truck had left the roadway above and plunged down the ravine. They were trying to determine the cause of the accident.
Redlands police had been searching for Niemeyer since he disappeared after setting off from the Westwood campus to his family's Redlands home. Niemeyer was an honor student and football player at Redlands High School.
David Campbell, a Los Angeles County coroner's spokesman, said investigators will use dental and other medical records to determine the identity of the body. Los Angeles County Sheriff's Lt. Steve Van Herpe of the Lost Hills/Malibu station said animals may have scavenged the remains.
Niemeyer was last seen Oct. 13 leaving a Glenrock Avenue apartment. Niemeyer, a history major, was enrolled at UCLA from 1999 to 2003. According to police, at the time of his disappearance Niemeyer, who was one class short of graduating last spring, was moving back home for financial reasons.
"He had been somewhat despondent," Smith said.
Niemeyer's mother, Linda, told reporters her son planned to obtain a teaching credential and wanted to teach history to high school students.