The human remains found north of Westport on Highway 1 this last Saturday have been officially identified as those of missing man Lewis Compton, according to Mendocino County Sheriff Office’s Public Information Officer Captain Greg Van Patten. Helen Compton, Lewis’s former wife, described a Thursday night visit from MCSO’s Patrol Sergeant J.D. Comer who told her the remains were her former husband.
Van Patten said that MCSO had consulted with Assemblyman Jim Woods, a forensic odontologist, who confirmed the human remains were Lewis Compton’s based on teeth found at the scene. MCSO is still waiting on the results from Chico State’s Human Identification lab that will provide information regarding the cause of death.
Van Patten recounted how two weeks after Compton went missing in November 2018, Helen, his wife, filed a missing person report “and it has been an active case ever since”. With the identification of the human remains, he said, “Compton is no longer a missing person”.
Lewis Compton went missing November 13, 2018. He drove his Jeep Cherokee into a fence along Highway 1 and fled the scene when law enforcement attempted to arrest him. He sped north, a California Highway Patrolman pursued, and when Lewis lost sight of his pursuer, he abandoned his Jeep, escaped into the woods, and had not been seen or heard from since.
A high school friend of Compton’s named David Fernandez read Cold Case Mendocino’s article entitled “Lewis Compton Fled Police, Abandoned His Vehicle and Disappeared into the Lost Coast” and was inspired to search for Compton this last Saturday, March 7th. Down a steep embankment from where the missing man had parked his vehicle, Fernandez said he located “a skull, shoulder bones, and human leg bones”.
Cold Case Mendocino traveled to the site of the discovery on Sunday morning where a multi-agency search and recovery operation was being organized and conducted. Representatives from Mendocino County Sheriff’s Office, Mendocino County Search and Rescue, California Highway Patrol, California Fish and Game, and Westport Volunteer Fire were all on-site. A large swath of the hillside below the road had been sectioned off with crime-scene tape and what appeared to be a human skull could be seen from the roadside.
Helen Compton, Lewis’s former wife, told us,“I am just honestly blown away that he was just right there! I never in a million years would have thought that. That is why it has seemed so hopeless. Such a huge forest. Really just blown away.” Now that Lewis has been found almost two years after going missing, Helen said, “I just want to say this is a tragic and heartbreaking end to our time together, but I am thankful and grateful to all involved that he has been found.”
When we were speaking to him about the case, Captain Van Patten noted, “Public awareness can lead to results and closure for families. MCSO is very appreciative and thankful there are individuals like yourself that are spearheading these sorts of public awareness campaigns.”
We want to thank all of our readers who take the time to share these stories and help get the information out, especially David Fernandez who went even beyond sharing into taking action that will eventually bring a missing man back to his family.