A California man vanished 42 years ago on road trip. His remains were just identified

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Maddie Capron
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In 1979, a 22-year-old set out on a road trip to visit family two states away.

Kenneth Lee Bell was traveling from California’s Bay Area to Washington when he vanished, officials said.

His mother reported her son missing 42 years ago. His remains were recently found and identified.

On Jan. 8, a timber crew working in a remote wilderness area near Molalla, Oregon, unearthed a partial human skull and other human remains, the Clackamas County Sheriff’s Office said in a news release.

The remains were found in a ravine on a work site where crew members were planting trees. There were also other items nearby.

“Scraps of clothing found in the area suggest the remains may have been there for some time,” officials said. “The remains predate the wildfires that swept through that area last September.”

Officials and workers found a single 9.5-size canvas athletic shoe and a metal ring with a squared red stone.

Those personal items helped investigators and forensic experts identify the remains as Bell. A DNA confirmation is also underway.

“If you knew Kenneth Lee Bell in the late 1970s, detectives would like to hear from you,” the sheriff’s office said. “You can contact the Sheriff’s Office Tip Line by phone at 503-723-4949 or by using the online email form at https://www.clackamas.us/sheriff/tip.”

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