Costa Rican law enforcement officials said Friday they identified the body of former UCLA basketball player Jalen Hill more than a month after its discovery through forensic analysis of his skeletal remains.
DNA analysis involving samples from other family members confirmed the identification after Hill’s remains were found Aug. 8 in the Napoles de Tarrazu sector roughly 40 miles south of San Jose, according to Marco Monge, a spokesperson for the Judicial Investigation Police.
The cause of death was undetermined, Monge said, because of the state of the remains at the time they were found in a mountainous coffee-growing area popular with tourists because of its hiking trails. Hill entered Costa Rica on April 29, was last seen in early July and was reported missing Aug. 4, according to Qcostarica, an independent news website based in San Jose, the country's capital. The case remains under investigation.
George Hill, Jalen’s father, announced the death of his 22-year-old son Tuesday in an Instagram post. Jalen Hill’s sister, Tatianna, posted on Instagram she was returning home after traveling to Costa Rica with Jalen several months ago.
“Came to Costa Rica with my best friend and now I’m leaving without you,” Tatianna Hill wrote alongside a picture of her with Jalen when he was a toddler. “Your [sic] resting in true paradise right now and I have to accept that.”
Tatianna shared some of the details of her trip with her brother, writing “those first 2 months were amazing, we explored the jungles and beaches together, went Airbnb hopping, ate great food fresh from the ocean and smoked some great weed lol. … I felt like on this trip I got to know the real Jalen, the little boy I knew growing up. You’re probably in the astrals somewhere building mansions, discovering new realms and doing all the things you used to tell me about.”
News of Jalen’s death sparked an outpouring of tributes from coaches and teammates, with former UCLA forward Cody Riley posting a picture of himself standing next to Hill in uniform with two heart emojis and the message “By my side whenever I step Rest well brother.”
Hill had retired from basketball in April 2021, three months after his final game as a Bruin, because of anxiety and depression. The 6-foot-10 forward-center had already persevered through an international scandal after he, Riley and teammate LiAngelo Ball were detained in China for shoplifting from high-end stores during a season-opening trip.
Hill was suspended for the season before returning to become the team’s top interior defender. He hastened UCLA’s resurgence under coach Mick Cronin and finished his career with averages of 6.5 points and 6.4 rebounds while making 54.6% of his shots.
At the time he announced his retirement, Hill appeared to be in a happy state, continually flashing his wide smile.
“Now every day it just seems like I’m winning because I’m here,” Hill said, “I’m alive and my mental state has changed immensely.”
Tatianna Hill referenced her brother’s mental health struggles in another Instagram post featuring a picture of him smiling in his UCLA uniform.
“Please take care of your Mental Health,” she wrote. “Jalen was the biggest advocate for this because he was going through it himself. He didn’t tell me how bad things were until we got out here to CR. speak up, ask for help, don’t be afraid to tell others your story, don’t ever feel like you’re alone because there’s always someone out there for you.”
Tatianna also wrote, next to an emoji of crossed fingers: “I celebrate you bby [sic] bro, may all the love from all the hearts you’ve touched be sent to you in sweet heaven. until we meet again.”
This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.