H-SAN LUIS OBISPO

Oct 25, 2011 1:52 AM by Ariel Wesler

Possible homicide on popular trail leaving some hikers uneasy

San Luis Obispo Police still don't know how it happened, but we do know that a 63-year-old man is dead after his body was found last night at Cerro San Luis, also known as Madonna Mountain.

Investigators say Charles Russell Lavenson was found near the Lemongrove Loop Trail. That's off Lincoln and Mountain View streets. He had severe trauma to his head and face.

Lavenson had lived in San Luis Obispo for a long time, according to police, and was known to be an avid hiker.

Today, search and rescue teams searched the mountain for evidence behind a taped off crime scene.

Charles Lavenson, 63, lived alone at the Judson Terrace Homes, a senior housing complex on Augusta Street in San Luis Obispo. Dorothy Mills is one of the resident managers.

"We were all really surprised and just unbelievable that something could happen to one of our people," Mills said.

She says Lavenson had lived there for less than a year and was quite a talker.

"He was very educated. He talked about everything and he constantly talked to himself. He didn't care if people were listening to him or not," Mills said.

"I did think twice when I started out," said Dave Pabinquit of Morro Bay. He's been mountain biking at Cerro San Luis since 1986.

"I have a cell phone that I use and I do have knife on me," Pabinquit said.

He bikes after work, which means as it gets darker earlier, he aslo comes prepared with a high-powered helmet light along with some bear spray and a first aid kit.

"I have been up on the mountain when people have been coming down without any headlamps, or anything," Pabinquit said. "Common sense dictates. Take the right precautions. Be safe in what you do."

Lavenson also attended the San Luis Obispo First Presbyterian Church on Marsh Street.

Investigators say this appears to be a murder, but they have not yet determined a cause of death.

San Luis Obispo Police have some basic safety tips for hikers and walkers out there.

When possible, hike with somebody else. If not, carry your cell phone so if you fall or get curt, you can call someone. Also, always stay hydrated with water. That's important in the event you do get hurt and are on the mountain for a long period of time.

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