For weeks, a curious stench had wafted through an area of trails near St. Francis Xavier School on Scott Road, confounding walkers and hikers alike until one day, someone decided to investigate.
What they found on Monday was a gruesome end to a months-long search that had befuddled authorities looking for missing FBI agent Stephen Ivens.
“I had been out the night before and smelled that, too, but you know, I didn’t think anything of it. You smell things out in the woods,” said Gretchen Bingea, who often walks her Shepherd mix in the hillside area where the body was found.
The next day, she was alone on a walk when she passed a neighbor on the service road adjacent to the school. They continued on their separate ways, but a short time later, she and another friend heard a whistle.
“He was calling us to come back down [the hill],” Bingea said.
When they did, the neighbor told them he had gone off the trail to investigate the stench, thinking it may be a dead animal.
He had found something else.
“I found a skeleton,” Bingea recalled him saying. “I said, ‘You are kidding.’”
He wasn’t. He led Bingea and her friend to the spot, where she said she saw a body leaning against a small tree.
“I could see the skull, just kind of leaning against the tree — the clothes on a body and a leg bone,” she said.
The group immediately backtracked and called police.
Los Angeles County coroner’s officials would later confirm what was widely expected: The body was that of 36-year-old Ivens, his department-issued gun recovered near his body. The cause of death, they said, had yet to be determined pending the results of an autopsy.