Mother Tells Sad Tale|of Her Missing Son

     MONTEREY, Calif. (CN) – After her son vanished following the Grateful Dead, Fatima Nuray spent 20 years looking for him, unaware that the Monterey County Coroner’s Office had collected the teen’s remains in May of 1995.
     Had Monterey County authorities sent a sample of the boy’s DNA to state labs for testing, Nuray says, she would have been spared 20 years of agony.
     “They always talk about closure,” said Daniel Griffee, Nuray’s Salinas-based attorney. “She never got a chance to say goodbye to him.”
     Nuray sued the county Tuesday in Superior Court, along with its Sheriff’s Office, Coroner’s Office, the Pacific Grove Police two of its top officers. She claims they all failed to make reasonable efforts to identify the body of her son, Cengiz Nuray, 17, of Santa Barbara.
     She also accused them of deceit, misrepresentation and conspiracy.
     Nuray tells the story this way in her 15-page lawsuit.
     Cengiz Nuray was an only child in 1995 when he embarked on a summer vacation with friends, following the Grateful Dead through Northern California. He was last seen at a campfire at a Santa Cruz beach on April 27.
     “He just wandered off and never came back,” Griffee said.
     Friends assumed they’d see him at the next Dead concert. But they never did, and his mother filed a missing person report with the Santa Barbara County Sheriff on June 27.
     A month earlier, on May 26, a body was found floating in the surf at Asilomar State Beach in Pacific Grove, just south of Monterey, 65 miles from where Cengiz was last seen. The body was skinless and missing its head.
     Remnants of a skinless thumb and two fingers were removed during the autopsy for possible fingerprinting, but the efforts were unsuccessful. Dental records could not be obtained due to the missing head.
     While tissue samples were taken for DNA testing, the samples were never submitted to the state’s Department of Justice labs for testing.
     “The tissue samples remained untested in the custody of the Monterey County Coroner’s Office until 2014,” the complaint states.
     By February 1997, the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Department suspended its investigation and classified the teen as a “voluntary runaway,” but Nuray continued to search for her son, traveling the state and speaking to law enforcement about unidentified bodies they might have discovered.
     “She never stopped,” Griffee said. “I mean, what mother could?”
     Within a year of her son’s disappearance, Fatima Nuray had asked the Monterey County Coroner’s Office if they knew of any missing persons that matched Cengiz’s description and timeframe of disappearance, but she was told they knew of no unidentified bodies that matched her son’s description.
     In January 2002, she provided a DNA sample to the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Department to aid in the search.
     Through the years, Griffee said, she theorized what might have happened, wondering if her son had joined a cult, suffered from amnesia or simply run away from home.
     Fatima Nuray, who moved to the United States from Turkey as a teen, had only one relative living in the states, Griffee said: her son.
     In early 2014, Amy Lonsinger, an officer with the Pacific Grove Police Department, was reading the coroner’s report from the cold case file when she found that the tissue samples obtained for DNA testing were never delivered to the Department of Justice, the complaint states.
     The samples were finally submitted to the state, and on Dec. 30, 2014, the Monterey County Coroner’s Office told Fatima Nuray that the body found in 1995 was her son.
     They did not tell her that the delay in identifying the remains were due to their failure to submit samples. In fact, when the Pacific Grove Police announced that the case had been solved, it said the DNA samples had been resubmitted and that recent developments in DNA technology helped resolve the case, according to the Monterey County Herald.
     But in March this year Fatima Nuray read the Pacific Grove Police reports and discovered that the tissue samples had never been submitted in 1995.
     The Pacific Grove Police news release about the case not only covered up the mistake made in 1995, according to the complaint, it also claimed credit for solving the cold case.
     Nuray seeks punitive damages to deter such conduct.
     While the cause of death was never determined due to the decomposition of the body, Griffee said, “There’s no indication of foul play or criminal activity.”
     Most of the teen’s remains were cremated and spread out at Monterey Bay, Griffee said, except for the parts used for the DNA samples, which were returned to his mother.
     “She has a very small box of her son’s remains,” Griffee said.

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