Campers Leave Rotting Body for Weeks

Homeless decided to leave rotting body instead of reporting it in fear of losing campsite

By Lori Preuitt
|  Wednesday, May 11, 2011  |  Updated 12:53 PM PDT
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Campers Leave Rotting Body for Weeks

CJ Swift Photography

This is not the Ben Lomond camping area, but it was one similar to this homeless encampment.

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A bizarre and disturbing story is coming to light out of Santa Cruz involving a homeless man's death and the attempt to hide it from authorities.

The Santa Cruz County Sheriff's Office says a transient named Peter Kouza apparently died of natural causes weeks ago, but they did not find his decaying body at an illegal campsite in Ben Lomond until this week.

A lieutenant at the sheriff's office said when fellow campers first discovered Kouza was dead, they covered his body with a blanket and continued to build their camp just ten feet away. Later as the body began to decay, the campers moved it 25 feet further away, but still did not report it. 

Investigators said the group did tell anyone for fear of losing their campsite or being evicted.

Kouza was reported missing May 2 by staff at the Valley Churches United Mission who noticed he had not been around for awhile.

The autopsy found that he died of natural causes due to chronic alcoholism and cirrhosis of the liver. Kouza battled alcoholism, which is what made him homeless.  He reportedly died on April 1.

The campers who knew about his death could face misdemeanor charges for moving the body without notifying the coroner.

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