Human skull found by search dogs in woods

KELSO, Wash. - Cadaver search dogs found what searchers believe is a human skull in remote woods east of Kelso.

Searchers believe the skull may be that of a Kelso man, Sam Stefonek, who went missing in August 2010. However, Cowlitz County Sheriff's Chief Criminal Deputy Charlie Rosenzweig wrote in a news release that the remains haven't yet been positively identified.

The skull was found on Saturday as part of a search effort headed by the Cowlitz County Sheriff's Office to comb the area again where Stefonek disappeared.

During the search, a cadaver dog - which has training to detect odors of decomposition -- alerted its handler to the skull. Another dog also led its handler to the remains, according to Rosenzweig's news release. The remains were found about a mile in heavy woods from where Stefonek was last seen in east Cowlitz County.

A Clark County searcher also discovered a partially buried piece of clothing that searchers seized as part of the investigation into whether the skull belongs to Stefonek.

Since Stefonek went missing, Rosenzweig wrote in the news release that searchers have scoured the area five times by more than six different search-and-rescue teams.

The skull will be examined by a coroner to determine a cause of death. There was no evidence of head trauma, deputies said.