During the spring of 1995, Santa Barbara teen Cengiz Nuray was with a group of friends following the Grateful Dead on tour when they stopped at Greyhound Rock Beach in Santa Cruz. Nuray split off to walk alone and left his belongings behind. He never returned. His mother soon reported him missing to the Santa Barbara Sheriff’s Office but received no news about her son’s fate for two decades.

Later that same year, the badly decomposed “partial body” of an unidentified 17-year-old was found floating off Asilomar State Beach in Pacific Grove, which is approximately 40 miles south of Santa Cruz. Police were unable to link the body to any missing persons reports, so they collected DNA from the remains and classified the body as a John Doe.

Cengiz Nuray
Courtesy Photo

Pacific Grove police and the Monterey County Sheriff’s Coroner’s Office recently reopened the case and submitted the DNA to a California Department of Justice laboratory once again. With more advanced sequencing technology now at their disposal, authorities matched the genetic material to Nuray on December 30. The exact cause of death and the circumstances surrounding Nuray’s disappearance are still unknown.

Reporter Ana Ceballos with the Monterey County Herald was one of the first to write about the positive DNA match and announced Nuray’s identity via Twitter this afternoon.

According to Santa Barbara Sheriff’s spokesperson Kelly Hoover, Nuray “was considered a voluntary missing person and no foul play was suspected.” Nevertheless, she said, “We can imagine that this must have been extremely difficult for the family not to know for sure that their loved one had passed away all of these years. At the very least, we are pleased that the missing person aspect of the case is closed and that the family can finally get some closure.”

Little information exists online about Nuray’s disappearance other than a few forums dedicated to missing persons and cold cases. On Websleuths.com, a thread about Nuray includes a post from someone claiming to be one of his childhood friends. The message from March 2013 reads:

I was saddened to hear about cengiz and his disappearance. I am a childhood friend and recently decided to run a search for him on facebook but to no avail. An internet search brought me here. At first I couldn’t believe it was my old friend that was missing but after seeing his picture s I knew I had the right person and it was definitely him.

I first met Cengiz in the 80’s when my dad dated his mom for a while. We became friends right away and spent a lot of time together mostly playing Nintendo at his house. However, occasionally we would venture outside and skateboard around Santa Barbara. We both started collecting comic books at the same time as well and that also began a bonding over trading and hunting down our favorites. I also remember when he lived with his mom at a house with a pool and we would spend a lot of time there goofing around. I hated when he and his mom would talk in Turkish around me because I could never understand them.

I eventually moved to Alaska but my father still remained in contact with his mom until he remarried and we all pretty much went our separate ways. The last time I saw him was probably around 90 or 91 when he was a freshman in high school. He had new friends and new interests and we just didn’t have the same bond that we did as kids.

All in all, I only have a few close friends that impacted me from my childhood and with all the time I spent with Cengiz I would say he would be counted near the top. We would both be the same age now I suppose and I hope he is doing well wherever he may be.


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