Mystery as Construction Crews Find Mummified Body Inside Wall at Former Convention Center in California

A partial view of the now defunct Henry Kaiser Convention Center in Oakland, California
Getty Stock Images

"The only positive that will come out of this story is that this will bring closure to a family that's probably wondering where this person has been for many years," said one of the officials, according to a report.

 A mummified body was found inside the wall at old Henry J. Kaiser Convention Center in Oakland, a California venue where the Grateful Dead regularly played during the '60s and '70s and where legendary political figures spoke, including Martin Luther King, Jr.

The grim discovery was made Wednesday by a construction crew with Orton Development, Inc. as they were demolishing an interior wall, CBS San Francisco reported

Authorities said the body had been inside the wall long enough that it mummified, which will make it difficult to determine the person’s identity, age, or gender, the news outlet reported. 

Oakland Police Lt. Frederick Shavies said the body was located behind the drywall in a narrow space, approximately 15 inches wide and 12 feet deep, KTVU-TV reported

Police have theorized the person was in the auditorium's ceiling and fell into the space where the body was discovered. Scratch marks behind the drywall have led investigators to believe the body made its way deeper into the space over time, according to KTVU-TV. The area would have been very difficult for the person to have gotten out of by themselves, and they may have suffered from positional asphyxiation, Shavies said. 

The body was likely in the wall between three and five years, based on the decomposition, Shavies said. Officials are now trying to identify the body.

"We're hoping that maybe we can rehydrate some of the skin," Alameda County Sheriff’s Lt. Ray Kelly told KTVU-TV. "We can run those fingerprints against our database and possibly identify the person."

He said that authorities may also use DNA and dental records to try to identify the person, and will also check a missing persons database.

"The only positive that will come out of this story is that this will bring closure to a family that's probably wondering where this person has been for many years," Kelly told the news outlet.

The Henry J. Kaiser Convention Center has been closed for nearly two decades. The building, which is located near Lake Merritt and Laney College, was built in 1914, but it closed as an event space back in 2005 when the building was deemed too costly to maintain, SFist reported

The building was declared a historic landmark in Oakland. And, after decades of neglect, the building fell into disrepair.  In 2015, the Oakland City Council authorized an exclusive agreement with Orton Development to rehabilitate and reuse the building as a performing arts venue and commercial space. The company also plans to lease the space from Oakland, the news outlet said. 

The rehabilitation project of the center was originally slated to start in 2020. 

Anyone with information is asked to call the Oakland Police Homicide Division at 510-238-3821 or the department's tip line at 510-238-7950.

Related Stories