Suspect no longer sought in Mendocino County suspicious death

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The Mendocino County Sheriff’s Office no longer believes a man whose body was found last month in a burned van outside Leggett was a likely homicide victim.

“We’re leaning toward the most likely scenario is some kind of accident or suicide versus a homicide,” sheriff’s Lt. Shannon Barney said.

The man has been identified as Frank Pinckney, 58, of Eureka. On Nov. 24, a witness reported seeing a burning van and a man with his leg on fire on Highway 1 south of Leggett. Due to a miscommunication between the witness and a deputy, sheriff’s officials believed the man with the burning leg had fled the scene, and sent a SWAT team to search for him. But after conducting another interview with the witness, they now believe the man was Pinckney, and he re-entered the van after the witness saw him, Barney said. Pinckney’s family told investigators the man had been displaying signs of mental illness before his death, he said.

The Sheriff’s Office is still waiting on DNA test results from two beer bottles found near the van, but investigators believe homicide is unlikely, Barney said.

You can reach Staff Writer Andrew Beale at 707-521-5205 or andrew.beale@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @iambeale

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