Brazil Lomeli was at home one afternoon, when out of the blue her freshman Earth Sciences teacher popped into her head.
"I was wondering where he went," Lomeli, 18, said. "I googled him, thinking maybe he had a Facebook page."
What she found instead shocked her, bringing her to tears. The body of her teacher at Century City High, Alhambra resident Paul Otto Kluge, was found near the Whitewater riverbed in Riverside County on December 5.
Three months later, police are still trying to piece together the puzzle of what had happened. Evidence suggest that Kluge had gone into the river, which was six feet deep at the time, and reemerged at a later point. His rental car was left parked and unlocked about 350 yards away with his wallet and personal belongings. Investigators are still waiting for the full report—including a toxicology test—from the coroner’s office.
“So far there is no reason to believe that it was criminal act, and no reason to believe that it was an accident either,” Sergeant Sean Bahash of the Cabazon sheriff’s station said. Regarding the extended time for the pending coroner's report, Bahash said that "it depends on the case, some take longer than others." Suicide has not been ruled out as a possibility.
According to Bahash, detectives believe that Kluge was unemployed at the time. There were no signs that he was distraught. No one has come forward with additional information.
Kluge was living in the Villa Del Rey apartment complex off Garvey Avenue at the time of his death. His landlord described Kluge as “reserved and polite” in a previous interview with The Alhambra Source.
Kluge, 48 at the time of his death, taught Earth Sciences at a series of Los Angeles County high schools beginning with Glendale High in 1999. Lomeli said that Kluge was known for his odd sense of humor.
“He was popular,” Lomeli said. "People knew him as that odd teacher. It’s hard to describe him to someone who didn’t know him." He was passionate about geology, and was particularly invested in his students, she added.
For Lomeli the discovery was deeply upsetting: "I never thought that I would never see him again. I can't believe he's gone."
Anyone with information about Kluge is advised to call Cabazon detectives at (951) 922-7100 or Riverside County Sheriff's dispatchers at (800) 950-2444.