Costa Rican law enforcement officials said Friday they had identified the body of former UCLA basketball player Jalen Hill more than a month after its discovery through forensic analysis of his skeletal remains.
DNA analysis using samples from other family members confirmed the identification after Hill’s remains were found Aug. 8 in the Napoles de Tarrazu sector, about 40 miles south of San Jose, according to Marco Monge, a spokesman for the Judicial Investigation Police.
The cause of death is unknown, Monge said, based on the condition of the remains at the time they were found in a mountainous coffee-growing area popular with tourists for its hiking trails. Hill entered Costa Rica on April 29, was last seen in early July and was reported missing on August 4, according to Qcostarica, an independent news website based in San Jose, the country’s capital. The case will be further investigated.
George Hill, Jalen’s father, announced the death of his 22-year-old son in an Instagram post on Tuesday. Jalen Hill’s sister Tatianna posted on Instagram that she is returning home after traveling to Costa Rica with Jalen a few months ago.
“I came to Costa Rica with my best friend and now I’m leaving without you,” Tatianna Hill wrote alongside a picture of her with Jalen when he was a toddler. “Your [sic] I am resting in true paradise right now and I have to accept that.”
Sharing some details of her trip with her brother, Tatianna wrote: “These first 2 months were amazing, we explored the jungle and beaches together, went airbnb hopping, ate great food fresh from the sea and smoked great weed lol . … I felt like on this journey I met the real Jalen, the little boy I knew growing up. You’re probably out in the astral somewhere, building mansions, discovering new realms, and doing all those things you’ve always told me about.”
News of Jalen’s death sparked a flurry of tributes from coaches and teammates, with former UCLA forward Cody Riley posting a picture of himself standing next to Hill in uniform with two heart emojis and the message “To my side, whenever I take a step, rest well brother.”
Hill had retired from basketball in April 2021, three months after his last game as a bruin, due to anxiety and depression. The 6-foot-10 forward had already weathered an international scandal after he, Riley and teammate LiAngelo Ball were arrested in China for shoplifting from high-end stores during a season-opening trip.
Hill was suspended for the season before returning to become the team’s top centre-back. He accelerated UCLA’s rebound under coach Mick Cronin, finishing his career averaging 6.5 points and 6.4 rebounds while making 54.6% of his shots.
At the time he announced his retirement, Hill appeared to be in a happy state, constantly flashing his big smile.
“Now every day it seems like I’m winning because I’m here,” Hill said, “I’m alive and my mental state has changed tremendously.”
Tatianna Hill referenced her brother’s mental health issues in another Instagram post, which shared a picture of him smiling in his UCLA uniform.
“Please take care of your mental health,” she wrote. “Jalen has been the biggest advocate for it because he’s been through it himself. He didn’t tell me how bad it was until we got here to CR. Speak up, ask for help, don’t be afraid to tell others your story, never feel alone because there is always someone for you.”
Tatianna also wrote, alongside a crossed fingers emoji: “Celebrating you bby [sic] Brother, may all the love from every heart you have touched be sent to you in sweet heaven. until we meet again.”
https://www.latimes.com/sports/ucla/story/2022-09-23/jalen-hill-ucla-costa-rica-body-identified Body of Jalen Hill positively identified by Costa Rican officials