A missing UC Davis professor was found dead Monday after an apparent suicide in Sonoma County, police said.
The body of Richard Walker, Jr. washed up at a campsite on Salmon Creek State Beach in Bodega Bay on Monday evening, said Davis police Sergeant Scott Smith.
Detectives are still investigating the cause of death, and the results of a toxicology exam and autopsy will be announced later this week. Items found at the beach area and in Walker’s vehicle were “pretty clear evidence” that Walker had committed suicide, Smith said.
Walker, a professor at the School of Veterinary Medicine, left his Davis home Sunday afternoon without his cell phone, credit cards or medications, according to police reports. An initial investigation found correspondence to family members that suggested he was depressed.
Surveillance photos showed him entering and leaving his office on campus around 2:45 p.m. Sunday. He did not appear to be carrying anything from his office when he left, Smith said. There may be additional surveillance video in the area where his truck was found in Bodega Bay, he said.
Walker, 56, worked as a diagnostician with the California Animal Health and Food Safety Laboratory, a state lab run by the vet school that helps producers and practitioners understand the cause of death of livestock specimens. He specialized in infectious disease and bacteriology.
He had not taught a formal lecture in three years, working instead with professional veterinary students and residents at the lab, said Hailu Kinde, interim director of CAHFS.
Kinde, who has worked with Walker for the past 20 years, said the suicide was a surprise to everyone at the lab. Walker was an asset to his profession, the agriculture industry and the state of California because of his expertise in his field, Kinde said.
“We not only lost a friend, but I think the profession lost one of its premier diagnosticians,” he said.
Kinde described Walker as a perfectionist, someone who was very meticulous and knowledgeable.
“He’s very much concerned about the quality of his work,” he said. Walker was always willing to help others by answering questions and sharing his skills, he said.
Walker began working for the university in 1985 as an adjunct professor. He was appointed to CAHFS in 1988.
JEREMY OGUL can be reached at email@example.com.