LOS ANGELES – Police said there was no evidence pointing to suicide in the death of Southern California kicker Mario Danelo, whose body was found about 120 feet down a rocky cliff.
"I have no indication per se that it was a criminal event," Lt. David Pierson, commanding officer of the LAPD Harbor Division detectives, told the Los Angeles Times. "But we exhaust all leads to ensure that we're making the right categorization of the case."
Pierson said investigators had information that Danelo was out with friends Friday night and that he was last seen around midnight. His body was found Saturday afternoon near Point Fermin lighthouse in the city's San Pedro section.
Pierson said police had no information as to whether Danelo had been drinking and that there was no evidence he committed suicide. Martha Garcia of the Los Angeles Police Department said the body showed signs of traumatic injuries.
Someone flying a remote-control airplane noticed something at the bottom of the cliff and a friend hiked down to the beach and discovered the body, Pierson said.
Fire Department spokesman Brian Humphrey said investigators did not find a surf board, scuba-diving tanks or anything else to indicate Danelo might have been down there for any of the recreational activities common to the area.
Humphrey said over the years a handful of people had fallen from the cliff.
"It's entirely possible that he fell," Humphrey said.
Atop the cliff are signs forbidding entrance. They warn of unstable, slippery surfaces and steep drops. A bouquet of flowers and candles were left at the scene by onlookers late Saturday.
Danelo, the 21-year-old son of former NFL kicker Joe Danelo, made 15 of 16 field goals this season and led the Trojans in scoring with 89 points. The junior made two field goals in the Rose Bowl on Monday to help USC beat Michigan 32-18.
He only missed two field goals in his career, going 26-for-28, and was 127-of-134 on extra points. In 2005, he set NCAA single-season records with 83 extra points and 86 attempts.
Speaking on behalf of Trojans coach Pete Carroll, USC spokesman Tim Tessalone said: "We were stunned to hear about this tragedy. This is a great loss. Mario was a wonderful young man of high character.
"He was one heck of a kicker. He was a key ingredient in our success the past two years. The thoughts and prayers of the entire Trojan family go out to the Danelo family on this sad, sad day."
Reached by phone Saturday, the family declined to comment.
USC linebacker Dallas Sartz said Danelo would be remembered for his upbeat personality and dependable kicking.
"I just remember Mario was the guy who always had a smile on his face and would always cheer you up," said Sartz, a team captain.