By Jim Holt and Ryan Mancini
Signal Staff Writers
After an extensive weekend search by more than five dozen volunteers assembled by pastors of the Elevate Church in Newhall, the body of a young man missing since late June was found, church leaders said.
The body of Matthew Leyoya Weiss, 21, was found near a remote hilly location he reportedly liked to frequent, the searchers reported.
Although officials with the Los Angeles County Department of Medical Examiner/Coroner have not yet released the identity of the man pending notification of his family, church officials who have been working with the man’s parents posted news of the discovery on the church’s Facebook page.
Weiss, who was described by investigators with the Los Angeles County Sheriff Department’s Missing Persons Unit as bipolar and schizophrenic, went missing June 30.
“His mother reached out to us three weeks ago,” Assistant Pastor Anthony Stamps of the Elevate Church said Monday.
Although the woman was not a parishioner, members of the church on Main Street in Newhall immediately rallied to help her, he said.
“She was passing out ‘missing person’ fliers, doing the work all by herself,” Stamps said.
“When Pastor (Mauricio) Ruiz heard this, he felt we needed to do more than just help pass out fliers,” he said. “He felt it was something that needed to be done.”
After a three-hour search by first responders at the end of June, despite searches by foot and air, Weiss was still missing.
“We sat down and asked, ‘How can we help this woman?’ She was not a member of our congregation. She was an individual from the community,” Stamps said. “Our feeling was — this is a mother missing her child.”
More than 60 volunteers banded together for a search Saturday.
“Our mission was: Bring Matthew home,” Stamps said.
The group broke up into three search parties, one of which concentrated on a very steep section on Pico Canyon Road, near Southern Oaks Drive, where Weiss liked to go.
“We sent our most experienced hikers to that area,” Stamps said, referring to a particularly steep section of hills.
“We felt we needed to do whatever it took,” he said. “They (experienced hikers) went down a treacherous hillside and slid down that mountain. As they were working their way down the mountain, that’s when they found him.”.
The body was found at the foot of an oak tree.
The father, according to Stamps, confirmed the body was that of his son.
Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff’s Station deputies were dispatched at 11:30 a.m., after being notified by a group of hikers in the area, said Lt. Leo Bauer of the SCV Sheriff’s Station.
Detectives with the Sheriff’s Department’s Homicide Bureau were dispatched to the location shortly thereafter. Due to the decomposed state of the body, the age, identity and gender of the body were not immediately determined, Bauer added.
Homicide detectives are looking at this as just a death investigation right now, an official with the homicide bureau said. No additional details were available at this time.
Church officials stayed with Weiss’s parents after the discovery.
“It was rough,” Stamps said.
The parents have expressed, through the church, according to Stamps, that church officials be the ones to share news of the discovery and field calls from the media.
“I am very proud of our church,” Stamps said. “We didn’t just check off a box. We did something.”
Church officials posted this message on social media: “We believed as a church that we would help a local family find their missing son after five weeks of disappearance.
“We specifically sent a team to search the same location police did previously and by God’s amazing grace we found Matthew.
“Thank you to all of our church congregation for prayers and our amazing church volunteers who brought Matthew home to his family. Please continue to pray for the family as we shower them with love and healing. The family has been so grateful for what you all have done. Well done Elevate Church — that is being the hands and feet of Jesus.”
Ryan Mancini, weekend reporter for The Signal contributed to the reporting for this story.