Two sisters in an upscale Bakersfield, Calif., country club neighborhood were cleaning out their parents' garage for an estate sale when they came across a surprising find—a human head.
"There was still some hair, there was still flesh on it, bones sticking out of the neck," said a neighbor named Joseph who was helping the daughters at the house, according to ABC's Bakersfield affiliate KERO 23. "You could see the jaw bone and there was some hair around the ears and…the nasal areas."
The daughters threw the remains in the dumpster, but after some discussion decided they should call the police and let them know. Detectives were called to the house around 5:45 p.m. on Sunday.
"They initially believed it was possibly related to their father's prior medical practice and didn't think much of it at first," said Ray Pruitt, spokesman for the Kern County Sheriff's Department.
Police said skeletal remains that were "quite old" were also found in the garage.
"We're still attempting to determine who the person is, how they died, where the remains came from [and] why their remains were being stored at the residence," Pruitt said.
The girls' elderly parents no longer live in the house, after at least 25 years in the neighborhood, and have moved to an assisted living home in Los Angeles.
Donald G. Nelson is the homeowner and girls' father. He is a former ophthalmologist whose medical license was revoked in June 2006 by the state of California for "writing the wrong diagnosis on a prescription, enabling the patient to obtain Vicodin and for failure to maintain adequate and accurate medical records." Nelson was ordered to pay a fine of $1,500, but the documents show that he failed to pay the fine.
A neighbor who did not wish to be identified told ABCNews.com that she believed the elderly couple had been having problems for a long time before moving out of the neighborhood. When asked to specify about the problems, the neighbor would only say she believed they were "mental problems."
The neighbor called Nelson "a very strange man" who she recalled once came to the house trying to sell persimmon fruits. She also remembered Nelson's wife going through trash outside the houses.
Police are treating the case as a suspicious death, but not as a homicide investigation.
Pruitt said detectives investigating case have contacted Nelson in southern California, but he could not comment on what Nelson said.
"It's quite possible that it could be some remains that were used by the father as part of his medical practice and could be completely legitimate," Pruitt said.
The neighbor who was present for the discovery is also hopeful for an innocent explanation.
"I'm just hoping that it was because of his age, he just took it and was meaning to throw it away and never got to it," Joseph said.
Coroners are expected to inspect the remains on Wednesday or Thursday.