Who Was Jukka?

  • Jukka Hellsten in happier days at Venice Beach in spring of 1998. His body was found last week in Cuddy Creek.

    Jukka Hellsten in happier days at Venice Beach in spring of 1998. His body was found last week in Cuddy Creek.

Mystery Seen in Death of Finnish Man Last Week

By Patric Hedlund

We had to look twice. Last week 23,000 pages on our MountainEnterprise.com website were viewed by people from Finland seeking to learn what had happened in this town to Jukka Hellsten, 42. A Finnish journalist called to talk about his countryman, whose body was discovered by two youth in Cuddy Creek in the shadow of the Monterey Trail bridge on the morning of Tuesday, Nov. 3.

Journalist Tomi Hinkkanen first wrote about Jukka in 1998. He met him on Venice Beach a few years after Jukka had graduated with a Business Administration degree from California Lutheran University in Thousand Oaks.

Over on Facebook, 238 friends wrote condolences to Jukka’s family with messages expressing their sense of loss in Finnish and English.

Journalist Hinkkanen was writing a story about Finnish youth in the U.S. The young man was a vendor with a small store on Venice Beach then, selling glass pipes and decorative items. Hinkkanen reported Jukka had made some money exporting American cars to Finland and sunk it all into a “cell phone holder invention that you wore; he was a businessman; he had many schemes and inventions all the time,” the journalist recalled.

Kimmo Piironen said on Facebook that Jukka was “a big dreamer” who she will “truly miss.” She said he was the source of “countless laughs and stories. [A] guy with a golden heart and a smile on his face, that is the best description of my friend Jukka.”

Jacqueline Mattison agreed. “A man with a big heart—it was bigger than life itself. He always made me laugh.”

Tom Wenho said Jukka was a friend and colleague “who always tried to help [and] left a permanent mark in the lives” of others. Esa Illén sent her condolences to Jukka’s family. “I will always remember [him] as a good friend and somebody who helped anybody in need. Thanks for the great memories,” she wrote.

The Finnish journalist, who is based in Los Angeles, traveled to Frazier Park last week to take photos of the place where Jukka’s body was found. He said in the telephone interview that “Jukka’s death is like an Agatha Christie novel. So many questions; so many unlikely coincidences.”

Hinkkanen asked how someone who went missing on October 24 could have gone unseen until November 3 in a town as small as Frazier Park. The coroner said Jukka did not die until November 1.

The journalist asked about a man who is reported to have told both Jukka’s sister and the daughter of his girlfriend that he had a fight with Jukka. Later, before the body was discovered, Jukka’s sister Mari Hellsten told The Mountain Enterprise the man called her several times to tell her that “he had not hurt my brother.”

She said she believed her brother was on foot and hadn’t driven for about a year, although he had a truck. She said the economic recession had hit him hard, and that he was worried about a possible foreclosure on a hillside lot he had purchased in this area.

Down in the creek, on the spot where Jukka Hellsten’s body was found, ten long-stemmed roses floated gently on the shallow water last week.

This is part of the November 13, 2009 online edition of The Mountain Enterprise.

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