Click photo to enlarge

BERKELEY — Sources have confirmed that the badly decomposed body found in a makeshift coffin at a Berkeley apartment building last week is that of Taruk Joseph Ben Ali, the son of the complex manager who fatally shot himself in the head two days before the remains were discovered.

The remains, which included bones, some tissue and skin, were identified through dental records, sources said.

A spokesman at the Alameda County Coroner's Bureau said late Monday night that the coroner was waiting for Berkeley police to remove a "hold" on the information before releasing details.

It is not known how long the remains had been in the wooden coffin that was hidden behind a temporary wall on the first floor of the apartment building at 2235 Ashby Ave., a few blocks west of Telegraph Avenue.

It is also not known how the 40-year-old man died. Sources have said he overdosed on heroin in a hotel room sometime in the spring of 2004 and that his father, Hassan Ben Ali, 60, removed his body and placed him in the coffin, which was covered in a giant mound of lime or sand.

It will take weeks before toxicology reports are returned that will show whether the man had a lethal amount of drugs in his body when he died, and homicide has not been ruled out, police said.

Hassan Ben Ali, the manager of the eight-unit apartment complex shot himself in the head in front of Berkeley police last Monday night.

The Alameda County Clerk-Recorder's Office lists the owner of the building as Taruk Ben Ali. Sources familiar with the case said Hassan Ben Ali may have covered up his son's death to keep collecting rent payments and running the rental complex.

Sources also said someone who knew about the secret burial was extorting money from Hassan Ben Ali to keep mum. Police have declined to comment on that information.