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Fla. treasure hunter, a Latrobe native, commits suicide in Ligonier Township

| Tuesday, Oct. 29, 2013, 5:00 p.m.

A former Westmoreland County man who made national headlines claiming to have found lost treasure off the Florida coast was found dead Tuesday in Ligonier Township after suffering a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head.

The Westmoreland County Coroner's office identified the victim as Jay E. Miscovich, 54, of Key West, Fla.

Deputy Coroner Joshua Zappone said Miscovich was found in the yard of an unoccupied house owned by Dr. Donald Ray of Greensburg.

Zappone described Miscovich as a “drifter” who once lived in the house. Coroner Ken Bacha pronounced him dead at the scene at 5:15 p.m. Miscovich shot himself with a 12-gauge shotgun.

Miscovich, a self-proclaimed “thrill seeker,” claimed that he discovered 154 pounds of emeralds worth untold millions in the Gulf of Mexico, about 40 miles off Key West, Fla., in 2010, according to court documents.

Miscovich, a Latrobe native, his partner and their company, JTR Enterprises, were awaiting a court decision from a federal judge in Florida after they were sued for fraud by rivals for the shipwrecked treasure.

Motivation Inc. claimed they owned the salvage rights to the Atocha, a 16th-century Spanish galleon, and Miscovich looted the emeralds from the shipwreck.

“60 Minutes” covered the story in April 2012 in a segment called “The Trouble with Treasure.” Miscovich admitted last summer that he was mired in debt while he awaited word on his possible fortune.

Ligonier Valley School District Tuesday notified parents that after-school bus routes would change after Miscovich called Westmoreland County 911 about 3 p.m. and said he was going to shoot himself in woods behind his Ligonier Township home.

An emergency management dispatcher said the man hung up and did not answer subsequent calls to his cell phone. Pings from the phone narrowed the location he had called from to Matson Road and Route 259.

Parents said they were notified that students would be taken to the Peppermint Twist for pickup.

State police were on the scene with a helicopter to searching for Miscovich at 4:30 p.m.

Zappone said District Supterintendent Dr. Christine Oldham could not immediately be reached for comment.

Miscovich in June told everyone from friends to federal officials the treasure he found is his and possibly worth a half billion dollars, according to federal court papers filed in Delaware and Florida.

But because divers don't actually own treasure found in U.S. waters until the discovery is approved by a federal court, Miscovich never actually cashed in on his find.

Chuck Brittain is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at cbrittain@tribweb.com or 724-850-1218.

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