The Hurricane Police Department is trying to solve a mystery surrounding the apparent suicide of an ex-convict and a large sum of missing money.

Sgt. Kurt Wright discovered the body of a 53-year-old man last Monday, after a routine check on an abandoned vehicle.When Wright arrived at the scene, he found an abandoned van, a body about 100 feet away and two notes.

One note, found near the body, identified the man as Gary D. Gardner, the owner of the van, and stated there was another note in the vehicle.

The three-page note found in the van said there was $38,700 under a piece of carpet in the van and gave instructions on how to disburse the money. However, Wright said the carpet in the van had been disturbed and no money was found.

Wright said family members have told police Gardner had recently been diagnosed as having terminal lung cancer. His note indicated he could not live with the pain.

Gardner was paroled in 1986 after serving 18 years of a 99-year term for the murder of a Las Vegas police officer, authorities said.