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'Three Cups Of Tea' Co-Author Took Own Life, Medical Examiner Says

David Oliver Relin, a journalist who had reported from around the world before gaining fame — and getting mired in controversy — as co-author of the best-selling Three Cups of Tea, took his own life when he died on Nov. 15 in Oregon, The New York Times reports.

It got that word from Relin's family.

The Associated Press adds that deputy Multnomah County medical examiner Peter Bellant confirmed last Sunday night that Relin died of "blunt force head injury" and that it was a suicide. Bellant did not give more details, the AP says.

Relin, 49, was born in Rochester, N.Y. He was, according to a Democrat and Chronicle obituary, a "graduate of Vassar College and Iowa Writers' Workshop ... an investigative journalist and editor for Parade and Scholastic's React and Update magazines. His articles on social issues and their effect on children, both in the U.S. and around the world received dozens of journalism awards."

NPR's Neda Ulaby tells our Newscast Desk that Relin "had long published heartwarming stories for magazines that often focused on children set in the developing world."

His next book, Second Suns, Two Doctors and Their Amazing Quest to Restore Sight and Save Lives, is to be published next year. It's about physicians who perform cataract surgery in the Third World, Neda says.

Relin will be most remembered, though, for Three Cups of Tea. It's the 2006 best-selling story of Greg Mortenson (the co-author), his claim to have stumbled into the Pakistani village of Korphe after a failed attempt to climb Pakistan's K2, and the charity he later created to build schools in Pakistan and Afghanistan.

CBS News' 60 Minutes and author Jon Krakauer raised questions last year about some of the tales Mortenson told. Then Mortenson was forced to repay $1 million to a charity he founded after Montana authorities found he had mismanaged some of its money.

Mortenson and Relin disputed who should have gotten most of the credit for the writing of Three Cups. Mortenson has conceded that some details in Three Cups were wrong, but says the bulk of the book is factual. Relin never commented publicly about the charges. Earlier this year, "a class-action lawsuit against Mortenson, Relin and others was dismissed ... but is under appeal," The Oregonian writes.

Copyright 2012 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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