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Viking
Relin co-authored best-seller "Three Cups of Tea," which came under fire for its accuracy last year.
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TODAY books
updated 12/3/2012 9:40:29 AM ET 2012-12-03T14:40:29

The November death of David Oliver Relin, co-author of the best-selling book “Three Cups of Tea,’’ has been ruled a suicide by authorities in Oregon. Relin was 49 years old.

Peter Bellant, Deputy Multnomah County medical examiner, told the Associated Press that Relin committed suicide and died of a “blunt force head injury” in Corbett, Ore., on Nov. 14. Speaking through Relin’s agent, Jin Auh, the author's family told The New York Times that Relin “suffered from depression’’ and took his own life. No further details were given surrounding the circumstances of his death.

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“Three Cups of Tea,’’ which  details the inspiring story of mountain climber Greg Mortenson helping to build schools in Pakistan and Afghanistan, was released in 2006 and has sold more than four million copies. However, the accuracy of the book came under fire in 2011 from “60 Minutes” as well as best-selling author Jon Krakauer, who wrote an e-book called “Three Cups of Deceit,” calling into question several pertinent points in the book co-authored by Relin and Mortenson.

Video: Author defends ‘Three Cups of Tea’ memoir (on this page)

Krakauer’s damning report claimed that some of the schools created by Mortenson’s charity, the Central Asia Institute, were either built by someone else or did not exist. His investigation also claimed that the institute was using a majority of its funds to promote “Three Cups of Tea’’ rather than putting them toward helping the schools. Relin never publicly answered the charges, according to The New York Times, and a federal lawsuit against him and Mortenson accusing them of defrauding readers was dismissed in April.

Relin had just completed a new book, scheduled for publication by Random House in spring 2013, about a pair of doctors trying to cure cataract-related blindness in the Third World, according to The New York Times.

He is survived by his mother, Marjorie Relin, his wife, Dawn; his stepfather, Cary Ratcliff and sisters Rachel Relin and Jennifer Cherelin.

© 2012 MSNBC Interactive

Video: Author defends ‘Three Cups of Tea’ memoir

  1. Closed captioning of: Author defends ‘Three Cups of Tea’ memoir

    >> author and humanitarian is under fire amid allegations that he fabricated stories his memoir. andrea mitchell has the latest details. good morning.

    >> reporter: good morning, meredith. the questions are being asked about greg mortenson , author of "three cups of tea" who has sold millions of books about his work with girls in afghanistan . he's been the hero of the movement to educate girls in afghanistan and pakistan. soldiers deploying to afghanistan are encouraged to read his book. president obama donated part of his nobel prize money to the charity. mike mullen traveled with him and tells the story of the dramatic attempt to climb k-2 and the pledge to his rescuers.

    >> he looked for a way to repay his rescuers and realized what they wanted and needed most was a school.

    >> reporter: it is a story mortonsen told again to natalie morales on "today.."

    >> coming off the mountain i stumbled into a village and saw 78 children sitting in the dirt writing with sticks in the sand. i promised to build a school.

    >> reporter: as "60 minutes" reported he didn't hear of the village until his second visit a year after the climb. he was not kidnapped by the taliban . he did build schools but critics say not as many as he claimed. author john krakauer donated to the charity until he got suspicion writing, he's lied about the deeds he's done, the people he met, the number of schools he built. a watchdog group says the charity paid for charter planes and other questionable expenses.

    >> in 15 years they have had only one audited financial statement which came out last fall.

    >> reporter: mortonson is now ducking television articles.

    >> i need to sign these books now.

    >> reporter: he told "outside" magazine, there were some omissions and compressions. there are discrepancies that, again, have to do with compression of events. acknowledging he took literary license.

    >> the standards for nonfiction are clear. you don't compress to the point of telling a story that isn't true relative to what happened. that happened in this case.

    >> reporter: nbc news learned there could be a problem with his second book "stones into schools kwl schools" also a book seller in which he describes this man as a former taliban fighter. when nbc news interviewed him two years ago we could not verify his taliban connection so didn't broadcast the story. other advocates for afghan girls worry the issue will hurt the cause.

    >> the issue of girls' education is more important than any one individual.

    >> reporter: mortonson says the critics are inaccurate but his publisher issued a statement saying they will review the materials with the author. meredith?

    >> thank you very much. just

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