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Identity of decedent remains unknown after yearlong investigation
Regan Wood, Summit County Coroner
SUMMIT COUNTY – The Summit County Coroner’s Office is seeking information that could assist in determining the identity of a white male whose remains were discovered in July 2016 in the Tenmile Range of the White River National Forest, in a backcountry area between Copper Mountain Resort and Breckenridge Ski Resort. The area is informally known as the Sky Chutes.
On Monday, the Coroner’s Office presented an artist’s three-dimensional reconstruction of what the decedent may have looked like just prior to his death, in hopes of finding any information that could help with identification. The hairstyle in the rendering may be different from the decedent’s actual hairstyle and hair length. At the time of his death, the man had blond hair and was likely between 30 and 50 years old.
“We’ve been working on this investigation for just over a year now, and we keep running into brick walls and false leads,” Summit County Coroner Regan Wood said. “We hope that someone who sees this artist’s reconstruction will recognize the decedent and help us find some answers.”
On July 10, 2016, hikers discovered a human skull in the “Y Chute” and reported it to authorities. The Summit County Sheriff’s Office and Search and Rescue Dogs of Colorado (SARDOC) collected the skull and conducted a search of the surrounding area that same day. During a subsequent search on Aug. 3, 2016, the Sheriff’s Office, SARDOC and Summit County Search and Rescue located human skeletal remains and a large number of personal items, including a handgun and several pieces of outdoor gear and clothing.
Immediately following the discovery of the skull, the Summit County Coroner’s Office contacted the National Missing and Unidentified Persons System but did not find any matches. In July 2016, a forensic pathologist’s analysis of the skull found defects consistent with a self-inflicted gunshot.
Additional analyses of the remains and/or personal items have been conducted by the Summit County Coroner’s Office, the University of North Texas Center for Human Identification, a forensic odontologist and the Colorado Bureau of Investigation. Investigators believe the man died sometime after February 2012, because two water bottles found among the personal items were bottled on Feb. 7, 2012.
The Colorado Bureau of Investigation was not able to discern the serial number on the Glock .45 caliber handgun; the agency concluded that it was intentionally defaced. All sized clothing items were men’s large. A Rockport hiking boot found with the remains was men’s size 11.
Personal items found by search crews in the vicinity of the remains include the following:
• Glock .45 caliber subcompact handgun, with defaced serial number
• Three handgun ammunition magazines
• Gray or purple Fila backpack
• Black Diamond headlamp
• Leatherman tool and Mini Maglite flashlight in holster
• Two empty Crystal Springs disposable plastic water bottles, bottled Feb. 7, 2012
• Black rubber STABILicers foot traction devices
• Black hooded The North Face ski jacket, men’s large
• Light-blue Life is Good cotton baseball cap
• Two 29-inch Yukon Charlie’s trekking poles
• Black belted snowmobile suit with red stripes on arms
• Silver BluMaxx Hi-Performance flashlight
• One dark green and gray Rockport hiking shoe, size 11
• Gold wire-rimmed glasses
• Black Timex Indiglo watch
• Wood-handle hatchet
Anyone with information that could assist in the identification of the decedent is encouraged to email the Summit County Coroner’s Office or the Summit County Sheriff’s Office or call the Coroner's Office at 970-668-2964.