Clues sought in murder mystery

Searchers returned Saturday to an orchard where a woman’s remains were found in June, hoping to find clues that might help lead to closure.

Garfield Sheriff Search and Rescue volunteers joined the Sheriff’s Department and about a half-dozen members of Colorado-based NecroSearch International to look among fallen leaves and apples for signs that might help solve the mystery behind the murder of Janine Johler, 38, of Aurora.

Johler’s dismembered remains were found June 12 in the orchard in Canyon Creek, off Interstate 70 west of Glenwood Springs. The remains were identified as Johler’s later that month. She had been missing since May 1.

Crews searched the orchard and surrounding area intensively after the discovery of the remains. On Saturday, however, the Sheriff’s Department was assisted by volunteers from NecroSearch, a nonprofit organization that helps law enforcement agencies in searches involving clandestine gravesites.

The group includes about 35 people with expertise in areas ranging from animal scavenging to entomology to geology. It has assisted in more than 300 cases in more than 40 states and 10 countries.

Its president, Thomas Bellinger, a hydrologist, said group members help authorities examine the environment surrounding remains and consider how evidence and clues might move and change from factors such as animals and weather.

“It’s just a great way to try to … I guess give back a little bit,” Bellinger said.

Authorities declined to discuss what evidence searchers may have come across Saturday. Sheriff’s spokeswoman Tanny McGinnis said investigators also aren’t commenting on where the investigation stands and whether any suspects have been identified.

Sheriff’s Detective Sgt. Don Breier said conducting a new search after more than four months doesn’t say anything about the status of the case. Investigators simply take advantage of every opportunity to gather more evidence, he said. He said the new search’s timing was driven partly by the availability of the participants.

He said some evidence can deteriorate over time.

“But evidence can exist for many years,” he added.

Search and Rescue volunteer Jody Gruys and her search dog, Dessa, helped with Saturday’s work.

She said she’s happy to assist investigators, “and help out a family to get closure — that’s what we’re here for.”

Breier said the human element of the case is high on the minds of the Sheriff’s Department, and investigators are anxious to get to the bottom of the murder mystery for the sake of Johler and her family.

“We’re trying to solve that and bring justice and hold somebody responsible for their criminal actions,” he said.


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