Emery County sheriff: Long search is unusual

Sheriff Lamar Guymon is used to people getting lost in Emery County, Utah, a landscape of narrow slot canyons, vast deserts, and on its eastern edge, the Green River.

He’s less accustomed to people staying lost.

Weeks of search efforts for 54-year-old Rose Backhaus of New Castle have proven unsuccessful since her vehicle was found Nov. 23 at the parking lot for the Little Wild Horse and Bell Canyon loop trail southeast of Green River. She parked there on
Nov. 16 and apparently had intended to hike on the trail.

Guymon said the last organized search was Saturday, and independent hikers in the area Sunday also didn’t report finding anything. Investigators also are looking at
Backhaus’ computer and have talked to those who know her, but have come across nothing to suggest she disappeared for other reasons.

“We’ve searched about everything we can, and we’re really at a loss,” Guymon said.

Guymon said investigators also are taking into account a change in a witness statement.

Authorities had understood that the witness had seen Backhaus heading up the trail Nov. 16, but instead she was just spotted at the trail registration stand, Guymon said.

Still, he continues to think Backhaus probably hiked on the trail and is in the area of the two canyons.

Guymon said on average, people are reported missing in the county at least once a week. Usually, searchers find them within a day or two. Some years a few people die in the county’s backcountry for reasons such as falls, heart attacks or drownings; other years there are no such fatalities, Guymon said.

It was in an Emery County canyon that Aspen resident Aron Ralston famously cut off part of his arm in 2003 after being pinned for days by a boulder.

In June, the remains of a man who was reported missing 10 years ago to the month that Backhaus disappeared were discovered in the area where Guymon and others initially had searched for him. The man apparently died when his gun accidentally went off, and his body’s position below a ledge kept it concealed, Guymon said.

He said investigators had traveled around the United States trying to solve that case.

The search for Backhaus has been scaled back, but Guymon said he expected to occasionally organize small search groups at least through Christmas.


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