Skeleton found near Gateway

No ID yet; could solve 20-year-old mystery

A human skeleton recovered Friday from inside a partially buried car southwest of Gateway may resolve a missing person case that’s more than two decades old, a spokesman for the Mesa County Sheriff’s Department said Friday.

“We have a family that’s been left without answers a very long time and we’d certainly love through our work and that of the coroner’s office to bring some closure to them,” said Sheriff’s Department Sgt. Matt Lewis.

A man who was hiking alone along steep terrain off John Brown Canyon Road called 911 around 6 p.m. Thursday to report the discovery of a human skeleton inside a vehicle, which was down a cliff roughly 100 feet off the roadway, according to Lewis.

Lewis declined to reveal a precise location. The area is Bureau of Land Management property.

The hiker initially spotted something of interest from a distance and approached to find a “very old station wagon” with no license plates, Lewis said. The vehicle was partially obscured by rocks and various sediment presumably washed down over the years, Lewis said.

Inside the old car, the hiker saw a skeleton.

Deputies, assisted by Sheriff’s Department Search and Rescue volunteers, spent much of Friday morning and afternoon recovering the remains. They were in the custody of the Mesa County Coroner’s Office as of late afternoon Friday.

Also inside the car—Lewis declined to identify it by make and model—deputies found a host of personal items including articles of clothing, credit cards and “other cards you might commonly find in a wallet.”

“We have a number of pieces of evidence which lead us to believe this relates to a missing person’s case reported to us 20-plus years ago,” Lewis said.

Lewis declined to identify the case by name but said it involved a man reported missing by family who lived in Mesa County at the time. Other details of the case were not released. Foul play was never suspected, Lewis said.

It wasn’t clear as of Friday afternoon if the man still has surviving family members in Mesa County, but investigators were looking for them, Lewis said.

“The coroner and our office are working to identify next-of-kin for positive identification,” he said.

“We do not have a complete skeleton, but a good portion of one,” he added.

The vehicle, meanwhile, still remained at the location as of Friday afternoon and there were no immediate plans for its removal.

“The priority’s on identification,” Lewis said.

The identity of the hiker who reported the find wasn’t immediately released.


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