Identified skeleton closes case of 26 years

Wearing a brace and carrying an oxygen tank with him, 65-year-old Ronald Vasey got in his 1966 Chevrolet station wagon and drove away from his home in the 2700 block of B 1/2 Road without a trace.

He hadn’t driven in months, Vasey’s daughter told The Daily Sentinel in a story published Aug. 11, 1987.

Skeletal remains recovered Friday from a vehicle southwest of Gateway were confirmed to be Vasey’s, the Mesa County Coroner’s Office said. Vasey had attempted suicide and made similar threats prior to his disappearance, which was reported Aug. 6, 1987, by his wife, Audrey, authorities said.

“All evidence gathered points to this being a suicide,” the coroner’s office said.

Mesa County Sheriff’s Sgt. Matt Lewis said Friday that a man hiking alone along steep terrain off John Brown Canyon Road called 911 about
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.

The hiker found a “very old station wagon” with no license plates, Lewis said. Lewis said deputies found personal items including articles of clothing and credit cards.

A report released Monday by the Sheriff’s Department said Christopher Butterfield, 24, told deputies he’d been hiking in the area several times in the weeks prior to Thursday’s discovery and first noted the vehicle several weeks ago, located about four miles up the canyon from Gateway.

Butterfield said he decided to hike down for a closer look Thursday.

The vehicle was upside down, partially crushed and heavily covered in rock and debris, the report said.

“Christopher stated he was looking around it, figuring it was an old abandoned car, when he saw what looked to be a pant leg,” reads the report.

“Christopher stated he looked further and saw a bone in the leg.”

The Sheriff’s Department has nine unsolved missing person cases.


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