It’s a chilling tale from a sparsely populated part of Colorado, where three people who may have intended to camp there were discovered in a state that the authorities described as “mummified” and “heavily decomposed.”
A hiker discovered the remains on Wednesday in a distant area of the remote region, according to a press release from the Gunnison County Sheriff’s Office, which is in charge of law enforcement in the highly rural county with less than 16,000 residents.
“On Sunday, July 9th, 2023 at approximately 4:57 PM, the Gunnison County Sheriff’s Office was contacted by a person who was hiking in the area of the Gold Creek Campground and discovered a remote campsite with a heavily decomposed deceased individual within the camp,” the statement, attributed to Undersheriff John Ashe, read.
“At approximately 8:02 AM on Monday, July 10th, 2023, Investigators with the Gunnison County Sheriff’s Office located the campsite and discovered two additional heavily decomposed deceased individuals within the campsite. It appeared the individuals have been deceased for a substantial period of time,” the statement added.
“The identities of the deceased individuals are not being released at this time. The cause of the three individual’s deaths is pending the completion of an autopsy. There are no known risks to residents or outdoor enthusiasts recreating in the area associated with this unfortunate event. No further information at this time.”
On Thursday, Grand Junction television station KREX-TV reported that the Gunnison County Coroner had determined “the three individuals began long-term camping in around July 2022 and attempted to stay through the winter.
“Early evidence suggests the group may have intended to live there permanently. As of now, the coroner suspects the three died of malnutrition and exposure. The official cause of death is pending the conclusion of the forensic autopsies,” the station reported.
The coroner thought the deceased campers might have been related, but due to their health, it will be necessary to compare dental records before names and genders are revealed.
According to Gunnison County Sheriff Adam Murdie, there didn’t seem to be any wrongdoing involved, as reported by the Montrose Daily Press. The victims were not found at a well-known campsite, but rather in a private campground about a mile from Gold Creek Campground, “in dark timber, tucked far back in the hills,” according to the outlet.
“It does not appear there was trauma to the bodies, other than what looked like mummification, almost. They had been there probably at least throughout the winter,” the sheriff said.
The Colorado Sun, meanwhile, reported that authorities found “a blue tent, empty food cans, and a lean-to shelter at the campsite.”
Authorities are working to identify three bodies found decomposing in a remote Colorado campsite, Gunnison County Undersheriff Josh Ashe told CNN https://t.co/fqLBoRpTjQ
— CNN (@CNN) July 12, 2023
The campers may have perished or contributed to the advanced state of decomposition due to the several feet of snow that fell in the region where they were discovered over the winter, according to Sheriff Murdie.
“Whether they froze to death in the winter or the combination of starved or froze, that’s what it sure seems like,” the sheriff said, according to a report from CBS News.
“This is not a typical occurrence anywhere, by any means,” he added, saying that authorities are trying to “determine what they were actually doing there and why.”
“This is bizarre,” Murdie said, according to the Colorado Sun. “We don’t normally get calls of this nature out of this nature in areas of the county like that. Of course nobody does.”
CBS noted that the Gunnison County Sheriff’s Office “is looking for missing persons reports that might shed light on the situation but hasn’t found any yet, he said, adding that the coroner won’t release the identities of the deceased until their next of kin have been notified.”
It is a tragic situation that serves as a warning that despite their beauty, nature and God’s creation are not to be taken lightly.
Given their advanced level of “mummification” and the secluded location of the campsite, it’s possible that the precise circumstances surrounding how and why these people met their demise will never be known. In the absence of any indication of wrongdoing, it is obvious that this was probably the result of shoddy planning and a lack of respect for God’s creation.
However they may be, this group of campers and their friends and family are in our thoughts and prayers. We can only hope that additional details will enable them to find a resolution.