Human skeletal remains found in rugged area of Archuleta County

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Human skeletal remains were found on Tuesday in Archuleta County, but determining the identity will require further investigation.

“It may be several days, and it may be longer,” Archuleta County Coroner Carl Macht said Tuesday night. “I hope we can do it with dental records because it will save time. If we have to send for DNA results, it could take months, because the (Colorado Bureau of Investigation) lab is really backlogged.”

The remains were found about 11 miles north of U.S. Highway 160 near the La Plata-Archuleta county line, between Beaver Meadows and First Notch roads.

“Some gentlemen were gathering cattle, and their cattle dogs alerted them,” Macht said. “They said, ‘We need help,’ gathered up their dogs and rode down to call it in.”

The men called both the Archuleta and La Plata County sheriff’s offices. A group that included Macht, Detective Sgt. Rich Valdez of the Archuleta Sheriff’s Office and Fort Lewis College anthropology associate professor Dawn Mulhern, rode in on all-terrain vehicles from Beaver Creek Road, taking one of the cattlemen with them as a guide.

The cattleman’s companions rode in behind on horseback to bring him back out, so the cattleman wouldn’t have to wait until the coroner completed his investigation.

“It was more complicated than it might appear on a map,” Macht said. “Getting there was rather rugged.”

The anthropologist was necessary because it’s not always easy to determine if skeletal remains actually are human, Macht said.

“I was lucky to have Dawn and her expertise available,” he said. “I didn’t know what we were going into, and I don’t guess – I call in an expert.”

Macht was unwilling to speculate on the identity of the person whose remains were found.

“In our area of the Four Corners, there are several missing people we are seeking, in both La Plata and Archuleta counties. I’ll wait for the forensic results,” he said.