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Car found off Wolf Creek Pass belonged to woman missing since January

Daughters say remains are those of Marlena Mizell, last seen in South Fork

The remains of a woman found off Wolf Creek Pass appear to be those of Marlena Mizell, a 49-year-old who had been missing for nearly two months, according to the woman’s daughters.

The Colorado Bureau of Investigation announced Wednesday a Ford Focus was found Tuesday hundreds of feet off Wolf Creek Pass on U.S. Highway 160 near mile marker 162, in the area of the hairpin turn on the west side of the pass.

CBI said the woman was found about 150 feet from the vehicle, but the agency did not disclose the woman’s identity.

“The name of the deceased will not be released until positive identification and family notification can be made by the Mineral County Coroner’s Office,” CBI said in a statement.

A call to the Mineral County coroner was not immediately returned Thursday. Susan Medina, CBI spokeswoman, also did not immediately provide an update Thursday.

Mizell was last seen about noon Jan. 2 making a purchase at the Rainbow Grocery store in South Fork. According to her daughters, she had been staying at the Rainbow Lodge in town.

Witnesses later said they saw Mizell leaving toward Pagosa Springs in her car, a blue 2012 Ford Focus with a Texas license plate.

South Fork Police Chief Hank Weber confirmed Thursday to The Durango Herald the car found off Wolf Creek Pass was Mizell’s. But he, too, declined to confirm whether the deceased woman found near the scene was Mizell.

On the “Tyger True Crime” show on Wednesday, Mizell’s daughters – Sarah Ferguson and Megan Mizell – appeared as guests, and said the remains belonged to their mother.

According to the daughters, a backcountry skier in the area found the vehicle Saturday and alerted law enforcement. It wasn’t until Tuesday that search and rescue crews went to the area and discovered the car and deceased woman.

Attempts to reach the daughters were not successful Thursday.

The apparent discovery of Mizell ends weeks of suffering and uncertainty for the family, which is based in Texas.

Since Mizell went missing, her daughters worked tirelessly to get the word out about their missing mother and conducted their own searches in the area.

In mid-January, the daughters said they believed they found a vehicle off Wolf Creek Pass. But when they called the South Fork Police Department, the daughters said the department did not send anyone out to investigate.

“We were 1 mile away from our mother’s body and not one person from the South Fork Police Department or anyone offered to get drones on the mountain ... no one went out there,” Megan Mizell said.

Weber declined to comment about this statement.

The daughters said Weber contacted them Saturday to inform them that a skier found the vehicle, and asked them not to release that information. Two days later, however, an article in the South Fork Tines said Mizell’s car was found.

“We are not releasing a lot of information at this time including the location of the vehicle for safety reasons,” Weber told the newspaper. “We are waiting for weather and snow to change in order to recover the vehicle from its location, but as of today, Monday, Feb. 22, Mizell remains missing.”

Mizell’s daughters take issue that the scene hasn’t been secured in case of foul play. And the daughters have taken issue that the search for their mother has been a low priority for local law enforcement over the past few weeks.

“This is just not OK,” Ferguson said. “(We’ve) been the only reason they’ve kept this open.”

The circumstances surrounding why Mizell’s car went off Wolf Creek Pass remain under investigation by CBI, Colorado State Patrol and South Fork Police Department. None of the agencies had an update Thursday.

According to previous reports, Mizell’s phone last pinged near Dulce, New Mexico, which is about 50 miles south from where her remains and vehicle were found on Wolf Creek Pass.

The section of highway where Mizell’s car went off the road is notorious for car and semitrailer crashes. Drivers heading down the pass face a steep slope and then a hairpin turn.

The daughters said a vigil was planned for March 2, which would have been her 50th birthday. A GoFundMe was created to help with Mizell’s funeral costs, which can be viewed at https://bit.ly/3pTVnaS.

“She was the only foundation for our family, and she mattered,” Megan Mizell said.