He packed plenty of survival gear, apparently ready for a long trip. But for whatever reason, investigators say, he shot himself in the head on the west side of Breckenridge Peak 6, Colorado in 2012.
On July 10, 2016, the remains of the man were discovered by hikers in an area between Copper Mountain Resort and Breckenridge known as the Sky Chutes (specifically, in the “Y” Chute), the coroner’s office said. And during a subsequent search, on Aug 3, 2016, human skeletal remains and personal items, including a handgun, outdoor gear and clothing were also found, setting off a baffling death investigation that has yielded far more questions than answers.
But death investigators, missing persons databases and even the Colorado Bureau of Investigation have been unable to answer the most basic question: Who was this man?
On Monday, the Summit County Sheriff’s Office and Coroner’s Office laid out their findings — including a three-dimensional rendering of the man’s face — hoping that the public might recognize him and bring the bizarre investigation to a close.
“I have not had a case like this before where somebody was so well prepared and turned out to be a suicide victim,” Coroner Regan Wood said.
The actual hairstyle, and length of hair, may be different, but the dead man was white with blond hair and likely between 30 and 50 years old, although he could have been as young as 23 or as old as 66. He was between 5’5″ and 6’3″. All clothing sizes were men’s large and the boots a size 11. He was an experienced backcountry traveler, investigators say, and a smoker.
Investigators concluded that the man had been on the Colorado Trail and then walked knowingly off trail, into the woods and shot himself, uninterested in ever being found. He wore a black snowmobile suit, gold wire-rimmed glasses and a light blue “Life is Good” hat.
“We were not able to find any identifying information — there was no driver’s license, no wallet, no car keys, anything of that nature,” Wood said.
Two water bottles found near the man were made in February 2012. The manufacturer says they typically stay on the shelves for four weeks, leading investigators to believe he went missing within that timeframe.
In September 2016, the coroner’s office sent the man’s remains to the University of North Texas Center for Human Identification, which analyzed their biometric data but turned up no leads in national missing persons databases. Investigators believe the man could have been through-hiking, although they never found any trace of a tent or other camping gear.
That leaves the possibility that he parked a car somewhere near Highway 91 and hiked up, but there’s a snag in that explanation, too: There were no reports of abandoned cars or snowmobiles around the time the man made his fateful hike.
Which meant the serial numbers on the gun were the best bet for tracking down the man’s identity. But last August, the Colorado Bureau of Investigation scuttled those hopes, reporting that the gun had been “pinged” with some sort of tool, rendering the serial numbers impossible to read.
On Aug. 15, a forensic reconstruction artist gave the nameless man a face. With leads exhausted and nowhere else to turn, investigators are taking it to the public in the hopes that someone might recognize something, bringing an end to the puzzling, year-old cold case.
Anyone with information that may possibly identify the victim is asked to email the coroner or the sheriff’s office or call the coroner at 970-668-2964.