What Really Happened to Steamboat Springs, CO Resident who Disappeared Without a Trace in April?

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Matthew Shelters. Credit: Shelters Family Photo

The body of a Steamboat, CO resident who has been missing since April has been found, bringing to an end months of uncertainty and worry for his family and friends.

Popular 38-year-old Matthew Shelters, of Steamboat Springs, Colorado vanished without a trace on April 24th, 2018, after a night out with friends. He was last seen leaving the Back Door Grill and heading towards 9th street. Extensive search efforts, both on land and in water, were undertaken across Colorado by friends, family, the police, and fire and rescue teams, but to no avail. A Facebook page, ‘Search for Shelters’ and a fundraising page managed to raise thousands of dollars to aid ongoing searches, and also to provide a reward.

Matthew shelters, steamboat, body found
The Back Door Grill. Credit: Back Door Grill

Sadly, Cari Hermacinski, a Routt County Commissioner, found the body on Wednesday afternoon while exploring a creek with friends. The body was severely decomposed, but Shelters’ wallet (with ID) and cellphone were found, and a coroner has since positively ID’d the body.

“I was finally aware this was a human because he was still wearing his clothes,” Hermacinski said.

His cellphone had been a critical part of the initial investigation. When police officers were first investigating his disappearance, they were able to get access to his cellphone data and determine a 120-degree arc where his cellphone last communicated with a cell tower. The arc went over the 13th Street Bridge, which led people to believe Shelters might have gone into the Yampa River.

Matthew shelters, steamboat, body found
The body was discovered just beyond Steamboat Springs city limits on private land known as the Atwood Ranch. Credit: Matt Stensland / Steamboat Today

The body was found on private land near Soda Creek, along the creek bank at the bottom of a cliff on a parcel of land known as the Atwood Ranch, within that arc, but police didn’t search the land at the time.

Matthew shelters, steamboat, body found
13th street bridge across the Yampa river. Credit: Dan Staebler / AllSteamboat

But to local residents familiar with the area, his final resting place makes no sense:

“It is so far up a creek that runs through Steamboat that the body was found outside of city limits. How did he get from downtown Steamboat to a creek north of Steamboat? And why?”, questions Scott Wedel. “While it was easy to explain how it could have been an accident if he fell into the Yampa River walking along the river path, it gets hard to explain how he got to this location by himself.”

This is a question echoed by Karen Shelters, Matthew’s mother:

I’m his mother. Thank you for asking the same question I have all along. Matt was taken away the night he vanished. I and his dad both felt something terrible happened the night he disappeared but nobody reported him as missing for a few days after. There is way more to the horrific tragedy.

An autopsy will hopefully reveal the cause of death, bringing answers to the family and community, and bring to a close the last 2-months of agony for all concerned.

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