Human remains were found Tuesday afternoon in the area of Beaver Meadows, in western Archuleta County.
Archuleta County Coroner Carl Macht said the remains were found by ranchers whose stock dogs alerted them to the evidence while they were looking for cattle.
The remains were found in a rugged area north of U.S. 160, approximately seven miles up Beaver Meadows Road and almost four miles off-road through rugged terrain, Macht said.
Macht said the ranchers called both the Archuleta County and La Plata County Sheriff’s Offices to report the finding, not sure which county the remains were in.
The call came in to Macht at about 10 a.m., and personnel were on scene by about 3 p.m. Personnel on scene included Macht, Det. Rich Valdez and Fort Lewis College anthropologist Dawn Mulhern.
Mulhern was called in to help determine if the remains were human, Macht said.
“With their training, they could find more remains,” Macht said, noting that the presence of animals can make it more difficult to find remains without that training.
Also found at the site were pieces of clothing, Macht said.
“Thank goodness for trained folks and trained eyes,” said the coroner.
Macht estimated the remains had been at the site for, “perhaps three weeks to a month,” mentioning variables such as environmental factors and creatures that can make estimates difficult.
But the search for remains is not over.
Macht said Tuesday’s six-person search began at the site where remains were found by the ranchers and expanded outward in a circle in a detailed search that lasted about four hours.
“We’d like to broaden that,” Macht said, explaining that Valdez of the Archuleta County Sheriff’s Office, the lead investigator on the case, is working to bring in trained search teams, including K-9 teams.
No positive identification of the remains has been made, with Macht explaining that identification through dental remains could take days and, if necessary, a DNA identification could take months due to the backlog at state labs.
A dental identification is in process, and DNA was extracted in case a DNA test is required, he said.
The case is ongoing and is under the jurisdiction of Macht, with the help of the ACSO.
While Macht stressed that no positive identification has been made, the area is relatively close to the site where an August search was conducted for a missing man.
A missing persons report was filed in early August for David Bruce Ritchie, last seen Aug. 3 in the Beaver Meadows area along U.S. 160, near the Archuleta-La Plata county line.
Ritchie was reported to be 59 years old, 5’-7”, approximately 175 pounds, with gray hair and brown eyes.