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An Archuleta County man who was found dead late Saturday morning in Aspen Springs is thought to have died as a result of hypothermia.
The man, Lonnie Lee Baughman, 57, is believed to have been involved in a minor vehicle crash sometime late Friday night or early Saturday morning, according to Archuleta County Coroner Carl Macht.
After Baughman crashed his vehicle into a tree, Macht said he believes the man tried to walk home, walked in circles for a while, and fell in the snow.
Temperatures in the area are thought to have been 5 degrees or lower that night.
The call reporting Baughman’s death indicated a possible assault, leading law enforcement to initially treat the situation as a homicide, but that was quickly changed upon arrival of law enforcement officers at the scene, Det. Tonya Hamilton of the Archuleta County Sheriff’s Office said.
“All of that was dispelled quickly when we got there,” Hamilton said.
Hamilton said Baughman was found with a cut on his nose and a small amount of blood on his face, but Colorado State Patrol Trooper Randy Talbot said the injury likely happened when Baughman fell in the snow.
When it was determined that no assault took place, the case shifted to the Colorado State Patrol for investigation.
“It actually turned into a pretty simple case,” Hamilton said. “It was pretty obvious it was hypothermia and a traffic accident.”
Talbot said an investigation revealed that Baughman likely was not injured in the crash, which Talbot believes occurred at a low speed, based upon damage to the vehicle.
Talbot said Baughman’s body was found about 250 feet down a hillside from the vehicle, and added that the vehicle could not be seen from the location of the body.
The case remains officially under investigation pending the results of an autopsy that was scheduled for Wednesday, Talbot said.
Results of the autopsy were not available by press time Wednesday.
Prior to the autopsy, Macht said his working hypothesis for the cause of death was hypothermia, but he noted that the autopsy would test for things such as internal injuries or other factors, such as alcohol use, that may have contributed to Baughman’s demise.