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GRAND COUNTY, Colo. - Bones found earlier this month in Grand County are believed to belong to a hiker who has been missing for two years.
Patricia Wallace, 74, of Lafayette was reported missing July 3, 2012 by hiking friends when she failed to meet up with them. Wallace had separated from the hiking group in the Buchanan Pass Trail area to take a different trail she thought would be easier.
Search teams looked for Wallace for 13 days. Teams from several jurisdictions spent a total of 769 man hours looking for Wallace before concluding their efforts.
On Aug. 9, 2014 the Sippel family from Santa Fe, New Mexico were backpacking in the area near Thunderbolt Creek when they discovered what they believed to be human bones. The family had no cell service, so they wrote a note describing the remains and the location, and gave the note to passing hikers. The note was carried out of the Indian Peaks Wilderness Area and given to the U.S. Forest Service on Aug. 10.
The next day, the Grand County Sheriff’s Office worked with Grand County Search and Rescue (GCSAR), Grand County Coroner’s Office, U.S. Forest Service and the Boulder County Sheriff’s Office to coordinate recovery of the remains.
On Aug. 15 GCSAR sent a search team to the location where the bones were found. Searchers also found clothing matching the description of Wallace and a backpack containing Wallace’s ID.
Forensic anthropologist Diane France and Grand County Coroner Brenda Brock worked together and determined the bones are consistent with remains of a Caucasian female. DNA evidence will be submitted for confirmation that the remains are of Wallace.
The coroner has notified family and believes the remains to be of Wallace.
Wallace’s family has expressed gratitude to all involved in the initial search and eventual recovery, and to the Sippel family who discovered the remains.
The Sippel family released the following statement:
“We were saddened by the discovery, but also realized that this would help bring closure to the family of the missing person. This was a ways off the beaten path. If we had done any one thing differently that afternoon, even little things, we would not have made the discovery. With all the tall vegetation and the stream, the discovery was like finding a needle in a haystack. It’s a bit of a miracle that we were where we were at. That little miracle is what it took for the family to have closure. We offer our prayers and well wishes to the family."