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Remains of missing man found in Beaver Meadows
9/13/2012 By: By Carole McWilliams
Skeletal remains found Tuesday have been identified as those of David Ritchie, who disappeared on Aug. 3.
Archuleta County Coroner Carl Macht and several other people spent much of Tuesday recovering skeletal human remains from a remote area between Beaver Meadows Road and First Notch Road.
Macht initially cautioned against jumping to conclusions that the remains are from area resident Dave Ritchie, who disappeared into that area on Aug. 3. But dental records have confirmed Ritchie’s identity.
“The remains were found Tuesday morning by a livestock man gathering his cattle,” Macht said. He rode over to see what his stock dogs were doing and saw what looked to be human remains.
Getting responders there wasn’t easy. Macht said the team drove about seven miles up Beaver Meadows Road. From there it was about four miles east. The cowboys who reported the find rode their horses in, and the recovery team rode in on 4-wheelers. It took an hour and a half to get to the site on the ATVs, Macht said.
“It was quite a long way from anywhere,” he said.
When the remains were first reported, it wasn’t clear which county they were in, he said. “Once we found out where they were, I asked for an anthropologist from Fort Lewis College to go with me. She (Dawn Mulhern) was most helpful when we got there, figuring out that it was a human and the approximate height.”
The team of about seven people searched the area around the primary remains for anything scattered by predators. They gathered those and brought the remains out. They were taken to Hood Mortuary. Macht said Hood owner Ryan Phelps was with the recovery team because he was friends with Dave Ritchie.
“We got home around 8 to 9 p.m.,” Macht said. The weather Tuesday was lowering clouds and spitting rain. Rain that night would have made it much more difficult to do the recovery on Wednesday, he said.
“The timing turned out to be really good. We were able to do most of what we needed to do (Tuesday). We’ll go back when there’s another break in the weather.” They will take search dogs in hopes of recovering more remains.
Macht said any other investigation will be conducted by the Archuleta County Sheriff’s Office. Macht said he could not determine a cause of death, and he might not be able to do so.
Ritchie, 59. walked away from family members on Aug. 3 and disappeared into the woods north of Highway 160, about a quarter mile east of the Beaver Meadows Road, near the La Plata- Archuleta County line.
Ritchie’s family had said he had just started taking medications for depression and insomnia, and they thought he was having a reaction to them. His family had stopped to visit a friend when he left their car and walked into the wilderness.
Friends and family members searched for him after he disappeared. A search and rescue team from Archuleta County joined the search on Aug. 5. That evening, heavy rains hit the area. There were scattered rainshowers the next day.
The ground and air search was been suspended after about three days because of the feeling that the area had been thoroughly searched, and because of concern that it could cause Ritchie to fear pursuit.
Several Times readers knew Ritchie. After he disappeared, they said he is a kind and gentle person.
Several readers of the Times’ facebook page responding to the news said they were sending their thoughts and prayers to Ritchie’s family. Ritchie previously lived in Bayfield, but had moved to Pagosa Springs. He had attended Bayfield Christian Church.
Cattle hands find remains
By Melanie B. Mazur
A local ranch hand played a role in bringing people to the area where skeletal remains were found on Tuesday.
Richie Hine works for a local ranch that sold its cattle grazing permit to a rancher whose hands found the body on Tuesday. They speak only Spanish and got off the mountain late Tuesday night and told their boss about the skeleton. The boss called Hine on Wednesday, asking what he thought they should do.
“They were a little freaked out about it,” Hine said.
They didn’t want to contact the sheriff, so Hine said he made the call to the La Plata County Sheriff, then met Archuleta County Coroner Carl Macht and his team and took them to the area.
Hine speculated Ritchie could have hiked up a trail that winds up to First Notch Road, then started walking cross-country toward the cabin.
“It was quite a ways walking,” he said.
The trails in the area are rugged, and the team had to go in on four-wheelers.
Hine said the skeletal remains were found near Indian Creek and not far from an old cabin there.