Gold Trap Ranch Doe (1988)

A composite sketch of Gold Trap Doe, whose bones were found in western Coconino County in November 1988. (Coconino County Sheriff's Office/Courtesy image)

Coconino County Sheriff's Office

Cowboys working a remote part of the Gold Trap Ranch found him.

The ranch is located 15 miles north of Ash Fork in the western portion of Coconino County. According to the county medical examiner, he had been there for more than a year, but less than two years. His bones had been scattered.

The date was Nov. 11, 1988. Cause and manner of death are undetermined, and 26 years later, he still remains unidentified.

“It's a bizarre one, I'll tell you that,” said Chuck Jones, volunteer investigator for the Coconino County Sheriff's Office cold case unit.

Jones helped start the cold case unit in 2007 after his retirement from a career as a special agent with the FBI. The cold case unit is currently trying to solve nearly 40 cases in the county like Gold Trap Doe.

LUCKY FIND

Jones said that it was pure luck the remains were ever found at all. The ranch is 42,000 acres, and the bones were found in an extremely remote section. The bones were found on top of a small hill accessible only on foot or horseback about a half mile from a dirt road.

“What was he doing up there?” Jones asked. “How did he get up there?”

Other bodies have been discovered in the same general area. One of those bodies, an unknown man whose case sat in the cold case files since 1995, was identified in 2010 through a DNA match submitted by the cold case unit.

The bones had been scattered -- probably from animal activity -- over an area of about 200 yards. The medical examiner reconstructed the bones, and missing were vertebrae, lower legs and feet, upper left arm and most of the bones from the hands.

“An examination of the bones revealed no bullet holes, fractures caused by blunt force trauma, or stab wounds,” Jones wrote in a narrative of the case. The skull had evidence of a broken nose and broken left cheek bone.

“It's a death investigation,” Jones said. “We don't know how he died.”

The medical examiner noted that several of the ribs and the right clavicle had several “chronic” healed breaks.

WORK TO DATE

An artist completed a rendering of what the man's face looked like in life. The color of his hair and eyes is unknown. Investigators noted that the body was clad in “Capital” brand blue jeans that had a 28 inch waist and 27 inch cuffed inseam. There was also a brown leather belt with buckle.

Forensic anthropologists at the University of Arizona determined the bones to belong to a white man, 45-55 years of age, and 5 feet, 2 inches, plus or minus 2 inches. There were 19 teeth still in the skull, but none had any dental work.

Jones said the man's description was entered into national computer databases. There have not been any missing persons hits matching the man's description. Bones have been sent to the Regional Crime Laboratory in Phoenix for DNA testing, and the cold case is awaiting the results.

“Unless they get something to compare it to, it just gets in line with other cases and it doesn't go very fast,” Jones said.

Plans are in the works to submit the pants for DNA testing, because the body left DNA on the clothing during the decomposition process.

If anybody has information about this case, contact the sheriff’s office cold case division at 774-4523, or visit the cold case Facebook page.

Larry Hendricks can be reached at lhendricks@azdailysun.com or 556-2262.

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