Update: Moments ago, the Boulder County Sheriff's Office issued a release about the ongoing search at Eldora ski resort in the wake of human remains found by a staffer yesterday.
The grisly discovery immediately led observers to wonder if the remains, which were found inside a boot, might be related to the disappearance of an Eldora employee in January; see our previous coverage below.
But while the remains have not yet been identified, and there's no word that additional body parts have been located, BCSO reps believe they aren't connected to Johnson — probably because of the size and/or brand of the boot.
"The boot discovered yesterday by an employee of the ski resort is a left men's Rugged Outback snow-style boot," the announcement notes. "Inside the boot was a black sock and human remains consisting of a foot and the lower leg bones. The boot is a size 13. Yesterday's initial search of the immediate area where the boot was located was estimated to have been approximately 40,000 square yards...and no additional remains or related evidence was located.
"The investigative effort to identify who the remains belong to is occurring contemporaneous to the search effort," the item continues. "The preliminary investigation has led investigators to believe the remains are not those of Ryder Johnson, a twenty-year-old Lafayette man who was reported missing in January and had ties to the ski resort. Investigators are continuing to comb through missing person reports and have provided information to other law enforcement agencies across the state and country in an attempt to identify potentially related missing person cases."
The search is ongoing at this writing. Continue for our previous coverage.
Original post, 6:15 a.m.: Earlier this year, we told you about the disappearance of Ryder Johnson, a twenty-year-old employee at the Eldora ski area.
Months later, Johnson, whose city of residence is listed as Lafayette, remains missing.
Now, a boot containing human remains has been found at the resort.
Thus far, there's been no confirmation that the remains belonged to Johnson — but authorities are reportedly looking into that grim possibility.
As we've reported, the Boulder County Sheriff's Office shared the following photo of Johnson....
...along with a news release noting that he was last seen leaving his job at Eldora at approximately 3 p.m. on Sunday, January 17.
Johnson is described as a five-feet-ten-inch tall, 155 pounder with brown hair and brown eyes. He was last known to be wearing a red-and-black coat with an Eldora ski resort jacket and black pants.
When he didn't show up that afternoon as expected, he was reported missing.
Then, at around 10 p.m. on Sunday, a deputy found Johnson's vehicle parked on the 5800 block of Flagstaff Road, near Gross Reservoir in Boulder County.
Here's an interactive graphic showing the area. If you have problems seeing the image, click "View on Google Maps.
This discovery prompted local agencies to begin a full-scale search at 8 a.m. Monday, January 18.
Participants included representatives of Rocky Mountain Rescue, Front Range Rescue Dogs, City of Boulder Park Rangers, County of Boulder Parks Rangers, Denver Water Board personnel and an Eldorado Canyon State Park ranger, as well as BCSO deputies.
A helicopter was also deployed, with efforts focused on Gross Reservoir and the Walker Ranch open space area — but no sign of Johnson was found.
In the weeks that followed, a private reward was established for information about Johnson's whereabouts, and his loved ones issued a statement assuring him that he wasn't in trouble.
The statement reads:
“Our family and friends continue to search for Ryder and we remain hopeful. We want Ryder to know he is loved as mom says “from the mountains to the stars,” he is not in any trouble and everyone is praying for him to be found safe and sound. We appreciate the media getting his picture out to the public and if anyone sees Ryder please immediately contact the Boulder County Sheriff’s Office. A private reward has recently been established through Northern Colorado Crime Stoppers for tips or information helping to find Ryder. If anyone with information prefers to remain anonymous they can contact Northern Colorado Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-TIPS (8477) or www.nococrimestoppers.com. The outpouring of concern and support from all corners of our community, including the incredible volunteer search effort covering thousands of acres, is truly heartwarming and a reminder of all that is good in the world. We are equally grateful for the professionalism and persistence of the Boulder County Sheriff’s Office, Rocky Mountain Rescue, City and County Open Space rangers and all the other public agencies involved.”
These efforts didn't lead to a breakthrough.
Then, last night, the Boulder County Sheriff's Office announced that around 4:30 p.m. yesterday, BCSO reps were informed that an employee who'd been working in a clearing near the base of the mountain found "a single snow-style boot. When he examined the boot closer, he observed what he believed to be human remains inside."
Deputies who responded to the scene note that the boot was "wet and weathered and had likely been concealed by the snow pack, which had only recently melted away. It is unknown how long the snow-style boot and remains had been in the clearing."
Personnel from the resort, assisted by folks representing a range of agencies and three cadaver dogs from Front Range Rescue Dogs, immediately began a search of the area. Darkness fell before they found anything else, but the search is expected to start up again today.
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The coroner's office will try to establish the identity of the remains already located, and a BCSO spokesman told the Boulder Daily Camera that detectives will be looking into possible ties to Johnson, as well as all other missing-persons cases in the area.
Here's the missing poster for Ryder Johnson, complete with contact information.