Four months after his body was found, the Pitkin County Coroner’s Office and the Colorado Bureau of Investigation have been unable to identify a man found next to the Roaring Fork River.
Coroner Steve Ayers said his office decided Thursday that the man would be buried as unknown after deputy coroner Eric Hansen exhausted all methods to pin down who he was.
“We tried everything,” Ayers said.
The man died of heart failure about two or three days before he was found June 9 by a fisherman below the Brush Creek intercept lot, Hansen said.
That was long enough for the sun and insects to make investigators’ job much more difficult. The toll of the elements prevented Hansen and Brad Gibson, Pitkin County Sheriff’s Office investigator, from obtaining a full face profile and determining his age.
“The sun had badly burned his face,” said Hansen, who placed his age at between 40 and 60.
A more precise age determination was impossible without more facial characteristics, he said.
The man was described as being 5-foot-8-inches tall and weighing about 240 pounds. He was wearing jeans and a blue hoodie sweatshirt.
Investigators were unable to get fingerprints because the tissue had died and shriveled too much.
The man had only a few effects with him: a Mickey Mouse pillow upon which he was lying, a package of Kool cigarettes with a butt inside and a generic water bottle, Hansen said.
He said he believes the man was homeless, as no vehicle in the intercept lot could be linked to him, and that he may have gone to the riverbank upstream from Wilton Jaffee Park to sleep.
“He likely took a nap and didn’t wake up,” Hansen said.
There were no signs of a camp, sleeping bag or fishing pole, Hansen said of his homeless hypothesis. He said he checked out the Aspen Thrift Shop to see if it had sold such a pillow and inquired at the Aspen Homeless Shelter to see if someone might have known him, both to no avail.
“We’ve gone through all the channels to track him,” he said.
CBI analysts told Hansen that they were confident they could get a print off the cigarette butt, but that effort also fell short.
Hansen’s final step will be to put the case on the namus.gov website, which tracks missing and unidentified persons, even though “there’s not a lot to go on,” he said.
Namus.gov was the critical link in identifying, after 33 years, Donald Theodore Allison this spring. Allison was shot to death, and his body was found near Lenado.
Allison’s fingerprints were sent to the FBI in December, when the sheriff’s office obtained a potential match based on several similarities in another case found on namus.gov. The FBI alerted the sheriff’s office in April that there was a match between the Lenado victim and Allison’s government record as a biologist.
While investigators were unable to get prints on the man who died in June, his teeth will be retained, Hansen said. If a possible match comes up on namus.gov or a similar website, dental records could prove crucial in establishing his identity.
The coroner’s office will bury the body, which has been kept at the Farnum Holt Funeral Home in Glenwood Springs, in a graveyard in the Rifle-Silt area, Ayers said.