Recent discovery reopens 11-year-old Grand County missing person case
The discovery of an old hunting rifle, backpack and other personal property near Carter Mountain in Grand County last weekend has prompted the reopening of an 11-year-old missing person investigation.
Two people hunting in the White Slide area near Carter Mountain, roughly 19 miles north of Kremmling, on Sept. 16 came across numerous items of personal property, as well as various bones, just four days after an area rancher discovered a skull — now confirmed to be human — in the same area.
Officials said the found property was located about 270 yards away from where the skull was discovered.
While an investigation is ongoing as to the identity of the skull, the found property was confirmed as having belonged to Dale Benjamin Banker, an Aurora man who went missing in the same area in 2007, according to the Grand County Sheriff’s Office.
Investigators from the sheriff’s office, Colorado Parks and Wildlife and the Grand County Coroner’s Office conducted additional searches of the area following the hunters’ discovery.
A hunting rifle, backpack, ammunition, compass, hunting knife, boots, scraps of clothing and an identifying bracelet, among other items, were all found, according to Lt. Dan Mayer, spokesperson for the Grand County Sheriff’s Office, which is handling the missing person investigation.
Mayer said bones were also found at the scene, some of which have already been identified as animal bones and others are still being examined.
“We know we have now found his (Dale Bankers’) things,” Mayer confirmed to Sky-Hi News on Wednesday. “This is the first location of any property or evidence in that case in 11 years.”
Mayer also indicated that a pair of glasses, which were folded up, were found at the scene. It is believed those also belonged to Banker.
Banker went missing sometime around Oct. 20, 2007. He was 59 at the time. A search for the man began Oct. 26, 2007, during which time officers from the Colorado Division of Wildlife, now called Colorado Parks and Wildlife, notified the sheriff’s office that a pick-up truck, parked on Forest Service Road 103 in the Chimney Rock area, had been left unattended for several days.
“Wildlife officers said they were contacted Oct. 21 by hunters in a nearby camp who reported that a rifle had been leaning against a truck parked along the roadside,” said Walt Eldridge, who served as Grand County Undersheriff in 2007, during the time of the search. “The hunters said they had last seen a man at the truck the previous afternoon. They were concerned that a heavy snow had fallen Saturday night and the rifle was left outside the vehicle. They reported that no sign of activity or tracks were seen around the truck.”
Officers determined the truck belonged to Banker. It was found that Banker held valid hunting licenses for the area where his truck was parked, as well as an area south of U.S. Highway 40. Officials continued to monitor the truck over the next week but saw no evidence of activity.
A further search of the area was conducted later that week that included multiple agencies and dog teams. Nothing related to Banker’s whereabouts were found at the time.
While found in the same general vicinity, Mayer said there is currently no evidence to connect the discovery of the human skull to Banker’s property. There were no obvious signs of trauma on the skull, according to investigators.
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