Authorities on Thursday positively identified human remains found earlier this week east of Bayfield as those of David Bruce Ritchie, a Pagosa Springs man who went missing last month.
The remains were found Tuesday by cattlemen in a rugged area north of U.S. Highway 160 near the Archuleta-La Plata county line. The closest major land feature was Baldy Mountain.
A forensic anthropologist and a family dentist helped make the identification using dental records, said Archuleta County Coroner Carl Macht.
Ritchie, 59, wandered off about 9:30 a.m. Aug. 5 after his family stopped at a friend’s house while en route from Pagosa Springs to Durango to seek medical treatment for Ritchie.
Ritchie was taking a new medication to treat depression and insomnia, and the medication may have contributed to feelings of paranoia and caused him to take flight, said Liz Anderson, the family friend whose house they visited before Ritchie wandered off.
“It appears he died of exposure, and he appeared to have gone peacefully and certainly didn’t take his life or anything like that,” Anderson said.
Search-and-rescue members looked for Ritchie for two days before ending the search.
“I know the whole family wants to thank the Durango and Pagosa Springs and Bayfield community for helping in the search,” Anderson said.
Ritchie’s remains were spread over a distance as a result of coyotes, Macht said.
The animal marks occurred postmortem, and there is no evidence Ritchie died from an attack, he said.
Macht reminded residents and visitors to be prepared when venturing into the wilderness.
“It’s always my hope that when people take a walk in the woods they take something with them,” he said.