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Fort Lewis College student found dead in backcountry north of Durango

College reschedules classes for ‘community support’

A 20-year-old Fort Lewis College student was found dead Monday in the backcountry of San Juan County, north of Durango.

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Help for people having suicidal thoughts or for those who fear a person is considering suicide:

Axis Care Hotline:

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FORT LEWIS COLLEGE COUNSELING CENTER:

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AMERICAN FOUNDATION FOR SUICIDE PREVENTION:

Colorado chapter information available at afsp.org/chapter/afsp-colorado/

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A website for adult men contemplating suicide is available at mantherapy.org

La Plata County Coroner Jann Smith identified the woman as Valerie Johnson, 20.

Johnson was found in a wooded area, but Smith didn’t have a precise location. Johnson had been there for an undetermined amount of time, but not for long, Smith said.

An autopsy was performed Tuesday, Smith said.

Johnson’s hometown was not immediately known.

Lauren Savage, a college spokeswoman, said Friday’s classes have been rescheduled “so that students, faculty and staff can come together and do a check-in and have community support in this time of loss.”

FLC President Tom Stritikus offered a statement Thursday night: “FLC is grief-stricken by the apparent suicide of our student Val Johnson, who was loved by her family and friends, and was incredibly witty,” according to an email sent by the college’s media relations strategist. “The FLC community is committed to working with our students to address this serious public health issue and take steps together toward healing and belonging.“

San Juan Basin Public Health Executive Director Liane Jollon urged those struggling with depression or suicidal thoughts to call a help line to discuss their feelings, saying “your life has profound value.”

“SJBPH is saddened to learn of the tragic loss of a beloved young person,” Jollon said in an email. “We send condolences to the FLC community and all who are grieving.”