A National Park Service ranger this week found a badly decomposed body that could possibly be a Powell man that was reported missing by concerned relatives in Powell on Aug. 8.
Ranger Ben Schubert found the body near a vehicle during a routine patrol of the Yellowtail Wildlife Habitat Area on Friday, Sept. 11, at around 4 p.m. According to NPS Deputy Chief Ranger Dale Kissner, Ranger Schubert was out on routine patrol when he noticed what appeared to be an abandoned vehicle. As he approached the vehicle, a white 1998 Ford Explorer, he noticed a human body lying on the ground about 10 feet from where the vehicle was parked. The body was badly decomposed and appeared to have been there for some time.
According to Kissner, the habitat is a multi-jurisdictional area, governed in part by the Park Service, by the State and by the Bureau of Land Management. He said the body was found in a section of the habitat that is BLM controlled. BLM officials were notified. They turned the case over to the Big Horn County Sheriff’s Department.
The body was initially identified as Dustin Lee Wall, 33, of Park County, since it matched his description and was found near a vehicle registered to him. Investigators withdrew their positive identification on
Tuesday when they learned that dental records and other identifying information provided by Wall’s family did not match up.
According to Sheriff Ken Blackburn, evidence at the scene indicated that the individual was attempting to repair the vehicle before he died. He said that evidence included a screwdriver near an open fuse box on the vehicle.
Blackburn said, though an autopsy was conducted, it wasn’t immediately clear what caused the man’s death. He said due to the advanced decomposition of the body, it was determined that he died sometime around the time Wall was reported missing. The coroner initially ruled out foul play but, with new evidence questioning the identity of the body, the case has been turned over to the Division of Criminal Investigation.
Blackburn said the case is being actively investigated both to determine the identity of the individual and to determine the cause of his death. He said the vehicle has been sent to the state crime lab in Cheyenne and DNA evidence is also being processed to determine if the individual is Wall.
Blackburn said it wasn’t immediately clear why the person was in the remote area, but rocks found in the vehicle indicate that he or someone else may have been rock hounding in the area.
He said the family has been notified and is actively helping investigators by providing information and evidence that could help with the positive identification of the body.
“Nothing is ruled out in the investigation at this time,” said Blackburn, adding that his heart goes out to the family of Wall during these trying circumstances.
By Patti Carpenter