SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — The remains of a man police believe shot and wounded a state park ranger in 2010 and eluded more than 100 officers in a desert manhunt were found Thursday, authorities said.
Skeletal remains believed to be those of Lance Leeroy Arellano were discovered in a narrow cave near Moab, the Grand County Sheriff’s Office said in a press release. Arellano was 40 when he disappeared.
Officers spent days searching rugged desert canyons and caves for Arellano after identifying him as the suspect in the shooting of Utah park ranger Brody Young.
Young, who was 34 at the time, survived the shooting with injuries to his arm, leg and abdomen. A message seeking comment from Young on Thursday night was not immediately returned.
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Gary Lewis, a manager of Young’s motivational speaking business, said police contacted Young seeking help identifying the remains.
Young and his family would not be commenting, Lewis said, citing the holidays. He noted that the Christmas Eve discovery also marked the five-year anniversary of the day Young returned home from the hospital.
Young still works for Utah State Parks in the agency’s boating safety program.
“He’s made a complete recovery but he still carries around four bullets,” Lewis said.
The Grand County Sheriff’s Office said a college student discovered the remains in the cave. Nearby was a bag containing a handgun, ammunition and binoculars.
The sheriff’s office said the student, Caleb Shumway, was specifically searching the area for Arellano.
Shumway, a 23-year-old Utah Valley University student, told The Associated Press than he and his 15-year-old brother had decided to spend two weeks over winter break searching for Arellano — a mission their police officer father helped with five years earlier. An outstanding $30,000 reward for Arellano was part of the draw, Shumway said.
“For a poor college student, that’s pretty appealing,” he said.
Shumway added that resolving the case was a big thing for the Moab community. “There’s lots of closure that would come with finding this guy because no one really knew if he was dead or alive,” he explained.
Shumway, an Eagle Scout who grew up exploring caves and canyons in the area, said he was confident he could find Arellano’s body after studying the case and discussing the search area with his father.
“I kind of had a good idea of what had happened,” he said.
He and his brother were two days into their search when they discovered a bone and the bag with the gun near the mouth of a cave on Wednesday.
Shumway hopped down and under boulders and took pictures. Then they met with police Thursday and took officers back out to the site. They found more skeletal remains, clothing and another backpack with another gun deeper in the cave.
Shumway believes the first bone and bag he spotted had been recently dragged to the cave’s mouth by an animal. He was still awaiting word on whether he would get the reward.
Authorities said evidence left with the remains led investigators to believe it was Arellano, but they did not offer further details.
The remains will be sent to the state medical examiner to be identified.
Messages seeking further details from Grand County Sheriff Steven White were not immediately returned.
Young was shot when he approached Arrellano in his car near the Poison Spider Mesa Trailhead on Nov. 19, 2010, according to authorities. Young told Arrellano that he was in a no-camping area, and when he attempted to verify the man’s name and birthdate, he was shot several times in the back, authorities said.
Police believed Arrellano may have been injured as Young returned fire.
More than 160 law enforcement officers combed a 15-squre mile area near Dead Horse State Park. They recovered a rifle, backpack and tattered bloody T-shirt.
Prosecutors had filed first-degree felony attempted murder and other charges against Arrellano.
Follow Michelle L. Price at https://twitter.com/michellelprice