A body discovered Friday in the Sage Hen area has been identified as Erick Hurley, 31, who had been missing since March 2017, reports Montezuma County Sheriff Steve Nowlin. The cause of death was ruled a suicide from a self-inflicted gunshot wound, Nowlin said.
Two locals searching for antlers found Hurley’s remains and his backpack on a remote sagebrush plain north of McPhee Reservoir and Road X.
“His disappearance has been a real mystery. It’s heartbreaking,” he said.
On March 18, 2017, Hurley was reported missing, and an extensive search was conducted near his parents’ home on Road P, where he had been staying. After several days of searching the fields and draws in the Trail Canyon area, no sign of him could be found. A Dolores K-9 Search and Rescue dog also combed the area but had no hits.
Hurley’s mother, Carol Hurley, said she last heard from Erick on March 17. She said at the time that there was no indication that he planned to leave town or that anything was wrong.
“This is not like him,” she said. “We’re very close, and we’ve always kept in close touch.”
Interviews with friends, relatives and neighbors yielded no clues to his whereabouts. His truck and possessions were left at his parents’ house, leading deputies to believe he left on foot or was picked up by somebody. No foul play was suspected.
“Missing-person cases are so difficult because there is always the hope that he will come home,” Nowlin said.
Hurley had been working in the oil fields in South Dakota, and had recently returned to Montezuma County, Nowlin said. Evidence suggests he likely passed away soon after he was reported missing, Nowlin said.
Regarding the antler hunting by the locals who found Hurley, it is allowed and no permit is required in Colorado. In January, the Colorado Parks and Wildlife Commission passed a new seasonal closure on shed antler and horn collection on all public lands west of I-25 from Jan. 1 to April 30th to reduce impacts on wintering big game. However, this year the closure does not take effect until March 2.
Journal reporter Stephanie Alderton contributed to this story.