AUGUSTA, Maine (AP) — Investigators who believe skeletal remains discovered in Maine are those of a missing Appalachian Trail hiker from Tennessee they have sought for two years said Friday they don't think foul play was involved in her death.
The Maine Warden Service said it's confident it has found 66-year-old Geraldine Largay, missing since July 2013. The medical examiner's office will determine positive identification of the remains, and the investigation cannot be fully closed until after that happens, investigators said.
The remains were found Wednesday more than 3,000 feet from the trail by a contractor conducting a forestry survey on property owned by the U.S. Navy in Redington, the warden service said. Several pieces of clothing and belongings consistent with items owned by Largay were found.
Lt. Kevin Adam, who led the investigation, said searchers canvassed about 30 acres on and around the Appalachian Trail looking for Largay, frequently looking in areas several hundred feet off of the trail. How she got lost remains a mystery, Adam said.
"It's a great sense of relief that we have found Gerry, and we can return her with her family," Adam said. "It's just somewhere along the line she got off the trail."
The Brentwood woman was last seen leaving Redington Township for an 8-mile hike. She was to meet her husband George the next day but never showed. She started the hike in April 2013 in West Virginia, and George had been meeting her at intervals along the way to provide her with supplies.
Largay's planned final destination was Baxter State Park, investigators said. She went by the trail name of "Inchworm."
Investigators said the family has been notified of the discovery, and they are requesting privacy. They have been in touch with the Maine Warden Service and "want to express gratitude," said warden service spokesman Cpl. John MacDonald during a news conference in Augusta.
"These findings will bring closure," MacDonald said.
The property where Largay's body was recovered is part of a U.S. Navy's survival skills training facility. The Navy uses the area for its Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape program. Adam described it as a dense, wooded area not easily accessed. Searchers had canvassed similar areas with dogs and rescue teams over two years with fading hopes that Largay was still alive.
The warden service said in a statement that the search for Largay was "one of Maine's most unique and challenging search and rescue efforts."