SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Caleb Shumway wanted to spend his winter break from college searching southeast Utah for a man who police believe shot a park ranger five years ago and vanished in red rock caves off the Colorado River.
Shumway, a 23-year-old Eagle Scout who grew up exploring the desert areas near his home in Moab, had discussed the manhunt at length with his father_one of more than 150 officers who scoured a 15-square mile area in 2010 looking for Lance Leeroy Arellano.
Shumway was motivated by an outstanding $30,000 reward for Arellano and the hope that the community might find closure with some sign of the man, whom many believed didn't make it out of the desert alive.
"I go crawl under rocks for fun," Shumway said. "So spending a couple days, couple weeks, looking for a body sounded like a fun deal to me."
Shumway knew Arellano had likely been shot as he exchanged gunfire with ranger Brody Young in 2010 and probably didn't make it far out of the rugged area. Shumway outlined a roughly 2 mile stretch of caves and tunnels that he and his 15-year-old brother planned to systematically search during their two weeks off from school.
Days into their search, the brothers made a gruesome discovery that had eluded officers for five years: Remains believed to be that of Arellano in a narrow cave, along with some clothes, guns and binoculars.
The Grand County Sheriff's Office said Thursday that evidence found with the remains led them to believe the two amateur detectives found Arellano, but the remains will be sent to the state medical examiner to confirm it. Grand County Sheriff Steven White did not return messages seeking further details Friday.
Shumway took deputies to the site Thursday and showed them a bone and bag with a gun he found near the mouth of the cave. He crawled through a chest-width gap and discovered more remains, clothing and another bag with another gun. The deputies couldn't fit and had Shumway take photos and carefully pack up what he found, the Utah Valley University student said.
In 2010, more than 160 officers using helicopters and dogs spent days in the area tracking Arellano's footprints near Dead Horse State Park. The search was scaled back but continued for months afterward.
Officers recovered Arellano's car, a rifle, backpack with canned food and a tattered bloody T-shirt, but not the man himself. At the time, officers said they believed Arellano was aware of their movements.
From what he knows about the case, Shumway said he thinks Arellano may have evaded police by moving at night.
Shumway believes the first bone and bag he spotted had been recently dragged by an animal to the mouth of the cave, which was difficult to find on its own.
"It's just another hole in the rocks," he said.
He was still awaiting word Thursday night on whether he would get the reward.
Young, who was 34 at the time, was shot nine times but survived. His Kevlar vest and a credit card in his pocket stopped three of the bullets. He spent weeks in the hospital recovering and still carries four bullets in his body, according to Gary Lewis, a manager of Young's motivational speaking business.
Young did not return messages seeking comment.
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 in the back, authorities said.
Prosecutors had filed first-degree felony attempted murder and other charges against Arrellano. He was 40 when he disappeared and had a criminal history that included assault and drug charges.
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