Bulletin: A fourth body – that of a young person – was found shortly after 1 p.m. today as lawmen continued their search of the Gunnison River just north of the Mesa-Delta county line.
The body of a third murder victim, a child, was found today in the Gunnison River, the Mesa County Sheriff’s Department said.
There was no immediate word on the condition of the body or was it reported if the child was a male. The discovery was made about 12:30 p.m.
A newsman at the scene said the tiny body was left partly in the river water until a coroner could be brought there. It was two city policemen, David Allen and Tony Olivas, who found the body. The body was just a few feet from the bank and midway from where two woman’s bodies had been found.
The Mesa County sheriff today confirmed what everybody suspected.
The body of a woman found yesterday in the Gunnison River is that of Patricia Botham, 25.
A second body found seven days earlier in the same river is tentatively identified as Linda Miracle, also 25, said Sheriff Dick Williams.
A massive search was begun this morning in hopes of finding some trace of Mrs. Miracle’s two young sons who disappeared when the women did Aug. 23.
Meanwhile, the sheriff’s department has taken over the case from the Grand Junction Police Department. Information gathered from a missing persons investigation by city police is being turned over to the sheriff.
The second body was found yesterday by the sheriff and three of his men about a half-mile upstream from the spot where railroad workers found the body tentatively identified as Mrs. Miracle last Friday.
The sheriff said the case is being handled as a double homicide.
Police Chief Ben Meyers told newsmen his department would offer all possible assistance to the Sheriff and assign three investigators full time to the case.
Williams said further tests are being run to determine how the women were murdered. Both were found with one 30-pound iron angle bar tied around their pelvic area.
Families of the women were notified early this morning by the Sheriff following an autopsy of Mrs. Botham’s body in Montrose late Thursday night.
Mrs. Botham’s dental charts were used to identify the body, as were personal effects of the body.
Two rings and a nightgown found on the body confirmed Mrs. Botham’s identity, as well as, a comparison of dental charts.
Williams said Thursday night investigators “had a feeling” another body might turn up on a river search. Deputies Milo Vig, Mike Smith and Larry Smith assisted Williams and used two boats to search the river, originally intent on finding teeth missing from the body of the Miracle woman.
Williams said Vig will be responsible for coordinating the homicide investigation with police the District Attorney’s office and investigators of the Colorado Bureau of Investigation, which has been called in to assist.
Search teams are dragging a 22-mile stretch of the river from Whitewater to Bridgeport with magnets in hopes of turning up the bodies of the Miracle children Troy, 5 and Chad, 3. Williams said the magnets are capable of lifting up to 200 pounds of metal.
If necessary, the department will also use skin divers and aircraft in the search, he said.
Terrance Farina, Mesa County district attorney, said no arrest warrants have been issued thus far in connection with the case.
And in terms of suspects Williams said, “ I think we have lots – anyone who might know them.”
The disappearance investigation conducted by police failed to turn up any major clues.
City investigators contended until recently that the women had left town of their own will or that the disappearances were not related. The women were neighbors.
Throughout the investigation department spokesmen maintained there was no evidence of foul play.
As late as Sept. 14 investigators for the department had not taken fingerprints from either residences on the 1900 block of Ouray.
Chief Meyers said today he is now firmly convinced the incidents are related and there was foul play. But given the same set of initial circumstances surrounding any similar disappearances he said he would direct men to follow the same procedures.
“Given the same set of circumstances, I wouldn’t change a thing,” he said.
He maintained, however, that the disappearances were not treated as a routine missing persons investigation.
He said many man hours were put into the disappearance investigation, but since a weapon and other evidence couldn’t be found to indicate foul play at either residence investigators had little to go on. He said the closeness of the two homes gave rise to “suspicion” the disappearances were related.
Ken Botham, husband of the dead woman, told the Sentinel earlier this week he has felt all along something happened to his wife. He surmised when she left the residence she was clothed only in a nightgown and tennis shoes, one of which was later found a the Miracle residence across the street.
He explained they often helped Mrs. Miracle with problems and somehow Mrs. Botham “got into something she couldn’t handle.”
The Botham’s two young sons woke up Aug. 23 to find their mother missing, Botham found his children later that afternoon when he returned from an overnight trip to Ouray, he said.
“She would never leave the children alone,” he explained.
“If she could be here she would,” he added.
In the interest of Mrs. Miracle, the remaining family offered a $5,000 reward early in September for information leading to her return. In addition they hired Vince Jones, a retired FBI investigator, to work on the case.
According to Dewey Miracle, father-in-law of the dead woman, Jones told the family Wednesday he believed the first body to be that of Linda Miracle.
Authorities, however, would not speculate without further lab test results since the body was so badly deteriorated.
Mrs. Botham’s body was found about 50 feet from shore near some rocks. Authorities believe she was uncovered about 24 hours prior to the discovery when the water level dropped.
Williams said he felt the current could have moved both bodies from the original entry points, but if the children’s bodies are in the river and weighted down in the same fashion it is doubtful they have moved.
Meyers said authorities “obviously” have a lot more to go on now and will go back to both residences of the women to gather any pertinent evidence.
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