The temperature climbed to 80 degrees, but in the sun it was dusty hot and the ominous chore facing homicide investigators was no adventure.
It began late Friday morning on the banks of the Gunnison river near the Bridgeport bridge as a dozen men combed the area for two childrens bodies believed to be close at hand.
When authorities knew a body found Thursday morning was that of Patricia Botham and a tentative identity was made on a woman’s body discovered Sept. 26, investigators knew the search wasn’t over.
They all disappeared together, Aug. 23, Mrs. Botham, Linda Miracle and her two children Troy, 5, and Chad, 3 – and the children were still missing.
And then as men in two boats scoured the river, one of them dragged a magnet, two Grand Junction police officers followed a nauseous smell down a trail leading to the shore.
About 6 feet from shore in shallow water the arm and leg of a small child bobbed near the surface. It was discovered shortly after noon.
Immediately, Sheriff Dick Williams was called and then Dr. Thomas Canfield, forensic pathologist for the Colorado Bureau of Investigation. The body remained in the water until Canfield arrived to conduct a preliminary examination.
And shortly before he did about 170 yards downstream the remains of a second child was found shortly after 1 p.m. – this time about 30 feet out in the river.
The discoveries were expected, consequently authorities remained calm and tight lipped. But an air of sadness and regret prevailed.
Even the hardened were upset.
Everyone had a job to do. An unfortunate – but important discovery had been made.
And once Canfield examined each body and investigators photographed each location, the bodies were packed together and shipped off in the back of a pick-up truck to the CBI lab in Montrose for autopsies.
It was too soon to say who the children were – but authorities knew who they were looking for.
And a short time after Sheriff Williams and Dist. Atty. Terrance Farina arrived with investigative reinforcements, the search broke up in mid-afternoon.
The river hadn’t changed much. It’s just every now and then its ebbs and flows reveal a grizzle deed of man.
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