SALT LAKE CITY – Researchers said Thursday that a skeleton found last year in Utah’s red rock country is that of a 20-year-old artist, poet and wanderer who disappeared in the 1930s and has been the stuff of Western lore and Navajo legend ever since.
The bones of Everett Ruess, a self-described vagabond from California, were discovered by a grandson of a Navajo elder who, according to a family story, had witnessed the young man’s murder by other Native Americans and was haunted by it.
Ruess’ remains and a few artifacts were found last May in a rock crevice against a cliff wall at Comb Ridge in remote southeastern Utah, about 60 miles from Escalante, the town where he set off for his final wilderness journey.
The 75-year-old mystery was finally solved when researchers from the University of Colorado announced that genetic and forensic tests, including DNA comparisons with four nephews and nieces, left no doubt the remains were Ruess’.
A niece, Michele Ruess, said the family planned to cremate the bones, now stored at the University of Colorado, and scatter the ashes in the Pacific’s Santa Barbara Channel.
“The family is deeply appreciative of everything that came together to solve the mystery,” she said.