A 14-year-old boy struggled to survive at a remote Colorado campsite, where he, his mother and aunt set out to live “off the grid,” before he wasted down to 40 pounds and all three died of malnutrition and hypothermia, autopsy reports released Wednesday shows.
Survival-type guides and empty food tins — but no food — were strewn across a wooded campsite in Gunnison County where investigators in July found Christine Vance, 41, Rebecca Vance, 42, and Rebecca’s son, according to the Gunnison County Coroner’s office autopsies.
The bodies of the three Colorado Springs residents were all badly decomposed when a hiker first discovered the boy’s body outside a tent. A day later, investigators unzipped the blue tent to find the two women inside.
None were injured, though they were all extremely thin, the reports said. The average weight for a 14-year-old boy is 112 pounds, according to the CDC. The high-elevation campsite where they were found received several feet of snow and saw several days of below-zero temperatures last winter. No heaters were found in their tent.
The trio went missing in October after telling their family they were going to live off the grid and survive in the wilderness. Their relatives tried to stop them after hearing of their plans, but didn’t know where they were headed, one told The Colorado Springs Gazette. None had outdoor survival experience, the newspaper reported.
The coroner previously told The Colorado Sun they likely started camping in July 2022.
Investigators found them wearing several layers of clothing and necklaces with cross pendants around their necks, the reports said. Clasped next to Christine Vance’s wooden cross was a whistle.
A hiker saw the boy’s body outside of the tent July 9 in a dark patch of timber about 1,000 feet from a campsite at the Gold Creek Campground, northeast of Gunnison. The remote campground is not visible from the dirt Forest Service road that leads to the area, Sheriff Adam Murdie previously told The Sun.