Guanella Pass - Colorado

Guanella Pass in Colorado. Photo Credit: Sparty1711 (iStock).

The Park County Coroner's Office reports that a case that's been cold for more than 40 years has been solved thanks to forensic genealogy.

A body that was found by hikers in 1974 near Colorado's Guanella Pass has been positively identified as Anthony John Armbrust III of Coronado, California. Armbrust went missing, along with his wife Renee, in 1973, shortly after renting an apartment in Golden. Armbrust was an aeronautical engineer at the time and the leader of a metaphysical church that was headquartered in San Diego. Shortly after he and his wife made the move to Colorado, they requested via a letter that members of their church come to Colorado to collect their belongings and a puppy. Though they were never formally reported missing, they presumably disappeared shortly after the letter was sent.

In 1974, hikers off of Guenella Pass near Grant, Colorado stumbled onto the scene of a decomposing male. After a month of investigation, no leads were found and the case went cold, with the unidentified male being buried in the Fairplay Cemetery. The body of the man was later exhumed in 2011 when the case was reopened under the premise that modern X-ray and DNA technology could help determine who the man was.

Though the initial DNA analysis yielded no answers, Park County contracted the DNA Doe Project to assist with the case. The DNA Doe Project is a non-profit forensic genealogy service that helps identify John and Jane Does, frequently used by law enforcement and medical examiners. In this case, they were able to identify the highly decomposed body that had been discovered more than 40 years ago as Anthony John Armbrust III, born in 1929. It took a reported 800 hours of volunteer genetic research to solve the case.

Details from the DNA Doe report show how Anthony John Armbrust III's identity was narrowed down based on the genetics of his family tree.

Armbrust's wife remains missing. According to the Park County Coroner's Office, a suicide pact may have been formed between Anthony Armbrust and his wife after Anthony was diagnosed with a terminal illness. The Coroner's Office stated that it remains unclear if Anthony's cause of death was suicide or a fall.

The focus of the case now shifts to determining the fate of Renee Armbrust, with a search for her remains planned in the area that Anthony was found.

Guanella Pass is a high-elevation mountain pass in Colorado that reaches an elevation of 11,670-feet, connecting the town of Grant to the town of Georgetown. It's often used to access the hike to the summit of Colorado fourteener Mount Bierstadt.

See the press conference announcing the discovery and explaining the DNA Doe process below:

The map below shows were Guanella Pass is located:


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