Jeff Walker, missing skier: Gun found with body suggests he committed suicide
Update: Yesterday, we reported that a body was found in an out-of-bounds area of Aspen Highlands and is presumed to be Jeff Walker, a skier who'd been missing since March 7; see our previous coverage below.
As if this news wasn't heartbreaking enough for Walker's friends, family members and loved ones, who mounted an extraordinary effort to find him, a new development adds even more sadness: A gun was found near the body and the man died of a gunshot wound, raising the likelihood that Walker took his own life.
As we've reported, the search for Walker began in earnest on March 9, after he hadn't turned up since skiing at the resort on Thursday. His belongings were found in a locker at the ski area, but he otherwise seemed to have vanished without a trace. Then, on Wednesday afternoon, a snowboarder found a body in a spot far beyond the official Highlands boundaries. The male victim was reportedlywearing a blue coat of the sort Walker is thought to have worn on the day he disappeared.
The Pitkin County Sheriff's Office subsequently released a map of the mountainous terrain, with a green arrow indicating just how far away from the ski area the body was located:
If the body is positively identified as Walker, as expected, this distance indicates why official and unofficial search parties hadn't found him despite nearly three weeks of intensive efforts.
Now, the Aspen Times reports that the man died of a gunshot wound, apparently from a weapon found beside the body. The most probable scenario is suicide.
Walker loved Aspen Highlands, often skiing the resort on a daily basis. Clearly, it was among his favorite places on the planet -- and, perhaps, where he chose to end his life.
Visitors to the Tie One on For Jeff Walker Facebook page, which coordinated the private search efforts for Walker, have focused their most recent posts on the loss of someone special, not the possible manner of death, and that's entirely appropriate. Here are a few examples:
Jeff. You wrote the book on how to live in the moment and live life to the fullest. Your glass was not half full, it was always full to the rim. You touched everyone you met in a wonderfully unique way that was always full of positive and beautiful energy. Everyone has an awesome 'Walker' story and I feel really privileged to have quite a few. You went way too soon but man did you leave an lasting impression on all who knew you. I know you have found peace.Also popping up is this card from a very young person in Walker's life:
The best way to honor Jeffrey is to continue living our lives and keeping his memory alive through every day events. Rest In Peace Jeff.
hey Jeff.. thanks for the love, compassion, fun times and being brother and uncle, to so many of us kids in this valley. You are missed....