K-9 team ends search

Photo courtesy Archuleta County Sheriff’s Office
Members of the Sandia Search Dogs team recently made their way to Archuleta County to help search the Beaver Meadows area for remains of David Bruce Ritchie, 59, who went missing Aug. 3. From left are Cindy Oliver and Callie, Mary Berry and Jaguar, Art Fischer and Tadc, and Allie O’Conner.

By Randi Pierce
Staff Writer

A second search of the area where the remains of David Bruce Ritchie, 59, were found in September has been completed and is considered successful.

The remains were found on Sept. 11 by ranchers in a rugged area north of U.S. 160, in the Beaver Meadows area in western Archuleta County.

The remains were subsequently determined to be those of Ritchie, who had gone missing, last seen in the area on Aug. 3.

The identification was made through dental remains and records.

An initial six-man search of the area was completed when the remains were found, but, at the time, both Det. Rich Valdez of the Archuleta County Sheriff’s Office and Archuleta County Coroner Carl Macht expressed a desire to search the area again with a trained K-9 team.

That search took place Friday, Sept. 28, and included the Sandia Search Dogs out of Albuquerque, comprising three dogs, three handlers and one spotter; Colorado Mounted Patrol Troop F members and equipment used to reach the area; two members of Archuleta County’s Office of Emergency Management; two from the ACSO; the deputy La Plata County coroner; and various other individuals.

Valdez said the team searched for about seven hours Friday, with each dog starting at an area void of remains that was upwind from the site where remains were found (a negative spot), and performed a line search over a quarter-mile radius of the original remains.

“It was definitely worth us going out there a second time,” Det. Rich Valdez said of the second search, explaining that the goal was to do everything possible to confirm all remains were found.

“We do our best to help the family,” Valdez said, stating a desire for family and friends to have closure. “That’s why we went this extra step. We’ve done everything we possibly could at this point.”

Because of the circumstances, Macht previously stated that he did not anticipate being able to determine a cause of death.

“Nobody will ever really know the why,” Valdez said.