The remains of an 18-year-old Colorado man reported missing seven years ago were found in the chimney of an abandoned cabin less than one mile from his home, officials said Wednesday.
The remains were found last month as contractors tore down the cabin in Woodland Park that had been abandoned for more than a decade. Authorities had to use dental records to identify the remains as those of Joshua Vernon Maddux, who was reported missing in May 2008 but not as a runaway.
Teller County Coroner Al Born speculated that Maddux was trying to shimmy down the chimney when he got stuck. His death was ruled accidental and there were no signs of trauma, Born said. It’s unclear how long his remains were in the chimney.
"There are going to be some questions out there that are unanswerable," Born said. However, authorities say the details of the death are likely to remain mysterious.
Family members say Maddux was bright and doing well in school and not sure why he went into the cabin.
"I got up one morning and he was there, then he just never came home," said his father, Michel Maddux. "We thought he was with friends, but no one had seen him."
Michel Maddux said the family searched for him for years.
"It's a long-term thing where you're grieving on hold," he said.
Chuck Murphy, the cabin’s owner, said the place was abandoned but that mice and chipmunks would occasionally get into it and die, leaving a foul smell.
The chimney was located behind a large piece of furniture, "so there was no reason to look in the fireplace," Murphy told The Gazette newspaper of Colorado Springs in August.
Murphy is the owner of a construction company. He told the newspaper that his family had bought the cabin 60 years ago. It was located on Thunderhead Ranch, a famous gambling spot, according to the newspaper.
Kate Maddux, Joshua Maddux’s sister, wrote a short article for the News of Woodland Park website. She described Joshua as a “highly intelligent, kind creative person” and a musician.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.