Published June 18, 2017
A treasure chest of gold and jewelry hidden in the rugged Southwest wilderness by an eccentric octogenarian author lured a Colorado pastor to New Mexico, where he has been reported missing.
The wife of Paris Wallace, the lead pastor of Connection Church in Grand Junction, reported him missing Wednesday.
New Mexico State police say they have been told that the 52-year-old man had come to Expanola in search of the treasure of Forrest Fenn.
Fenn, an eccentric author, announced that he hid a chest full of gold and jewels somewhere in the Rocky Mountains worth at least $1 million in 2010. Those who seek the alleged treasure say the clues are hidden in his writings.
Police searched for Wallace Saturday in an area where they found his vehicle.
Cops found a backpack in the Rio Grande downstream from a tributary, where a rope was found tied to a rock on the riverbank, the Grand Junction Daily Sentinel reported Saturday.
Police believe the rope belonged to the pastor. A receipt found in his vehicle shows he recently bought rope.
Raging waters have prevented dives from accessing the other side of the river where the rope was located, the paper reported.
Wendell Smith told the paper that he belongs to a group interested in the Finn treasure and that Wallace was a friend. He said he never knew the pastor was interested in the treasure.
“I never did talk about it with him,” Smith said. “I never told him. I don’t talk about it casually, I only talk about it when I have to,” he said. “He never said anything to me about it. Hopefully, I’ll get to talk to him soon about it.”
Another Coloradan, Randy Bilyeu, disappeared while searching for the treasure in January 2016. His remains were found in the Rio Grande five months later.
About 65,000 treasure hunters have ventured into the New Mexico wilderness since Fenn released a poem titled, "The thrill of the chase: a memoir." and launched an international craze in 2010, Fox News reported in July.
The poem is said to contain nine cryptic clues and subsequent works have had maps that suggest the treasure has been hidden in Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico or Utah.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.