By M.P. Pellicer | Stranger Than Fiction Stories
A hunter in pursuit of an elk he'd just shot found the unexpected: a human skull in the middle of nowhere.
November 12, 2023, Wyoming
The sun-bleached bone stood out amongst the sagebrush in Wyoming's Red Desert that spans more than 9,000 square miles. On a map it's known as Area 118, and it literally is the middle of nowhere, just an expanse dotted with oil rigs and wells near Wamsutter, Wyoming. The lower jaw lay nearby, and nothing else—no more bones, no clothing.
The hunter called authorities, who turned it over to the Sweetwater County coroner, and a state forensic anthropologist to analyze the skull.
There was no evidence of trauma on it, and all the tissue was long gone. In essence any obvious clues as to how it got there, and who it belongs to were stripped away by the elements, or were never there to begin with.
Since so little was recovered by the hunter's discovery, the only conclusion reached a few months later by the medical examiner is that it belongs to a white male between the ages of 25 to 35. The remains have been exposed to the elements for an extended period.
NAMUS Link #UP115209
Desiree Tinoco director of Missing People of Wyoming hopes the discovery will lead to the identification of a missing person. Presently there are six cases of missing persons in Sweetwater County, and six from surrounding counties.
Interestingly enough almost 43 years ago to the date of the discovery, David Richard Williams, 33, went missing. He ran a trucking business called Chances R. Trucking in Wamsutter. His company hauled supplies to oil rigs in the area.
On November 11, 1980, at about 5:30 p.m. he called his wife from an old bar and service station in Creston Junction. He told her he was going to check on an oil rig. He was seen leaving in a tan Chevy Blazer driven by an unidentified Caucasian male, going south on Highway 789. The vehicle was owned by David Barker Jr. who is a suspect in the disappearance.
This last sighting of Williams was close to the Red Desert.
Various search and rescue teams, including a helicopter rented by his business partner scoured the area of Creston Junction, but without any luck.
All the other cases in the county reflect the person was last seen, or their vehicles were discovered over an hour away drive time from Red Desert.
This is not the first time human remains are found in the middle of nowhere Wyoming.
In 1880, inside a large cave in Silver Cliff five skull were discovered with three bars of gold valued at $900.
In May 1905, a man's skeleton was found in a clump of brush surrounded by a bunch of small pine trees on the foothills of Casper Mountain. This was about nine miles from Casper.
Lying on the man's bones was a 44-caliber Colt revolver with one empty shell, one loaded cartridge and four empty chambers. Close by was a scabbard and belt containing four loaded cartridges.
Three weeks before, John Allen found the skull and jawbone several hundred yards below where the skeleton was lying, but snowfall had made the search for the rest of the remains impossible.
While sliding some logs down the mountainside, he discovered the remainder of the bones.
There was one shoe with the man's foot in it. It was assumed the missing shoe, foot and other bones were carried away by coyotes or bobcats.
The clothing were rotten and mostly gone. The coat, vest and trousers were made of gray plaid coarse cloth. The under-clothing was also coarse and cheap. The hat, a white Stetson was torn and weather worn. The suspenders were made of good material and the buckles were fancy with a star and crescent in the front part set with blue and red stones. A large leather pocketbook was bound. It was empty. Three teeth had been filled with amalgam.
The skull was fractured in five pieces, and there were indications a bullet had entered the right side tearing a big hole in front and above the ear. The left side of the skull also had a hole in it, and it was believed the bullet entered the right side and went all the way through.
John Allen brought the revolver, the scabbard and the belt to a cabin. These items along with the remains were brought to Casper wrapped in a tarp the following day.
Townspeople came to view them, but nothing was identified as belonging to anyone they knew.
A one-ounce bottle of syrup of squill for cough was found on the hillside. The bottle had the name of W.S. Kimball and his drugstore blown in the glass. Mr. Kimball said it had been three years or more since he carried that kind of bottle.
Some believed the man committed suicide, and others were of the opinion the man could not have shot himself in the head and left the gun lying on his breast, which indicated he was murdered.
Gus Anderson mysteriously disappeared around 1896. In 1902, a man working at the lime kiln on the mountains disappeared as well. John Bryan's brother who was prospecting in the Casper Mountains also mysteriously disappeared.
There was no way to prove if the skeleton belonged to any of these men.
The coroner's jury could not identify him, or conclude on cause of death. The bones were ordered buried in the potter's field.
Missing In The Big Empty
The other five missing people reported out of Sweetwater County are:
The six people reported missing out of Carbon County are:
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