Our primary rendition of what happened to Jaryd is told in "Missing 411-Western United States."
What you ware reading here are new details supplied by Allyn Atadero, Jaryd's dad.
In 2010 I was living in California and just starting to research missing people. One of the first cases that caught our eye was the disappearance of Jaryd Atadero from the Big South Trail adjacent to the Poudre River in northern Colorado. The incident has a lengthy section in “Missing 411-Western United States.”
Jaryd was three years old when he vanished while hiking with a group of single people who were staying at his fathers resort 20 miles away. This is one of those cases that shook me to the core. There is a photo in my book where Jaryd looks at the reader with those innocent, piercing brown eyes, its stuck in my thoughts. There were many nights where my mind traveled to that trail and tried top imagine what happened on October 2 1999.
Readers know that we have a policy of not contacting victims or their families. If they reach out to us, we will always meet with them.
On April 8 the Can Am Missing Project website got an email from Allyn Atadero, Jaryd’s dad. What sometimes seems like destiny may really be something we don’t understand. In 2010 I lived in California, I now live in Colorado and Allyn teaches at a school less then 5 miles from my house. We agreed to meet at a restaurant I frequent regularly.
I’m not embarrassed to say that I sat in the restaurant booth with tears in my eyes. I know this story intimately. I’ve probably been on the trail where Jaryd vanished at least four times. I felt the same way when I met Dennis Martin’s father. The pain that these parents have gone through is unimaginable, but a pain that any dad can only pray they never experience.
Allyn entered the room and I instantly recognized him from press photos. I walked toward him and we hugged. There are a few times in life when you feel an instant bond, I felt it. Allyn and I casually talked about various unimportant issues, how he found us, what he knew, etc. It wasn’t long before we were onto talking directly about Jaryd and the specifics of his disappearance.
Allyn Atadero holding Jaryd's shoes.
At the time of the disappearance, the Atadero’s owned the Poudre River Resort and was a teacher in Littleton. He had a strong Christian background and thought it was important if he put a cross on his resorts sign as a notification to travelers that this was a safe place to ask for assistance. This is a fact I never knew. I did know that Jaryd was walking the trail with the Christian Singles Network group that was staying at the Atadero Resort. As we were talking, I asked Allyn if Jaryd had been baptized. He thought for a few seconds and stated: “I don’t think formally. I do remember sitting at the back of the resort with Jaryd in my arms asking for God to protect him.”
I won’t repeat what I’ve already written about Jaryd’s incident, but I will tell you a series of troubling facts that Allyn relayed to me.
After Jaryd was reported missing and SAR started their work. Allyn’s twin brother, Arlyn came out from California to support his brother. Their mom and friends also rallied around the family and tried to continue to keep spirits upbeat. At one point the family asked the SAR team and sheriffs if they could go up the trail and view the place where Jaryd vanished? This is a reasonable and normal request. Remember, the singles group was the last people to see Jaryd. Allyn was at his resort when the group took Jaryd to the trail. Arlyn was in California. There was no way that Arlyn or Allyn were suspects and the sheriffs were telling the family there was no evidence that Jaryd had been abducted. When the family asked to go down the trail, there was a curt response, “No.” When the family subtly pushed and inquired about the rationale, they were threatened with arrest if they stepped on the trail. Allyn said he and the family never understood the stiff response. I’ve never heard of a SAR team or sheriffs member making a statement like that.
At another point early in the search Allyn was at the search headquarters near the trailhead and engaged one of the sheriffs officials in a conversation. He was told that his son was in the river. The water was extremely cold and the body wouldn’t be found for four years. Where would anyone get the idea that this was a good idea to tell a parent?
Nearly three days into the search, Allyn and Arlyn were on the highway listening to the news when they heard on the radio that Jaryd had approached a pair of fisherman on the river the day he vanished. Jaryd asked the men if there were bears in the area. The fisherman told them that there were not. Jaryd supposedly walked away. Yes, completely irrational of the fisherman to allow a three year old to walk away into the wilderness without adult supervision. But also unbelievable that the Larimer County Sheriff never told Allyn about this development and allowed them to hear it on the radio. Allyn consistently gave the impression that the communication between the family and the sheriff needed improvement. I asked Allyn if Jaryd had ever seen a live bear, he stated that he didn’t think so.
During the point that searchers and canines were working the scene, Allyn was at the search headquarters at the trailhead when two SAR workers came in and asked for a bag in a cupboard. One of the canines needed Jaryd’s scent to work the area and the bag supposedly had a piece of his clothing. Allyn grabbed the bag and looked inside and saw a pair of his own shorts. He was dumbfounded. He looked at the SAR leader and asked if this was the bag they were using for scent? He was told that it was. He asked how anyone could misinterpret a man’s pair of shorts for something a small three-year old boy would be wearing? The SAR leader got up towards Allyn’ and stated: “We can call off the search right now.” This statement infuriated Allyn and the heat in the trailer got high.
I have no idea how anyone could believe that Allyn’s shorts could be Jaryds. I think Allyn’s response would be the representative from any father that had their son lost in the woods and then finds out the canines never had Jaryd’s scent. The response from the SAR leader is troublesome and confusing. First, they want to keep the Atadero’s off the trail and threaten them with arrest. It is then determined that SAR officials aren’t using a scent piece from Jaryd, then threaten to quit. It’s probably good I wasn’t in Allyn’s position; I may have been less polite. I may have told the SAR leader to describe how his canines are ever going to find my son without the proper scent? If his mind wasn’t in the proper frame to lead the search, get off the mountain and I’d find someone who was committed. I do admire Allyn’s refrained mindset under the conditions.
It was about this time that Allyn was having a discussion with SAR and sheriffs about the trail and any opportunity an abductor would have about escaping the valley without being noticed. He was told by officials that there was only one way in and one way out of the river valley and that was via the Big South Trailhead, days later, Allyn determined that this was entirely untrue. There are several ways to exit the valley other then via the trailhead. Again, either the official was incompetent or lying.
Jaryd disappeared in a National Forest, which is under the supervision and law enforcement control of the federal government. The Atadero family had made inquiries to get the assistance of the FBI. They were told that there was no evidence of a crime and the FBI would not get involved. That is a very, very troubling response. I have written about dozens of cases which are very similar to Jaryd’s disappearance where the FBI doesn’t get directly involved, but they do have an agent or two who stays at the SAR center and monitors the case. Why they distinctly refused to get involved is baffling and not consistent with past practices.
Four long years dragged on until hikers were 500+ feet above the Big South Trail, over two miles from the trailhead when they found scattered clothing. Larimer County Sheriff was notified and deputies went to the scene and found remains that were consistent with Jaryd. Allyn was called and this time they escorted him down the trail to the point just below the remains. Allyn said that it was a very, very steep and rocky incline where two SAR workers helped him up the mountain. Allyn stated he was taken to an area where they showed him the area where is sweatpants were found, but the clothing was already removed from the mountain. He was taken to another location where Jaryd’s shoes were found. Allyn made it a point to say that it didn’t appear to him that the shoes had been through the elements for four winters. The shoes were clean and the colors were vibrant. Searchers also found the sweater Jaryd was wearing that had some unusual hairs around the neckline Crime scene technicians found the top of his skull and one tooth in the general area. No other bones were found. Needless to say Allyn was devastated. He told me that he remembers sitting on the bluff looking out at the river thinking that it was a beautiful spot. He said that as he was sitting there, the sheriff’s radio blurted out that they had found another item. Allyn thought to himself: “Jaryd, you waited for dad to arrive to make yourself known.”
This is a photo of Jaryd's shoe amongst the boulders, middle of photo.
Days after finding Jaryd’s remains, the sheriff had a press conference. They had the clothing and shoes up on display boards covered with plastic. Allyn noticed that someone had (pulled the pants to display them right-side out), straightened out one of the legs to the sweatpants and asked the sheriff why they did that. The sheriff asked him what he meant. Allyn told them that when they were found, they were inside out. The sheriff asked him how he knew that. Allyn stated that he was at the scene. The sheriff claimed ignorance to the pant issue and left the displays as they were. Let me state right here, finding a young boys pants turned inside out on the side of a mountain is highly unusual. The sheriff had to have known this, thus straightening them out. One of Jaryd’s tooth was located sitting on top of a bed of needles in plain view, a very, very unusual sight. After four winters, you’d expect the tooth to be under the needles and buried by debris.
At the press conference, the sheriff stated he wasn’t positive what happened to Jaryd. He thought it was possible that a mountain lion killed him, but there wasn’t significant evidence to support that.
The sheriff sent the tooth and the top of the cranium to the Colorado Bureau of Investigation for DNA analysis. They also sent all of the clothing to the bureau to locate blood. They didn’t find any blood on any of the clothing. The CBI stated that the cranium had degraded DNA, causing the 85% return, but a DNA expert from Ohio told Allyn at a later date that the tooth was contaminated with more than one persons DNA. Personally, I have no idea what they mean. All DNA experts know that you cleanse the item prior to testing to eliminate any contamination. The sheriff also sent the hair they collected off Jaryd’s collar to the lab. They told Allyn that the hairs were non-human and not Mountain lion and not to worry about it. They never gave Allyn the hair report and never told him what the hairs belonged to. Think this through clearly. You are the investigator and you are attempting to understand what killed a small boy. Wouldn’t you want to know what those hairs belonged to? Hair and fiber experts know what every animal hair looks like. They have a guide to every hair in the wilderness and it’s their job to match them. Why wasn’t this completed? Why wasn’t Allyn given a copy of the hair report? He was given the DNA report and every other imaginable report, but that one. He still doesn’t have it.
The lone tooth that was recovered that had compromised DNA
Allyn got this response from the DNA lab he utilized regarding the returns obtained on Jaryd’s tooth:
You have my sympathies regarding the search for your son.
There are two things about the information you provided to me that
strike me as being not quite right. First, a sample from a tooth
should not be a mixture (which means that it contains the DNA of two
or more individuals) if the tests and extractions were performed
correctly. At the very least, a mixture for such a sample would mean
that some contamination occurred and DNA testing labs are usually
very careful to avoid any possibility of contamination/mishandling of
samples. Second, the genetic markers that are used for the purpose
of human identification are called "loci" in the plural but an
individual marker is referred to as a "locus" (singular). While
attorneys and lay people are not sensitive to the difference between
the singular and plural form of that word, professionals who work in
DNA testing labs are almost always hyper-sensitive to it and rarely
use them incorrectly.
Jaryd’s personal items that were not found were the lower jaw, teeth, his T-shirt and underwear.
When Allyn and I met, he brought Jaryd’s shoes, sweater and pants. The shoes still look pristine. During our conversation, Allyn told me that there were several things about the crime scene that didn’t make any sense. Jaryd never tied his shoes. He always left them untied. If something dragged him 500+ feet up a rocky, steep incline, his shoes would be banging or dragging on the ground and would undoubtedly fall off, yet they were found near the clothes. When I examined the shoes, there were no scuff marks or significant scratches near the toes or the back of the shoes, which I believe there would’ve been there if he had been dragged up the mountain. The other point Allyn brought up, the shoes still looked new and the colors were still loud and vibrant, even after being out in four winters. There was no mold inside the shoes or evidence that there had been significant snow and water on them.
Allyn was given all of Jaryd’s property, bones, skull, tooth, clothing and shoes. Mr. Atadero is a smart and committed dad. Allyn contacted a group of mountain lion experts, explained the evidence that had been recovered and asked their opinion on what happened to his son. The consensus opinion was that a mountain lion had not killed Jaryd. This was based on a lack of serious damage to the sweater near the stomach and neck. The totality of the circumstances made the experts believe that something else happened.
Near the end of our meeting, Allyn reaffirmed his beliefs that it appeared as though Jaryd’s remains were placed there for people to find. Readers, does this sound familiar? The number of times I’ve written that SAR can’t find the missing, yet months/years later the remains are found in an area that had been searched numerous times.
Many of the facts in this case are reminiscent of others I have documented.
• Jaryd is found uphill from where he disappeared.
• Canines can’t find a scent and cadaver dogs can’t find the body.
• There is an aircraft crash in conjunction with the search.
• Jaryd was far in front of a group he was hiking with.
• Jaryd is in a cluster of missing from the vicinity Rocky Mountain National park.
Allyn’s findings confirm the belief by CanAm investigators that something very unusual happened to Jaryd, that as of today, cannot be explained.
Allyn and I have agreed to meet in the near future and further discuss missing children. My prayers are with he and his family.
©2014 CANAM Missing Project