Mystery of Missing Hiker in Trinity Alps Solved by Family and Friends
When Steven Morris didn’t come back to camp on August 2, 2014,Trinity County Search and Rescue began looking for him. They didn’t find him and, after about a week, the search was discontinued. (See earlier story here.)
For over a year his wife raised money to continue searches in the area. Yesterday she issued a press release saying that her husband’s remains had been found and a death certificate for Steven Morris had been issued.
She sent out the following press release:
An army of community and family volunteers searched for and eventually found the trail and some remains of missing hiker, Dr. Steve Morris, in a remote, vast wilderness area in Northern California.
On August 2, 2014 Steve vanished on a day hike with a friend in the Trinity Alps, northwest of Redding. Official Search and Rescue teams arrived early the following morning. The next several days included ground and air searches by CHP helicopters, Marin’s elite Bay Area Mountain Rescue Unit, Human Remains Detection Dog teams, Black Hawk helicopters ferrying searchers up to the high peak, and over 100 Certified Search and Rescue volunteers. They came from as far away as Southern California and worked tirelessly for four and a half days amid extremely challenging conditions before the Trinity Sheriff’s Department suspended operations. If not for the determination of the family and private individuals donating time, energy and expertise, this mystery would remain unsolved.
On August 10, 2014 Jim Higgins, a private citizen and helicopter pilot from Chico, California contacted the Morris family to offer help. When asked what he would charge he said, “I don’t want any money. Just pay it forward someday.” That was the beginning of an extended private search endeavor involving:
- Ground searching and search support by over 60 family and community volunteers (most from First Presbyterian Church of Santa Rosa)
- Analysis of over 5,000 photos of the search zone by 135 volunteers with ASIST (Aerial and Satellite Image Search Team)
- Three Certified Trackers through Joel Hardin Professional Tracking Services
- Seven Certified Human Remains Detection Dog Teams
- Over $42,000 raised by 341 supporters to fund the search via GoFundMe
By low-flying helicopter, Mr. Higgins was able to locate a slide area descending from the 7,500 foot peak where Steve was last seen. Footprints were present at the base of the slide. From that point, the team conducted 21 expeditions over 10 months, only taking a break during inclement winter storms. They painstakingly tracked Steve’s route more than two miles down the mountainside. The team eventually found evidence which ultimately tested positive by cadaver dog “Buster” Dostie, microscopic analysis by Bode Technologies and state of the art forensic analysis by Dr. Arpad Vass (formerly of University of Tennessee). The Sonoma County Superior Court has examined the evidence and issued a death certificate. A memorial service was held for Steve at First Presbyterian Church of Santa Rosa on August 23, 2014.
“There are no words to express how much my family and I appreciate the love and sacrifice of so many people over such an extended period of time,” Carrie Morris, Steve’s widow, has said. “Many started as strangers to us, but now have become lifelong friends. They have been as compassionate to us as ‘God with skin on’ throughout this challenging process. Because of them, we not only have closure, but I can say we have found as much healing as pain in our story.”
September 2014 Trackers, ground searchers and support (Left to Right: Steve Frary, Carmen Kinch, Jo Peterson, Carrie Morris, Jim Higgins and Jeff Braunstein)