Missing hiker finally found at Craters

The discovery of Jo Elliott-Blakeslee’s body provides some closure for family and friends.

jsowell@idahostatesman.comOctober 23, 2013 

Susie Hart, a retired nurse who worked in the U.S. Navy with Jo Elliott-Blakeslee, a physician, said she’s relieved to know Elliott-Blakeslee is no longer missing. Still, that doesn’t soothe her broken heart.

“It’s terribly sad. It’s beyond sad,” Hart said by phone Wednesday from her home in Federal Way, Wash.

Park rangers in a helicopter taking high-resolution photos to help with the search spotted Elliott-Blakeslee’s body on Tuesday evening, west of the Tree Molds Trail at Craters of the Moon National Monument.

The body was found about a mile from the spot where searchers found hiking partner Amy Linkert’s body on Sept. 25. Initially, authorities identified that body as being Elliott-Blakeslee, but later confirmed it was Linkert through dental records.

The cause of Elliott-Blakeslee’s death has not been determined. Linkert died of exposure and showed signs of dehydration.

Hart was friends with both women — for 30 years with Elliott-Blakeslee — and they had planned to come to her home for Thanksgiving.

“They were such beautiful people. I can’t believe they’re no longer in our lives,” she said. “We’re so glad that Amy’s and Jo’s paths crossed ours. We’re the lucky ones.”

The monument had requested an unmanned military drone to take photographs of the search area — the same role that the helicopter, contracted from Reeder Air Service of Twin Falls, performed Tuesday. People on the ground could then examine the photos for signs of Elliott-Blakeslee.

The drone request hadn’t been acted on when Elliott-Blakeslee’s body was discovered, Craters spokesman Ted Stout said.

“We hope that this will bring closure to her family, friends and all those who have been involved in the search. We join the family in thanking the searchers and local communities for the tremendous outpouring of support that we have received throughout this intense effort,” Park Superintendent Dan Buckley said in a release.

Elliott-Blakeslee, 63, a Boise resident who worked at the Snake River Correctional Institution in Ontario, Ore., and Linkert, 69, a retired special education teacher at Lowell Scott Middle School in Meridian, had last been seen Sept. 19 at a KOA campground in Arco, 18 miles east of Craters of the Moon.

The women were reported missing Sept. 24, a day after Elliott-Blakeslee failed to report to work. They had planned to return to Boise on Sept. 21.

Their pickup was found at the Tree Molds parking lot, a popular area for hikers within the monument. The women’s purses, cellphones and two dogs were still inside the truck.

Friends believe the fact that the dogs were in the pickup, with a water bowl and the windows cracked, indicated Linkert and Elliott-Blakeslee intended to be gone only a short time.

Officials from several state, local and federal agencies, along with scores of volunteers, searched for the two women. Craters of the Moon received special permission for some of its workers to continue search efforts during the partial federal government shutdown.

Ground crews, dog teams and aircraft scoured the lava terrain for the women. Up to 70 people were out on a given day, although the number varied from day to day.

Last week, the tally exceeded 6,000 volunteer hours for the searchers.

“It’s been a difficult chapter for us,” Stout said. “It was a very intense effort.”

View Boise women missing in Craters of the Moon in a larger map

John Sowell: 377-6423, Twitter: @IDS_Sowell

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