Dog came close to finding lost Boise hiker at Craters

Jo Elliott-Blakeslee had walked to within a half-mile of the highway at Craters.

Jsowell@idahostatesman.comOctober 25, 2013 

A search dog came within 200 yards of where the body of Boise physician Jo Elliott-Blakeslee was ultimately found in a jagged lava field at Craters of the Moon National Monument, park Superintendent Dan Buckley said Thursday.

One day during the search, the dog and its handler were walking northeast when the dog caught a scent.

"All of a sudden, the dog veered off northwest about 100 to 150 yards," Buckley said. "But then it lost the scent and came back."

It's unknown how long Elliott-Blakeslee had been dead before her body was found. Buckley said his records did not show what day the dog had caught the scent during the monthlong search.

Elliott-Blakeslee's body was discovered Tuesday just short of a half-mile east of U.S. Highway 93/20/26, which passes along the western and northern boundaries of the monument. Spotted from a helicopter, the body was found in the open along the edge of a lava flow.

"She was in a nasty piece of lava," Buckley said. "It's dangerous and treacherous out there."

A recovery crew did not have time to bring Elliott-Blakeslee's body out before dark Tuesday. The team was brought to the scene Wednesday morning and the body was removed by helicopter.

Buckley parked his pickup on the highway during recovery operations Wednesday and began walking east. He said he only went a short distance before turning around because the lava was too rough.

The monument is split about equally between two kinds of lava — aa (pronounced ah-ah), which is rough, jagged and spiny, and pahoehoe (pah-hoe-ay-hoe-ay), a billowy, ropy type filled with caverns, according to the Idaho Bureau of Mines and Geology.

The body of Elliott-Blakeslee's hiking companion, Amy Linkert — a retired special education teacher at Lowell Scott Middle School — was found Sept. 25 about a mile southeast of her friend. The women were reported missing Sept. 24 after Elliott-Blakeslee failed to show up for work at the Snake River Correctional Facility in Ontario.

Buckley said he believes the women were together when they encountered a problem while hiking along the Tree Molds Trail. He thinks the pair began walking west toward U.S. 93 to get help.

"We think they went that way because they saw or heard traffic on the highway," Buckley said. He said he believes Linkert, 68, may have reached a point where she couldn't go any farther and Elliott-Blakeslee, 63, set off by herself.

Searchers also came within a quarter-mile of where Elliott-Blakeslee was found during the first week after the two women were reported missing, Buckley said.

Based on profiles provided by their families, authorities did not believe they would have ventured across the rough lava. They concentrated the search on lava that would be less dangerous to hikers, Buckley said.

The search was hampered, he said, by the lack of "hard clues." The two women did not leave any items of clothing, scraps of paper or anything that might have indicated a person was lost or needed help.

One set of footprints was found just east of Linkert's body. Based upon the size — Linkert wore a size 10 shoe, while Elliott-Blakeslee wore a 6.5 — authorities believe the prints belonged to Linkert, Buckley said.

Elliott-Blakeslee's body was taken to a medical facility in Pocatello, where an autopsy is scheduled. A spokeswoman for the Butte County Sheriff's Office in Arco said Thursday afternoon she did not know when results would be available.

Three weeks before the women were reported missing, Buckley said, he was out hiking in the monument when he got caught in a thunderstorm. He said he recalled thinking that if he got in trouble, no one would have been able to find him.

"I'm going to make it a habit to leave a note on my kitchen table saying where I'm going and when I expect to be back," he said.

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

John Sowell: 377-6423, Twitter: @IDS_Sowell

Idaho Statesman is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQs | Terms of Service