KALISPELL, Mont. (AP) — Human remains have been found in the Bob Marshall Wilderness in northwest Montana, where a team has been searching for an Iraq war veteran who disappeared two years ago, a sheriff said Friday.
The parents of Noah Pippin released a statement Friday saying Lewis and Clark County sheriff's and coroner's officials told them remains had been found in the Burnt Creek area.
Authorities haven't confirmed the identity of the remains yet, but Mike and Rosalie Pippin said there is a strong likelihood they belong to their son.
A search party of border agents, search and rescue officials, a sheriff's deputy and volunteers found the remains and planned to bring them back to the state crime lab in Missoula. Coroner M.E. "Mickey" Nelson said it could be several days or even weeks before the body can be positively identified.
"There was enough circumstantial evidence that I felt comfortable, and I informed the family, that their loved one has been located, based on preliminary indicators and circumstantial things we found," Nelson said. He declined to elaborate on what was found.
Nelson said animals appeared to have gotten to the body, but there was no indication yet of how the person died or when. He said nothing so far suggests it is a criminal case.
Noah Pippin, described as a giant but polite man with a shaved head, was last seen Sept. 15, 2010, near the Chinese Wall, which is a ridge along the Continental Divide that is part of the Bob Marshall Wilderness south of Glacier National Park.
"It's about as primitive, outside of Alaska, as you can get in the United States," Nelson said.
People who saw Noah Pippin on a trail before he disappeared said the former Marine appeared ill-prepared for an extended stay in the wilderness.
About a month before he was last seen, Noah Pippin quit his job with the Los Angeles Police Department. He later went to visit his family in Michigan and told them he was heading back west to serve with the California National Guard.
Instead, he drove a rental car to Montana.
The relatively short spring and summer in the higher elevations of northwest Montana had hampered other searches for Pippin. Nelson said the family reacted about as he expected to the news of remains being found.
"It's a tough situation in the sense that there's some joy but of course a long time of sorrow, the sorrow being they haven't seen him in so long," he said. "The joy that we've found him doesn't overcome the grief."