The remains of a teenager, who went missing seven years ago, have been found in the chimney of an abandoned cabin less than a mile from his home. Joshua Vernon Maddux was last seen alive on the morning of 8 May, 2008. His remains were discovered last month on a property called Thunderhead Ranch, in Woodland Park, Teller County Colorado.
The property had been empty for more than a decade and the remains were discovered when contractors tore the property down. The 18-year-old is thought to have got stuck after trying to shimmy down the chimney. The knees of the mummified body were positioned above its head, and the legs were dislodged from the torso.
Coroner Al Born ruled the cause of death as accidental, after an autopsy revealed there were so signs of physical injuries. He said: "There was no indication of trauma that we could detect. It was likely accidental because there would be easier ways to commit suicide than climbing down a chimney. There are going to be some questions out there that are unanswerable."
Toxicology results did not reveal the presence of any drugs. It is unclear how long Joshua's remains had been in the chimney.
Joshua was identified through dental records and by the missing tip of his right index finger which he lost in a bicycle accident as a child. The teenager's father, Michel Maddux, said the family has searched for him for years. "I got up one morning and he was there, then he just never came home. We thought he was with friends, but no one had seen him. It's a long-term thing where you're grieving on hold," he explained.
"The next day he still didn't come home. I called all his friends. Nobody's seen him. Nobody knows where he is. I didn't know what to do so I called the police. He went missing on May 8 and I called police May 13, 2008."
According to the Pikes Peak Courier, his older brother, Zachary, had killed himself two years before Joshua went missing. It is not known if Zachary's death had any bearing on Joshua's disappearance.
Mr Maddux, said: "I buried his older brother two years before and it was so difficult on Josh. When his brother died, it pushed him over the edge. It was a big shock for the family and a big shock for Josh. He thought highly of his older brother. It's tough as a parent. You try to raise your kids and when they get close to 18, you think they're pretty much grown up, but they're not. They still need a lot of help."
Joshua's sister Kate posted an online tribute to her brother after his body was identified. She wrote on the News of Woodland Park website: "Sometimes in life, our stories don't have happy endings. I'm sorry to say that this is one of those stories..."
The cabin's owner, Chuck Murphy, told The Gazette that his parents had bought the property 60 years ago. Murphy's brother used to live there before it was turned into a rental property. The property had been vacant for ten years. He said he occasionally checked on the property and had noticed a bad smell, but thought rodents had died in there. He did not think to check the chimney because of a piece of furniture blocking the fireplace.
The cabin was fully demolished after police finished their investigation into Maddux's death. Murphy, who owns Murphy Constructors, is redeveloping the site into 32 single-family homes.