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AUGUSTA — The remains of an Appalachian Trail hiker missing for more than two years were likely discovered about 3,000 feet from the trail in a densely wooded area in Franklin County on Wednesday.

However, many questions about the disappearance of Geraldine Largay remained unanswered.

The Maine Warden Service said the skeletal remains found Wednesday are likely those of Geraldine “Gerry” Largay, 66,who used the AT trail name “Inchworm.” She was last seen alive on July 22, 2013.

Her disappearance sparked an intensive 10-day search and then periodic and ongoing searches of the area by wardens and volunteers from across Maine and from other parts of the U.S., wardens said Friday.

Lt. Kevin Adam, the officer who coordinates and supervises most of the service’s search and rescue operations, said at a news conference that Friday was “a happy-sad day.”

“We have been waiting for this day for a long time,” Adam said. “We’ve spent many hours and hiked many miles searching for Gerry. We are glad that we found her, but it’s also a sad day for her family with the realization that their loved one is deceased.”

Adam described, using a pair of maps, the efforts of the Warden Service and dozens of volunteers from a variety of groups, many of whom are members of the Maine Search and Rescue Association.

How Largay, who in the days before her disappearance seemed healthy and happy, ended up about 3,000 feet from the trail was unclear.

Adam said officials did not suspect foul play and noted that remnants of Largay’s clothing and other belongings were found along with what wardens believe to be her skeletal remains. Adam said he couldn’t definitively rule out anything until the Medical Eexaminer’s Office completed its examination.

“Since the beginning of this, we have had an extensive criminal investigation with our investigators,” Adam said. “The Maine State Police have been in on this from the beginning, and with the information gleaned from that and from what the team saw yesterday, I would say at this point we do not see any foul play. But that is pending the results from the medical examiner and that could change if they found something.”

The remains were found by a Navy contractor doing an environmental survey on U.S. Navy property in Redington Township that hosts a Search, Evasion, Resistance and Escape school for military personnel. The contractor reported his finding to the Navy, which notified state investigators.

Adam described the site as “a mature wooded area, mixed in with hardwood and conifer stands and a lot of mid-level brush along with high canopy.”

Adam said the Navy contractor would be put in touch with Largay’s family, which was offering a $25,000 reward to anybody who produced information leading to her discovery.

A special agent with the Navy’s NCIS team said Friday that his agency assisted the wardens, in part because human remains were found on federal lands under the jurisdiction of the Navy. 

Adam said the Navy’s training area is well-posted against trespassing and sections of it are fenced off, but the section where Largay’s remains were found is not fenced off. 

Adam said canine search parties got within 100 yards of the remains and human search teams may have come as close as a quarter-mile. The area where the remains were found was one of many that wardens and volunteer rescue teams had yet to search because of limited human resources, Adam said.

“Why didn’t they locate her?” Adam asked. “Don’t know at this point.”

He said typically wardens would conduct a “grid search” following behind the search dogs.

But, Adam said, the rugged terrain and a simple shortage of capable and fit individuals who were able to search the area safely on foot played a role in why Largay was not discovered more quickly.

“Because of the terrain, because we didn’t have enough trained, physically fit people for this area, we couldn’t do that in a lot of these cases,” Adam said. “That’s part of the reason — not the only reason but part of the reason.” 

He urged people who are interested in helping with search-and-rescue operations to find a local group with which to volunteer and train. He said Maine could use more trained search-and-rescue volunteers. 

Wardens also delivered a message from Largay’s family and said they had asked for space and time to process the sad news, but they also wanted to offer their thanks and gratitude to the wardens and volunteers.

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[Augusta, Maine – Friday, October 16, 2015] The Maine Warden Service believes that skeletal remains discovered in…

Posted by Maine Department of Inland Fisheries & Wildlife on Friday, October 16, 2015


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