Search for missing Utah man yields clothing, bone fragments

Group turns up bone fragments, clothing in rugged Nevada area

Published: Sunday, April 11 2010 12:14 a.m. MDT

Family and friends of Steven T. Koecher comb an area in Henderson, Nev., Saturday.

Rolf D. Koecher

HENDERSON, Nev. — A Saturday search for a Utah man missing since December yielded unidentified bone fragments, clothing and a spent bullet casing but no evidence that provided definitive answers in the case.

Family members and friends of Steven T. Koecher combed a rugged, rocky area surrounding the Henderson Executive Airport, their search prompted by new tips that have come in.

Koecher was last seen Dec. 13, and his abandoned car was found four days later in an upscale neighborhood of Henderson. A security camera at one of the homes in the neighborhood captured images of him leaving the area.

Despite a $10,000 reward offered by the family, no substantive information has surfaced on his whereabouts.

The man's father, Rolf Koecher of Bountiful, said searchers split up into five teams to canvass an area roughly five square miles that he described as "amazingly rugged."

"The terrain was really not smooth at all. Even the all terrain vehicles — it was beyond their capability."

Searchers, including the Henderson police detective working the case, marked the suspicious items, and the bone fragments were turned over to the Clark County Coroner's Office.

"It is too premature to say what they are," Rolf Koecher said. "My personal feeling is that the odds would be that they are animal. But nothing could be ruled out."

The father said clothing articles were found that are consistent with what his son would have worn, and photographs were taken of items found at an abandoned homeless camp. Those pictures will be scrutinized to determine if the items may have belonged to the missing man.

Rolf Koecher said he had anticipated a group of about 30 or so searchers to turn out for the four-hour effort and was surprised that a contingent of 70 volunteers offered to help.

"It was gratifying to see that, the great support he enjoys," he said, noting the group included his son's former Mormon missionary companions, members of his son's Mormon singles ward and even church friends from Texas and friends from Arizona showed up.

"It was very emotionally draining but amazing that these people just showed up on their own."

The rocky terrain will not be searched again unless new information merits a return, the father said.

"We are not going to do a search just to search. If we have some credible reason to go, we will."

e-mail: amyjoi@desnews.com

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