Missing West Valley officer found dead by suicide in Wyoming

Published: Friday, March 22 2013 1:30 p.m. MDT

GREEN RIVER, Wyo. — A West Valley police officer who was missing for two days was found dead in his vehicle in Wyoming as a result of suicide.

"His presence and influence will be greatly missed within the department and in the community he served," West Valley Police said of Michael Valdes in a statement Friday. "Mike was very well respected and like by everyone."

Officers were dispatched to the I-80 tunnels near Green River, Wyo., around 10 p.m. Thursday and found Valdes, 37, in his vehicle following a single-vehicle crash, Sweetwater County sheriff's detective Dick Blust Jr. said. Valdes was transported to Memorial Hospital of Sweetwater County in Rock Springs, where he was declared dead.

Valdes died as a result of a single, self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head. A Glock semiautomatic pistol was found in Valdes' vehicle, Blust said. Investigators were still trying to determine whether Valdes shot himself while he was driving on the freeway or after the crash.

The incident led to the closure of westbound I-80 for more than four hours.

There was apparently no indication that struggles at home, frustration or danger from his work as an officer or threats contributed to Valdes' disappearance.

"I'm not aware of any notes or letters, but that's all part of the ongoing investigation," Blust said.

Valdes, of West Jordan, was last seen between 8 and 9 p.m. Tuesday when he left his home for work but never arrived. Valdes had been with the West Valley City Police Department for more than 12 years.

Both police and the man's family sought the public's help in finding Valdes. West Jordan police issued a statement Friday thanking them for their efforts.

"Our hearts go out to his family, friends and co-workers who have asked that their privacy be respected. Michael will always be remembered for his big smile, dedication to his family and service to his community and country."

This was echoed by West Valley City, who thanked West Jordan as well as other law enforcement agencies for their help and support.

"We express our sympathy to his family and friends as we all mourn his loss together," West Valley City police said in the statement. "We also acknowledge the care and concern that has been expressed by the public and appreciate their support and understanding as we grieve this tragic loss together."

E-mail: gliesik@deseretnews.com, emorgan@deseretnews.com

Twitter: GeoffLiesik, DNewsCrimeTeam

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