With the fragile beginnings of a thaw along the edges of Vallecito Lake, the search for Dylan Redwine — the Monument boy who disappeared from his father’s house Nov. 19 — is heating up.
This spring, once the lake sheds the ice, it’s the new focus, said Denise Hess, lead organizer of volunteers searching for Dylan.
“The whole idea here is that one of three things is going to happen: We’re going to find Dylan. We may find somebody else and another family has closure, or there’s nothing in the lake and we can eliminate it altogether and focus on somewhere else,” Hess said.
The earliest the lake is expected to thaw enough for searchers would be mid-April, she said.
A lot has happened during a cold and brutal winter in the high country of southwest Colorado where Dylan disappeared.
Dylan turned 14.
As of April 2, 273 inches of snowfall smothered the ground at Durango Mountain Resort.
The Redwine family, Dylan’s mom Elaine, brother Corey, and father Mark, appeared on the Dr. Phil Show. Mark and Elaine are divorced.
There were tears, anger and accusations.
Elaine and Corey accused Mark of being involved in Dylan’s disappearance. Mark accused Elaine of being involved. Mark bailed on a lie detector test.
Nothing was resolved.
Searchers have come and gone. Investigators have turned up few leads. The few they received have been fruitless.
Dan Bender, spokesman for the La Plata County Sheriff’s Office, said investigators continued to follow leads over the winter, in some cases searching under bridges and snowshoeing up to cabins.
Spring brings hope.
The organization Hess heads, “Find Missing Dylan Redwine,” is trying to raise money to hire teams that specialize in deep water searches.
Several have been contacted, and a couple have told Hess they won’t charge for the search, but their expenses such as lodging and travel need to be paid.
“These people know water, they know how it acts and they have made many, many water recoveries,” Hess said.
The lake has been searched by a search and rescue team from the New Mexico State Patrol. That team included dogs, divers, several boats and sonar.
But there were complications. Because of the lake’s depth — averaging 30 to 40 feet, the altitude of the lake and temperature of the water, divers could stay down only 20 minutes a day, Bender said.
The dogs, however, alerted to human scents at a few spots in the lake, which the divers searched.
“There was nothing suspicious found,” he said. “Having said that, it’s almost 12 miles around the lake. It’s very large and that’s not to say there isn’t a chance that Dylan could be in the lake. But we checked it as thoroughly as we could at that time.”
Technology may be the difference maker.
“No offense to the sheriff’s office, the divers are great, but these people are trained specifically for this and we feel there is a big difference,” she said.
The specialists who’ve been contacted use 180-degree sonar on a cable that can be dropped into the water as long as necessary.
If the sonar detects something, a remotely operated underwater vehicle will be used for additional investigation. An ROV is operated remotely by a person on a boat. They are commonly used by deepwater industries.
The areas of the lake that will be searched include the deepest spots along the dam and along the eastern shoreline, Hess said.
The lake “needs to be eliminated one way or another. The cadaver dogs hit on something,” Hess said. “What did you hit on? We don’t know.”