Updated: June 28, 2013 at 7:20 am
For the Redwine family, their friends and the thousands involved in the seven-month search for Dylan, the time to mourn has come.
Human remains found along a rugged mountain road in southwest Colorado have been identified as those of 13-year-old Dylan Redwine of Monument, the La Plata County Sheriff's Office said Thursday.
Dylan, who attended Lewis-Palmer Middle School, disappeared Nov. 19 in the Vallecito area near Durango when he went to visit his father, Mark Redwine, over Thanksgiving break. Mark Redwine told investigators he left Dylan alone at home to run errands and returned to find him missing.
Dylan and his mother, Elaine Redwine, and his older brother, Cory, moved to Monument from Bayfield about a year ago but Elaine and Cory Redwine were in the Durango area this week as officials searched the steep, wooded hillsides. Mark Redwine, Dylan's father, said he was in Indiana when he learned searchers had found items related to his son's disappearance and he drove straight back to Colorado.
"First thing I thought of when I heard was maybe they found his backpack, an iPod or whatever it would be," Mark Redwine said through tears. "It's crushing. I don't think any parent wants to see that kind of thing. All they have are parts of my son."
Elaine Redwine was looking for closure to her son's disappearance, "but it doesn't make it easy for any of us because you still hold on to that shred of hope that he's going to come home," said Denise Hess, Elaine Redwine's close friend, as she choked back sobs.
The remains were found about 9 to 10 miles driving distance from Dylan's father's home, she said.
"But if you were going to go as the crow flies, you can look off that particular portion of the mountain down towards the valley where his father lives," she said.
A variety of items, including bones, were found during a five-day search along Middle Mountain Road in Vallecito.
"Search teams negotiated steep drainages with extensive groundcover as they looked for clues," the Sheriff's Office said in a news release. "Sectors were treated as possible crime scenes. At times the searchers were almost shoulder to shoulder as they moved up and down the difficult terrain."
The Sheriff's Office said the search by law enforcement officials began Saturday and ended Wednesday. About 45 people from multiple agencies worked more than 1,600 hours during the five-day search.
"This was an area that they'd wanted to search awhile back but they couldn't because of the snow," said Lt. Ray Shupe, a spokesman for the Durango Police Department. "The search wasn't based on any tips, it was just an area that needed to be looked at."
Dylan's death will continue as a criminal investigation, and authorities will work to determine a cause of death, Shupe said.
"Early on, we held out a lot of hope that this was a runaway situation," he said. "As things progressed, it became pretty clear that this was going to be a kidnapping, homicide or some kind of death."
Shupe said he couldn't say if the remains were found in one spot or where exactly they were located because of the ongoing inquiry into Dylan's disappearance and death.
"We're still working diligently on this investigation," he said.
According to Mark Redwine, it wasn't uncommon for Dylan to venture into the woods where his body was found.
"He's been up here long enough that it's not unlike Dylan to go out and do his own thing," he said. "It was not uncommon for him to take off and do what he wanted to do."
As soon as the news that authorities had identified Dylan's remains became public, scores of people took to social media expressing their remorse and condolences to the boy's family.
By Thursday evening, a post announcing the news on the "Find Missing Dylan Redwine" Facebook page was shared 2,671 times and had 2,608 comments.
"Prayers for the family and friends. May the strong and gentle arms of our heavenly Father hold this young man," Victoria Ninedorf said in one of the comments.
Hess, who organized previous searches, including in high winds and snow, said she always suspected Dylan's remains would be found in Vallecito if he was no longer alive.
"We know Dylan. We know he didn't run away. There was just never anything to lead us anywhere past Vallecito," she said.
"There was never anything to lead us in any other direction. While we hoped that he ran away or that he was still out there somewhere in the world, the facts never took us further than Vallecito. The facts as I know them to be."
After Dylan vanished, his parents accused each other of having a role in his disappearance. In February, they appeared on the "Dr. Phil" TV show and lodged accusations against each other in front of a national audience.
"After seven painful months, the search for Dylan Redwine has come to a tragic end," read a post on the Dr. Phil Facebook page. "Robin and I send our thoughts and prayers to Dylan's family."
Mark Redwine said late Thursday that his priority now is ensuring that everyone has a proper chance to share stories about Dylan's life and recognize his spirit, saying "everyone deserves the opportunity to remember him."
"He's been laying in the mountains in pieces for seven months," he said. "He needs to be buried properly. That's all I care about now."
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