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James Mitchell, an 87-year-old Arvada resident, was found dead on May 7 after being missing since December.
His body was discovered in the afternoon by a worker removing debris from beneath a bridge along the Farmer’s Highline Canal near West 44th Avenue and Easley Way — about 1.3 miles away from where Mitchell crashed his truck into a railcar at the depot near 10th and Vasquez streets in Golden.
Police are “grateful to bring resolution to the case,” said Capt. Joe Harvey of the Golden Police Department, but added, “it’s a tragic story. Our thoughts and prayers go out to the family.”
Mitchell’s abandoned pickup truck was discovered by railroad workers just after 8 a.m. on Dec. 14. The crash occurred sometime during the night prior.
The Jefferson County Coroner’s Office positively identified the body as Mitchell’s on May 9. Police are still waiting on the final report from the coroner for the cause of death, but there are no indications of foul play, Harvey said.
The Golden Police's investigation into the incident reveals that Mitchell had gone bowling with a group of friends and family on the night of his disappearance. A neighbor said that Mitchell had called him to say that he was returning to the bowling alley to retrieve his wallet because he could have possibly misplaced it there. However, Mitchell's son found his wallet and cell phone in Mitchell's Arvada home, Harvey said in a previous interview on the investigation. In addition, the bowling alley is thought to be in the Westminster area or other nearby vicinity of Mitchell's home, and how he ended up in Golden is unknown, Harvey said at the time.
In a January interview on the investigation, Harvey said Mitchell was possibly injured from the crash — police found a small amount of blood inside the truck cab. It was tested and the DNA came back to Mitchell. He also noted that according to his family, Mitchell may have been in the early stages of suffering from dementia or Alzheimer's.
The cold temperatures made it easy to get disoriented at the time of Mitchell’s crash, Harvey said, but it’s still nearly impossible to know at this point how he got into one of the canals.
During the course of the investigation, Golden Police conducted three organized, unsuccessful searches for Mitchell which included the use of bloodhounds, cadaver dogs and drones, and assistance from three local fire departments and Alpine Search and Rescue. The searches, including additional efforts led by citizens, encompassed several miles of paths and trails, rugged hillsides and residential areas.
“We used every method possible,” Harvey said, adding that both Arvada Police and Golden Police had investigators “diligently” working on the case throughout.
The Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office is now also working with the Golden Police on the death investigation.
Mitchell was a longtime member of Arvada’s American Legion Post 161 and he is remembered as being a “happy fellow,” said the post’s manager Arlene Young in a previous interview.
For months, people were wondering what happened to him, she said on May 9, so there is relief that he has been found.
“But there’s still a hollow spot,” Young said. “He’s one of those people you’ll always miss.”
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