Body of Gypsum woman found |

Body of Gypsum woman found

Matt Zalaznick
Daily file photoCoty Vernon

Skeletal remains found late Friday afternoon by an elk hunter about 10 miles south of Debeque in a rugged area unreachable by car have been positively identified as Vernon, Mesa County Sheriff’s Deputy Tanya Brechlin said Tuesday.

The cause of death, however, may not be determined for several weeks, Brechlin said.

Vernon’s mother, Janet Reid, said Tuesday it has been agonizing waiting to find out what happened to her daughter.

“I knew the second she was gone that she was really gone,” said Reid, who now lives in Missouri. “I knew she wasn’t out partying for a week or two, because she wasn’t that type of person. She would always touch base at home.”

Vernon was last seen in Grand Junction on Feb. 16, 1998. Her then 20-year-old boyfriend reported her missing, telling authorities he’d left her behind in a secluded area of Debeque and gone for help because their car was stuck, authorities said.

The following day, the boyfriend led police to the car, which was parked in a secluded area near the border of Mesa and Garfield counties, authorities said.

There was no sign of Vernon, not even footsteps leading away from the car, authorities said.

“The elk hunter found her remains in a very remote area,” Brechlin said. “It’s very rocky and steep terrain that’s not even accessible by vehicle.”

Reid said she hopes anyone who knows anything about her daughter’s death will contact authorities in either Eagle or Mesa counties.

“Coty was a really great person,” Reid said. “She was very outgoing. She loved to have fun and she was very enthusiastic about life.”

Coty loved the outdoors, having played softball and run track in high school, but she was taking some time off from school when she disappeared, Reid said.

The politically and socially-conscious young woman planned to study law, but hadn’t decided where to attend college, Reid said.

Reid said she and her daughter had a close relationship. Vernon also spent a lot of time with her younger brother, David, who is now 14, she said.

“We miss her terribly,” Reid said. “She would’ve made a great attorney if she’d had the chance.”

Forensic investigators analyze her remains to determine the cause of death, Brechlin said.

“We just don’t know if she died of natural causes wandering off or if foul play was involved,” Brechlin said. “All we have are skeletal remains and that makes the investigation very time consuming.”

Forensics experts with the Colorado Bureau of Investigation are assisting the Mesa County Sheriff’s office with the investigation, she said.

Matt Zalaznick can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 606, or via e-mail at

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