Body found near Soda Creek in Steamboat thought to be Matthew Shelters
July 4, 2018
Editor’s note: For more recent updates on this story, see the Steamboat Pilot & Today website.
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Relief and sadness set in after police recovered the body of a man they believe is 38-year-old Steamboat Springs resident Matthew Shelters, who went missing more than two months ago.
The body was found by Routt County Commissioner Cari Hermacinski on Wednesday afternoon along the bank of Soda Creek just north of Steamboat city limits.
“We’re very saddened by the outcome,” Steamboat Springs Police Chief Cory Christensen said. “We’re glad for the closure for the family. I think that’s something we desperately wanted to happen.”
Shelters was last seen leaving Back Door Grill on Oak Street at 12:20 a.m. April 24. Friends and family combed the area and thoroughly searched the Yampa River to find him.
On Wednesday, Hermacinski was enjoying the Fourth of July with friends at her house on the north side of Old Town Steamboat. Hermacinski and friends decided to explore nearby Soda Creek, and she discovered the body.
The body was found along the creek bank at the bottom of a cliff on a parcel of land know as the Atwood Ranch, and it was badly decomposed.
“I was finally aware this was a human because he was still wearing his clothes,” Hermacinski said.
Routt County Sheriff Garrett Wiggins said the body likely got caught on a snag or obstruction in the creek.
“It is highly likely and thought to believe the body is of the missing man Matthew Shelters,” Wiggins said. “The body was decayed to the point to where you could not identify who the individual is.”
Deputies found Shelters’ wallet with identification.
Hermacinski said they also found his cellphone, which was a critical part of the investigation.
When Steamboat police officers were investigating the Shelters disappearance, they were able to get access to his cellphone data and determine a 120-degree arc where his cellphone last communicated with a cell tower.
The arc went over the 13th Street Bridge, which led people to believe Shelters might have gone into the Yampa River. Christensen said the arc also went over the area within one-tenth of a mile of where the body was discovered on private land.
“We wouldn’t have had the opportunity to climb back in there,” Christensen said.
An autopsy is expected to take place Thursday. Wiggins said they will try to determine a cause of death and look for any signs of trauma.
“We’re going to do the best we can with what we have,” Wiggins said.
Police, family and community members want some answers.
“We would like to know the final piece of the mystery,” Christensen said.
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Shelters won over a lot of hearts in Steamboat during his 14 years here. Most recently, he was working as a bartender at E3 Chophouse, and he lived at The Flour Mill on Lincoln Avenue along the Yampa River.
“I didn’t know Matthew Shelters until this happened, and I wish I had,” Christensen said. “So it’s a loss to our community, as well. It was tough on the entire community.”