Police are running short on leads to uncover the circumstances surrounding the death of a 29-year-old man authorities suspect was shot in the head and left in a remote forested area outside Pagosa Springs.
“We’re still pursuing what leads we have and trying to make contact with any and all people who were friends or had dealings with him,” said Archuleta County Undersheriff Tonya Hamilton. “But that list is getting shorter and shorter.”
On Aug. 23, the remains of Andrew Donald Chacon – who at the time was living in Pagosa Springs – were found along Mill Creek Road, about six to eight miles from Colorado Highway 84, east of town.
In September, an autopsy determined the most likely cause of death was a gunshot wound to the head, though it remains unclear if it was self-inflicted or a result of foul play.
It’s believed the remains were in the forest for at least a year before they were discovered last summer. Police said his family suspected he was missing, but they had not officially reported him as a missing person.
Now, almost five months into the investigation, Hamilton said there have been no substantial leads to point authorities to what led to Chacon’s death.
“It’s definitely an active investigation, and there’s a couple interviews we have to do still,” she said. “But finding these folks is difficult.”
Hamilton said Chacon had friends in Pagosa Springs, but they provided little helpful information and could not help authorities pinpoint when Chacon was last seen in Pagosa Springs.
The Durango Herald spoke with a former co-worker of Chacon’s at the Alley House Grille in September, but the employee said Chacon left the restaurant about three years ago, and she did not know him outside of work.
“As an employee here, we all loved him,” Jaymie Gallegos said at the time. “He had a great attitude. We’re all pretty sad about it.”
Hamilton previously told The Herald that Chacon’s family said it wasn’t unusual for the young man to not check in for long periods, so the family wasn’t inclined to report him missing.
According to authorities, “there was more than one occasion” when Chacon was jailed in Archuleta County, but the details were not available. Hamilton has said investigators don’t believe there is a link between Chacon’s criminal past and the circumstances surrounding his death.
Archuleta County has four cold cases, according to the Colorado Bureau of Investigation.
The only ruled homicide dates to a double slaying in 1982, when the body of 23-year old Stewart Eric Simmons, a Pagosa Springs resident, was found on the northwest bank of the San Juan River at the Colorado-New Mexico border.
A month later, the body of Margaret Ann Walden was also found on a northwest bank of the San Juan River, with an autopsy indicating she had been strangled. Her age remains unknown.
The other two cases are classified as missing persons: George Lee Rohner, 37, who was reported to have moved to California from Pagosa Springs in 1986 but never arrived. Foul play is suspected.
And David Kramer, 20, who on May 28, 2005, was on a camping trip with friends in the Blanco Basin area. When his friends awoke the next morning, Kramer was missing. Authorities suspect he fell off a large embankment into the Rio Blanco River.
Regardless, Hamilton said authorities are constantly in contact with Chacon’s family, who live mostly in California. She said the department wants to make sure they’re doing OK and answer any questions about the investigation.
“They’re holding up about as well as you’d expect, given the circumstances,” Hamilton said Friday.
Anyone with information about the investigation is asked to call Detective Sgt. Warren Brown at 264-8499 or visit Archuleta County Sheriff’s Office Crimestoppers website at archuletacounty.crimestoppersweb.com.