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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — The remains found recently in a narrow cave near Moab by a college student are those of a man police believe shot and wounded a Utah state park ranger in 2010, authorities confirmed Wednesday.
The Utah Medical Examiner informed police on Wednesday that they used dental records to positively identify Lance Leeroy Arellano, Grand County Sheriff Steven White said.
The medical examiner has not yet determined Arellano's cause of death, White said. There were no gunshot wounds or other obvious clues to how he died. Arellano evaded more than 100 officers in a desert manhunt after the Nov. 19, 2010, shooting of Ranger Brody Young.
His remains were found on Dec. 24 by Caleb Shumway, a sophomore college student studying business marketing. Shumway will get the $30,000 reward that was part of the 23-year-old's motivation to comb the red rock caves near the Colorado River along with his younger brother, White said.
White called it a huge relief to close a case that lingered for five years despite frequent searches of the remote desert area by police and specially trained dogs. He thinks an animal may have dragged the remains out to a more visible area, enabling Shumway to find what had eluded search teams for so long.
"You can search an area 15 times, and if you don't walk around a rock the right way, you won't find it," White said. "Kudos to him: I'm glad he did."
Shumway, 23, was elated to hear the news. He said he'll give $5,000 to his younger brother to help pay a religious mission and put the rest into savings to as an emergency education fund.
"Today was good: Fresh powder up on the mountain for snowboarding, but this makes my day better," Shumway said. "This is a huge day for everybody. The police can close the case. Brody's family can be certain that Arellano is deceased."
Young, who survived the shooting with injuries to his arm, leg and abdomen, wasn't immediately available for comment. He said in a statement released by the sheriff's office that he's grateful to Shumway and all the police officers and emergency responders who helped him the day of the shooting and had been searching for Arellano's body.
Young said his thoughts are also with Arellano's family, especially his mother and daughter. He said his faith has helped him forgive Arellano.
"Five years of uncertainty is a long time," Young said. "We hope this brings closure and allows them to move forward."
Young still works for Utah State Parks as a ranger in the boating program.
Young was shot in 2010 when he approached Arellano in his car near the Poison Spider Mesa Trailhead, according to authorities. Young told Arellano that he was in a no-camping area, and when he attempted to verify the man's name and birthdate, he was shot several times in the back, authorities said.
Prosecutors had filed first-degree felony attempted murder and other charges against Arellano.
More than 160 law enforcement officers combed a 15-sqaure-mile area near Dead Horse State Park. They recovered a rifle, backpack and tattered bloody T-shirt.
Shumway's father was one of those officers, spurring his son's curiosity about the case. Shumway said he and his brother were two days into their search when they discovered a bone and a bag with a gun near the mouth of a cave.
Shumway took pictures and then took officers back out to the site. They found more skeletal remains, clothing and another backpack with another gun deeper in the cave.
Shumway said the experience will make consider searching for other missing people in the future.
"I definitely think there is something awesome about finding people and bringing closure to the families involved," Shumway said. "Anytime someone goes missing, there's always a mom that worried. In this case, there was a family that didn't know if the shooter was coming after them."
Associated Press writer Michelle L. Price contributed to this report.
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