SALT LAKE CITY — Investigators have determined that the remains of two people found by a state worker in a wrecked vehicle are those of a Colorado couple reported missing in October.
Now the state wants to make sure there is nothing suspicious about the deaths of Matthew Allen Batterton and Risa Pauline Johnson.
Batterton, 38, of Pueblo, and Johnson, 51, of Colorado Springs, were last seen Oct. 8 in Richfield traveling on I-70, according to authorities. They were last known to be in a 2006 black Honda Accord with a Colorado license plate.
Utah Highway Patrol Sgt. Nick Street said on Oct. 28, a cousin of Batterton called dispatchers in Price reporting that Batterton had been missing for three weeks at that point. He said Batterton had traveled to Las Vegas to pick up drugs, and then gave police Batterton’s last known GPS coordinates, Street said.
A UHP trooper out of Richfield went to check the area but found nothing.
In December, the Pueblo Police Department issued a missing and endangered person advisory for Batterton.
On Feb. 18, a worker with the Utah Department of Transportation was fixing road signs along I-70 about two miles from the Colorado border. In an effort to recover signs that were missing, he started hiking down a ravine off the side of the road, according to Street.
“As he was walking the ravine, he located a black Honda Accord sedan upside down, smashed from an apparent rollover in very thick brush,” Street said.
The vehicle could not be seen from the freeway, he said. Inside the car were the bodies of a man and woman. The vehicle was located about 136 miles away from where the Richfield trooper had been instructed to look.
The car was towed out of the ravine and taken to the Moab Fire Department, where crews had to cut the vehicle open in order to get the occupants out, Street said. Batterton was believed to be driving and neither was believed to be wearing a seat belt, he said.
The area where the car is believed to have gone off the road makes a turn to the right on a downhill portion of I-70, Street said.
“Marks on the gravel indicate that the vehicle drove off the road to the left, hitting a warning sign which indicated the road was turning,” Street said.
Investigators believe the car jumped the embankment and dropped approximately 75 feet in the air until it hit a tree, which caused the car to flip in the air. The vehicle then hit the ground about 60 feet away from the tree and rolled a few times before coming to a rest on its hood, the sergeant said.
What caused the couple to go off the road is not known. Street said weather conditions on that day were good.
The remains were then taken to the Utah State Medical Examiner’s Office, which confirmed it was Batterton and Johnson. The office’s report determined the couple died of blunt force trauma during the crash, according to Street.
However because of their criminal histories, including Batterton being a known drug trafficker, an investigation will be conducted to make sure all bases are covered and there was nothing criminal that caused the crash, Street said.
No drugs were found at the crash site, but he said numerous driver’s licenses, bank cards and a Social Security card that did not belong to either Batterton or Johnson — including some from residents in Colorado and Arkansas — were discovered in the car.