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SALT LAKE CITY — Washington County Sheriff's Office announced on Monday that it has opened an investigation into the Zion National Park's missing person case of Holly Courtier, after receiving numerous tips.
Though questions have been raised about the lost hiker's story, officials say that at this point in their investigation they have found no evidence to support the allegations that the incident was committed intentionally as an effort to achieve financial gain.
In an interview with St. George News last week, Washington County Sheriff's Search and Rescue Sgt. Darrel Cashin commented the circumstances surrounding Courtier's recovery were not consistent with the family's story or his training and experience.
Holly Suzanne Courtier, a 38-year-old from Los Angeles, was seen on Oct. 6 exiting a shuttle at The Grotto shuttle stop, a starting point for several trails in the park. Courtier was missing for 10 days before she was found alive by a rescue team, on Oct. 18, in a thickly vegetated area along the Virgin River after law enforcement received a tip. Courtier was able to leave the park with minimal search and rescue assistance, according to a statement released by Zion National Park.
A press release from the sheriff's office stated that "Washington County Sheriff's Office stands behind the observations and statements made by Sergeant Cashin. However, we feel it is important to clarify that we stand by our initial release that we were only involved in a consultation role. We fully support the findings of the National Park Service investigation and believe their investigation into the incident was thorough and well executed."
The sheriff's office noted that following Cashin's remarks, they received a number of tips alleging that the incident was created as a part of a plan to fraudulently generate money to a GoFundMe account for Courtier's recovery. The GoFundMe account raised almost $12,000 before new donations were disabled.
Due to Utah state code, which does not grant the National Park Service authority to investigate violations of Utah law, the Washington County Sheriff's Office is conducting the investigation into the allegations.