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Husband and Stepfather of Missing Hikers Continues to Search

Husband and Stepfather of Missing Hikers Continues to Search


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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- It has been one month since anyone saw Jim Wetherton's wife and stepdaughter, who are believed to have perished while hiking in the Uinta Mountains, but he continues the search.

He tells friends he will keep combing the 10,000-foot forest until the snow flies.

Carole Wetherton, 58, of Panacea, Fla., and her daughter Kimberly Beverly, 39, of Tucker, Ga., were reported missing after they failed to make their Sept. 13 flights back home.

Their rented truck was found parked at the Crystal Lake trailhead, about 50 miles east of Salt Lake City. Maps in the truck seemed to indicate they were planning a day-hike to one of the many lakes in the area.

Friends say they may have been headed to the Notch, a high mountain pass of boulder fields above the tree line.

"Every time they don't find something, for me there's a little bit of hope," said Meredith Albert, Beverly's friend and employer from Atlanta who is paying Beverly's apartment utility bill in her absence.

"I just want to give them a little more time just in case something really bizarre has happened, but most people are telling me that is not the case," Albert told The Salt Lake Tribune.

Park City police Chief Lloyd Evans and Summit County Sheriff Dave Edmunds say there is no indication of foul play.

"There's a lot more credibility to the fact they got lost, caught in the weather, got hypothermic and died," Edmunds said.

A forest ranger who saw the women near the trailhead on Sept. 8 told them they needed heavier clothing in case the weather turned. Authorities believe the pair then left the area before returning and starting their hike.

Rain fell that afternoon, and temperatures dropped below freezing that night. By the following night, several inches of snow covered the ground.

To demonstrate how precarious the Uintas can be in a storm, rescue crews took Jim Wetherton and his stepson, Keith, off the trail last month and asked them to make their way back. They could not, said Albert, who has kept up a correspondence with Jim Wetherton from Georgia.

"That's why they're not looking for foul play or any of this other kind of stuff," Albert said.

Postings of the missing women have been placed on many of the trailheads in the popular recreation area and in the small towns dotting the Wasatch Back.

But with the warm weather slipping away, officials say, the best chance for some kind of discovery may come during next week's rifle deer hunt.

"At this point we're really depending on hunters," said Snyder, adding that last weekend's grid search with over a dozen trained volunteers and rescue dogs was probably one of the last.

Rescue teams have scoured the rugged country near the north fork of the Provo River and Weber River at the mouth of four separate canyons that Snyder says don't empty out for 12 miles.

"It's so thick up there, they could have walked right past them," said Edmunds, who says three bodies dating back to cases in the 1960s, '70s and '80s were never recovered in the Uintas.

(Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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