The Ranger (beta)

Fremont County's Daily Newspaper

News of Riverton, Lander and Fremont County, Wyoming, from the Ranger's award winning journalists.

Ranger Login

Skeleton ID is man missing for seven years

May 24, 2013 - By Katie Roenigk, Staff Writer

The Fremont County Coroner's Office has released the identity of the man whose skeleton was found March 10 on the Wind River Indian Reservation east of Riverton.

Coroner Ed McAuslan on Thursday said the bones belonged to 47-year-old Tad P. Barnson, who has been missing since 2006. Barnson's death has been ruled a homicide due to blunt force and penetrating trauma, according to the coroner's office.

McAuslan said the man's autopsy showed multiple wounds, but the coroner didn't know what kind of weapon may have been used in the incident.

"There was just some indication that there was a penetrating type of wound into (a) scapula," McAuslan said of Barnson's shoulder blade. "I don't remember if it was the right or left (scapula)."

He said skeleton remains are not useful in gathering information about drug or alcohol use leading up to someone's death. The description of the deceased reports Barnson was a grey-haired white man weighing 180 pounds and measuring 6 feet, 4 inches tall. His skeletal remains reportedly were identified using dental records.

Mother's theory

Barnson's mother, LaRita Barnson, of Idaho Falls, Idaho, who has been in contact with The Ranger, previously indicated that the remains belonged to her son. She believes Tad Barnson was pushed over a cliff by a suspect who has already been identified by law enforcement. She said her son's bloodied jacket was found near his body when his remains were discovered in March.

The coroner's report states that all of Tad Barnson's clothing and other evidence found at the scene were retained by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

According to LaRita Barnson, Tad Barnson called home not long before his death and told his mother that he was in trouble and wouldn't be able to contact her for some time. She said she offered to find him a place to stay, but he reportedly said he would take care of the situation himself. She said she never heard from him again.

Policy required ID release

The investigation into Tad Barnson's death still is ongoing, according to the FBI, and further details were unavailable Friday through that agency.

FBI spokesman Dave Joly said McAuslan was required to reveal Barnson's identity this week based on policy requirements.

"We really didn't want this information to come out right now, (but) he was mandated," Joly said. "Once he had a finding of some relevance, (McAuslan) had to release that within a certain time period to stay within the guidelines of the policy he's administered by. ... We went back and forth -- Ed and I talked, the investigators all talked -- but he didn't have a choice."

Joly called the information released by McAuslan a "huge finding," but he said the FBI would have more to share in the coming weeks.

Joly said he will enlist the public's help soon to find out more about Tad Barnson's death.

"We want to have this open kind of dialogue," Joly said, adding, "This is a long case."

He commended the agencies that have provided assistance with the case during the past six years, including the coroner's office, the Fremont County Sheriff's Office and Fremont County Search and Rescue.