Anonymous tip leads to the recovery of Mitchell Dale Stehling’s remains

As reported by the National Park Service (NPS):

An anonymous tip submitted to the National Park Service Investigative Services Branch (ISB) led to the discovery of human remains in a remote area of Mesa Verde National Park. Park Law Enforcement Rangers, with assistance from ISB and Montezuma County Coroner’s Office located and retrieved the remains on September 17, 2020. Personal items located with the remains are consistent with identification, and the presumptive identity of the remains is that of Mitchell Dale Stehling who went missing in the park June 9, 2013.

As reported by Strange Outdoors:

51-year-old Mitchell Dale Stehling, known by the name Dale, went to the Mesa Verde National Park in Colorado on June 9, 2013, with his wife, Denean, and his parents. He said he was going for a hike to the Spruce Tree House ruin and left at 4.30 pm. The trail is less than a quarter of a mile long and connects to the Petroglyph Point Trail, a 2½-mile loop with cliff exposure that takes off from the Spruce Tree Trail. Witnesses saw him on that trail and spoke to him. However, he failed to return to his family.

The Stehlings left their home town of Goliad in Texas in a camper trailer and drove west, as Dale had always wanted to see Colorado. He was an outdoorsman and a keen camper, a man who could spend hours tending to his garden. He knew exactly how to spend that downtime, a day trip to Mesa Verde National Park.

Originally, the Stehlings only planned to drive out to the lookout point and take in the scene from a distance since the trail was rugged, and since Denean was overweight and Dale’s parents were elderly, it would have not been possible for them to easily hike it. But being the rugged outdoorsman, Dale Stehling had to get a little closer.

At 4.08 pm, it was hot, temperatures in the park were in the 90-100 degrees range, and the terrain consisted of steep canyons and mesa tops at an elevation between 6,500 and 8,000 feet. The hike to the top of the trail should have taken around an hour.

The remains were found approximately 4.2 miles from the point where Stehling was last seen; there is no indication of foul play.

If you have any information related to this case, you are asked to call the National Park Service Investigative Branch Tip Line by phone or text message at 888-653-0009, email at or submit a tip online. Tips can be made anonymously.


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