The body of 85-year-old Paul Gaither was discovered in a wash near East Verde River about seven miles west of Payson by three hikers Friday afternoon.
His body was recovered by Gila County Sheriff's deputies and was sent to the Tucson Medical Examiner's office for autopsy. Gaither had been missing from his home near Green Valley Park since Sept. 9, 2001.
The hikers retrieved identification from Gaither's body and turned it in to the sheriff's office in Payson the following morning when they hiked out of the area.
Sergeant Terry Hudgens, accompanied by one of the hikers, returned to the area and recovered his body.
Gaither's binoculars and cane were found downstream from his body, indicating, Hudgens said, that water in the wash had caused movement of the objects.
The sheriff's department had launched a search, to no avail, in September when Gaither was first reported missing, using Tonto Rim Search and Rescue and a Department of Public Safety helicopter.
Gaither was known to hike the area and to travel several miles at a time from his home near Green Valley Park.
Messinger Payson Funeral Home, as of press time, said no services had been scheduled.