An afternoon hike turned into a nightmare when three Payson teenagers stumbled on the body of a dead mountain biker.
Preston Boyle, 18, Alan Wrobleski, 18, and Russell Wegner, 17 were hiking in the forest off Granite Dells Road when they found the body.
"We were heading home about 6:50 on Wednesday. We were hiking up the trailhead -- Boulder trail, going up the creek when we saw this arrow (drawn) on a rock pointing up, why we decided to go that way I don't even know," Boyle said. They followed the direction of the arrow.
"My friend, Russell, saw this bike, then we saw bike-riding gloves, knee pads, and a sweater all strung out on the ground, a little further (on) we saw boots and a jacket. We were creeped out at that point," Boyle said.
Wrobleski said the clothes didn't look like they'd been torn off, just removed and dropped on the ground.
"We walked around this big boulder and we saw this backpack. I was the first to see the body, it freaked me out. We were three or four feet away from it. I told my friends, ‘That's a dead body.' It was all bloated ... his skin was all leathery and dark -- all tough looking, almost like some kind of dark wood, like a mannequin. It was gross. I said, ‘We gotta call the cops, we gotta call the cops!' We all freaked out and ran back down the creek and up to the trailhead as fast as we could run," Boyle said.
He said they called 911 and waited. It took about 15 minutes for deputies to get there.
"We told them we found a rotting corpse and they believed us because they knew right away when they saw us that we'd seen a dead body. We were freaked out. We walked back with them to show them where it was; by that time it was getting dark. They had their flashlights," Boyle said.
Wrobleski said there was no smell or any odor when they first found the body. It only started smelling after the deputies arrived.
"It's not good that he died, but we feel good that we found it because somebody out there must have been looking for him," Boyle said.
"We need help in identifying the body," Det. Brian Havey of the Gila County Sheriff's Office said.
"Foul play is not suspected," GCSO Det. George Ratliff said.
No identification was found on the body, but his mountain bike was leaning against a tree not far from where the body was found, Havey said.
The detective said the man appeared to have been between 5 feet 8 inches and 6 feet tall, weighed between 140 and 170 pounds and had light brown hair with reddish highlights. Havey said the body had been there between four and eight weeks. Ratliff said they are guessing the man was between 35 and 50.
"We have no missing person reports matching the description we have," Havey said.
Ratliff said they had immediately searched for a vehicle on forest roads in the area, but found none. He said that raises the possibility that the man is a local resident.
The body has been sent to the forensics lab in Tucson for fingerprinting and to check dental records for identification. The GCSO is still conducting an investigation.
Anyone with information about the man should call the GCSO at 474-2208 and ask for Havey or Ratliff.