Body Identified As Missing Avondale Resident

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The Gila County Sheriff's Office has identified the skeletal remains found a mile east of Colcord Road Sept. 13 as those of a man who was reported missing in the area this past November.

Robert Pico, 23, of Avondale, was reported as a ‘missing and endangered individual' by relatives Nov. 13, 2002.

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Gila County Sheriff's Sgt. Terry Hudgens uses a metal detector to search the area off Colcord Road where human remains were found. The body has been identified as missing Avondale man, Robert Pico.

A suicide note found at Pico's residence in Avondale indicated that he was headed to Rim country. The Gila County Sheriff's Office got involved two days later when Pico was last seen at Camp Geronimo off Control Road.

Nov. 18, Pico's 1992 van was found at a parking lot atop the Rim, near milepost 282 on Highway 260.

The GCSO, Tonto Rim Search and Rescue, the Forest Service, Game and Fish and the Department of Public Safety searched the area, but were unable to find Pico.

Campers discovered the remains and called the GCSO.

"They were 1.44 miles from where the van was found," GCSO Det. George Ratliff said.

A two-day investigation of the scene yielded helpful clues for detectives.

"The clothing that we have is badly deteriorated and rotting and at the scene. I went through the rear pockets and there was nothing," Ratliff said. "While I was going through these clothes, the front pockets had been rotted off but they were stuck to the pant leg inside, down by the knee, and the drivers license was in there."

Evidence such as a heavy nylon twine that was wrapped around a tree limb, pointed to a possible suicide. Ratliff said there was no evidence to suggest foul play.

"We examined all of the bones and there was no evidence of trauma and that is the best we can do on what little we have," Ratliff said. "His relatives said he was very depressed."

Several beer bottles also were found around the scene and in a backpack, which gave detectives a time frame of the death.

"The beer bottles had a ... date on the label of Oct. 13, 2002," Ratliff said. "That gave us a time frame and that's where this missing person comes in -- on this time frame."

The search of missing persons records in that timeframe led detectives to the Pico case.

Sept. 18, the skull and mandible were taken to Dr. Walter Birkby of the Forensic Science Center in Tucson. Through dental records, Birkby was able to positively identify the remains as Pico.

Pico's family was notified and now has possession of his remains.

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