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A look at what investigators found on a rugged mountainside in their search for Dylan Redwine

A former La Plata County investigator detailed the multi-year effort that went into finding out what happened to 13-year-old Dylan Redwine.

DURANGO, Colo. — Investigators spent years scouring steep, wooded terrain off a rugged ATV trail for answers about what happened to Dylan Redwine. During their search, they would find bones that proved to belong to the missing 13-year-old and a skull that was first spotted by hikers who made the discovery while exploring a grassy patch of land.

They would also find a torn-up T-shirt, Miller Light and Coors Light beer cans, a Nike Air Jordan shoe, a Fila sock and a pair of headphones – items that would possibly lend more clues in the investigation that has culminated in the trial of the boy’s father, Mark Redwine.

He is charged with second-degree murder and child abuse resulting in death for his son’s disappearance. Dylan Redwine was last seen alive in November 2012 while on a court-ordered visit with his father at his home in Vallecito. Some of his remains were found just up the road on Middle Mountain in June 2013, and his skull wouldn’t be found until November 2015 approximately five miles away.  

Dylan Redwine

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Tonya Golbricht, a former investigator for the La Plata County Sheriff’s Office, was part of these efforts. Wednesday marked her second day on the witness stand during Redwine’s trial, which is now in its second of what was scheduled to be four weeks.

Golbricht said investigators were able to narrow down an area on Middle Mountain as a focal point for the search after finding a Fila sock and Air Jordan shoe on June 22, 2013. Dylan Redwine’s family said those items likely belonged to him.

“I can tell you that we eroded the mountainside for how many times we went up and down it,” Golbricht said.

Credit: Jerry McBride
Jerry McBride/Durango Herald 06-29-21-Durango- Tonya Golbricht, a deputy and a former investigator with the La Plata County Sheriff's Office, testifies on Wednesday, June 30, 2021, during the Mark Redwine trial in Durango Co., at the La Plata County Courthouse. Mark Redwine is on trial for second degree murder and child abuse resulting in death of his son Dylan Redwine.

Over the course of that search, they found a femur that likely belonged to Dylan Redwine, as well as a scapula and other remains. Golbricht said human toes were found in animal scat in this same area, as well as countless animals that were sent to a lab for DNA analysis to determine whether they were human.

A torn-up T-shirt found on the mountain is believed to have been one Dylan Redwine got on a trip with his dad, Golbricht said. She testified that the boy’s family said he was not wearing this shirt when he first boarded a flight from Denver to Durango, but she didn’t know if he packed it for the trip.

The search for the boy’s skull only happened after investigators received a tip from a couple, who said they had spotted a human cranium in a meadow farther up the mountain. It was near a small stream, Golbricht said, and far off any ATV trails.

The couple that found the skull testified on Wednesday. Dan Foster said he and his wife were hiking in the area when he found the skull in what appeared to be some sort of "animal den." He said it appeared to come from an animal, but his wife had different thoughts. 

“I don’t pay attention to all that, I thought maybe it was a bone," Foster said. "My wife watches murder death shows and stuff, I’m all about superheroes and music. “

This led them to contact investigators, who later found it nearby. Heather Johnson, a wildlife biologist, was called to the stand to discuss bear hibernation. She said most bears were in hibernation by November 2012, and that most animals would not carry prey or something they were scavenging over large distances. 

She was intensely cross-examined by the defense team, which has offered the theory that Dylan Redwine was possibly killed by an animal.

Golbricht said her team of investigators followed up on more than 900 tips during their probe into Dylan Redwine's disappearance, some of them from self-proclaimed psychics and mediums who claimed to have clues about the boy's whereabouts. 

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Golbricht was also involved in searches of Mark Redwine’s home and vehicle. During one of those searches, she said she found a debit card belonging to Dylan Redwine in a briefcase, as well as an itinerary for his trip to Durango. The boy’s father had previously said he did not have any items belonging to the teenager at his home when he disappeared.

In August 2016, Golbricht said investigators received a tip that Mark Redwine had disposed of multiple items. When law enforcement collected what they threw away, she said they found pictures of Dylan Redwine from when he was 10 to 13 years old, pictures of the boy’s mother and an old driver’s license.

During cross-examination, the defense pointed out the fact Golbricht and the team of investigators did not call the coroner after finding human remains on the mountain, and also that they didn’t shut down the area in the vicinity of the search, which is popular for outdoor recreation.

Golbricht said they didn’t call the coroner because they were unsure if what they found belonged to a person, and that shutting down the mountain would only bring people like “moths to a flame” because it was already widely known that this area was a focal point of the search.

9NEWS is providing daily digital updates on the Mark Redwine trial. Head to www.9news.com/dylanredwine for all of our previous coverage.  

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