Three found dead at campsite were members of Colorado Springs family who planned to live ‘off grid’

Jacob D. Spetzler/For CPR News
The town of Gunnison, seen from the Ridgeline trail behind Western University.

By Sam Metz/AP

The decomposed and partially mummified bodies of three people who were recently found at a remote western Colorado campsite were two adult sisters and one woman's 14-year-old son, Gunnison County Coroner Michael Barnes said.

The deceased are Christine Vance, 41; Rebecca Vance, 42, and Rebecca's son, all from Colorado Springs. Two were found in a tent down the road from a campsite in the Gunnison National Forest about nine miles (14.5 kilometers) from Ohio City, Colorado, Gunnison County Coroner Michael Barnes said in an interview Tuesday. Officials have not named the son because he is a minor.

Their bodies showed signs of malnourishment, with two in the tent and one outside. Though a cause of death has yet to be determined while authorities wait for toxicology reports to be processed, the group may have succumbed to starvation, freezing temperatures or carbon monoxide poisoning from trying to make fire to stay warm, Barnes said.

The three likely started camping in July 2022 and died sometime over the winter. Family members told Barnes that the group embarked on a trip last summer and planned to live “off the grid.”

After a hiker found a body outside the tent earlier this month, deputies began investigating the site to identify the bodies. At the campsite alongside the bodies were empty food cans, books and a restroom area, Barnes said. It appeared they had begun to build a “lean-to” type shelter but not finished by the time last year's harsh winter began, he said.

“I wonder if winter came on quickly and suddenly they were just in survival mode in the tent,” Barnes said. “They had a lot of literature with them about outdoor survival and foraging and stuff like that. But it looked like they supplied at a grocery store.”

Authorities did not find any vehicle or firearms at the campsite with the bodies.