Update, April 18, 2019: The Utah County Sheriff's Office has confirmed the remains found were those of Jerika Binks. A cause of death has not yet been determined.
Jerika Binks was a 24-year-old outdoor enthusiast living at a Utah addiction recovery home near American Fork Canyon. On Feb. 18, 2018, she went for a run in the secluded backcountry of the mountainous wilderness that engulfed her sobriety retreat. A trail camera captured her jogging that day. It was the last time anyone ever saw her.
But this week, police believe they might have found her remains in a nearby rocky ravine in Utah County, according to a Utah County Sheriff’s Office press release.
Authorities in Utah County are working to identify the skeletal remains, which were found by a hiker on April 14. They were discovered on the canyon’s northside, near a picnic site, around 850 feet above the canyon floor, says the press release.
“We believe there’s a good chance that the remains that were found in American Fork Canyon are those of Jerika Binks,” Spencer Cannon, a spokesperson for the Utah County Sheriff’s Office, told Oxygen.com.
Investigators found personal items near the remains that match the “descriptions of property known to be owned by Jerika Binks,” the press release stated.
“That’s at least part of the reason why we believe those remains are those of Jerika,” added Cannon.
Authorities couldn’t specifically confirm what items were found, but noted foul play isn’t suspected at this point. Bink had previously overcome addiction issues, Cannon said, but her life was on the upswing, and suicide is considered unlikely as well.
“There was no reason to believe at all that she was suicidal... She was winning the battle with addiction and she had a lot of hope for the future, school and working. Very kind person. Loved by everybody who knew her. That kind of compounds the sense of tragedy in a case like this, someone who had so much to offer," Cannon expanded.
Bink loved nature and was reportedly a seasoned jogger.
“She was active in the outdoors—she was an aggressive runner,” said Cannon. “She liked being in the mountains.”
Authorities said there was “evidence of injury,” but declined to specify. The Medical Examiner’s office in Taylorsville is currently conducting an autopsy.
Cannon said the Utah County Sheriff’s Office had looked into “hundreds of leads” during their investigation into Binks’ disappearance. The police spokesperson said investigators even consulted psychics while investigating the vanishing of the 24-year-old.
American Fork Canyon, with its vast nooks, crannies, and gaping gorges is no stranger to missing persons—or skeletons. This is a place, Cannon explained, that swallows people.
“We’ve had people go missing in that area and haven’t been discovered for several years,” he said. “We’ve had searches that we’ve been on for one person when we’ve found another person who was reported missing who we haven’t found yet.”
Cannon stated his office investigates “five or six” cases like this, often involving missing people, each year — many of them involving outdoor enthusiasts.
“Those kinds of things are not uncommon,” Cannon added. “It is remote and it is rugged. It’s easy for people to get into the outdoors and get into very rugged, very difficult terrain that carries a lot of dangers.”
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