Human remains discovered by a hiker last week in Conejos County, Colorado are believed to be those of a Tennessee teen who disappeared nearly a year ago.
Joe Keller, who turned 19 the day after he vanished, was last seen on July 23, 2015 while out running in a rural, mountainous area of Colorado.
Officials with the El Paso County Coroner’s Office and the Conejos County Sherriff’s Office have not speculated about the identity of the remains. Official confirmation and cause of death can take up to three months.
Family members revealed the news on the ‘Find Joe Keller’ Facebook page.
“Although it has not been "officially" confirmed, we know that Joe has been found, because of his clothing and description,” a posting Monday afternoon reads.” We thank you all for your continued prayers, kind words and concern for Joe and us over the last 11+ difficult months.”
Keller had traveled from his home in Cleveland, Tennessee to a ranch near Antonito, Colorado with two of his childhood pals. The avid runner and swim coach took off on a run with his friend Collin Gwaltney, with whom he’d been very close since kindergarten. After about a quarter mile, the two split to run on different paths. They agreed to meet back at the ranch for dinner.
"I took one road up and he didn't follow, which is normal because we run at different paces," Gwaltney told Dateline NBC. "But after two hours passed and he didn't come home, we went out looking."
A search was launched, but few clues were ever found until last week’s discovery. Officials never ruled out foul play in the case.
Thousands have been following Joe’s case over the past year, with well wishes and prayers to his family coming in from across the country. The teen volunteered most Saturdays at the Salvation Army and was already registered for his second year of college, according to his father Neil. His parents say he was thinking of becoming a math teacher.
If you have any information about the ongoing case, please contact the Conejos County Sheriff's Office at (719) 376-6778 or the Bradley County Sheriff's Office at (423) 728-7300.