Investigators link human remains found by rancher to 2013 murder

Human skeletal remains were found by a rancher approximately 90 miles from St. George between Fredonia and Jacob Lake, Arizona, Coconino County, Arizona, stock image | Photo courtesy of Coconino County Sheriff's Office, St. George News

ST. GEORGE — Human remains found by a rancher earlier this month have been linked to a 2013 homicide, authorities said Tuesday.

The Coconino County Sheriff’s Office in Arizona received a call July 1 from the Kane County Sheriff’s Office in Utah advising that a rancher had located human skeletal remains approximately 90 miles from St. George between Fredonia and Jacob Lake, Arizona.

A rancher had been working his cattle range just south of Arizona state Route 89A when he located the skeletal remains under a tree along with clothing, boots and a daypack, according to a media statement issued by the Coconino County Sheriff’s Office Tuesday.

Human remains found map
Human skeletal remains were found by a rancher approximately 90 miles from St. George between Fredonia and Jacob Lake, Arizona, Coconino County, Arizona | Image courtesy of Google Maps, St. George News

Sheriff’s deputies responded to the area and the rancher led them to the remains.

“Remnants of weathered clothing and boots were still present, as was a daypack,” the Sheriff’s Office said. “A handgun was found under the remains. The remains appeared to have been there for some time, if not several years.”

Authorities had previously responded to a wooded area north of Jacob Lake on April 30, 2013, after the Forest Service reported a suspicious vehicle abandoned off the highway, officials said.

At the time, more than three years ago, authorities determined that the abandoned vehicle had been stolen and wanted for investigative purposes in connection with a homicide that had occurred in Glendale, Arizona.

Jacob Medina, then 28, was named as a person of interest in the 2013 death of his long-time friend and colleague, Fernando Portillo. Medina was reported missing shortly thereafter and had not been seen or heard from since, officials said.

During the 2013 investigation, detectives and search and rescue crews conducted a search of the area where the stolen vehicle was found. At the time, no further evidence was located and Medina’s whereabouts were still unknown, the Sheriff’s Office said.

Upon the discovery of the remains earlier this month, authorities said a search of the daypack found with the remains revealed a work shirt with a company logo on it connected to the murder investigation.

“It is believed the remains may be that of the homicide suspect,” the Coconino County Sheriff’s Office said Tuesday.

Officials will conduct an exam on the remains to confirm an identity.

The investigation has been turned over to Glendale Police detectives.

Email: kscott@stgnews.com

Twitter: @STGnews

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