A helicopter normally used by Sun Valley Helicopter Ski Guides hovers over a hillside east of Elkhorn before evacuating Dex Gannon’s body late Tuesday afternoon.
The Blaine County Coroner's Office has yet to make a final determination in the death of 21-year-old Dexter Gannon, but Coroner Russell Mikel said Thursday that the likely outcome will be that he died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound.
"There is a gunshot wound to the head," Mikel said. "The common knowledge is that he committed suicide by gunshot. We just want to rule out any other possible causes, and that's why the investigation's continuing."
Gannon's body was brought to the coroner's office Tuesday night after it was found earlier that day and recovered from a steep hillside in the Elkhorn area about a half-mile southeast of the intersection of Keystone and Defiance roads. The body was about a mile from where Gannon was last known alive on the morning of Friday, Dec. 31.
The Sun Valley Police Department has reported that Gannon was staying at a friend's home on Morning Star Road the evening of Dec. 30, but that he left on foot sometime between midnight and 7 a.m. Police further reported that Gannon is believed to have taken a gun with him that he obtained at the home.
Sun Valley Police Chief Cameron Daggett said the weapon, a .45-caliber handgun, was found near Gannon's body.
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Police, volunteers and Blaine County Search and Rescue conducted a search of the area on Saturday but Daggett said the place where the body was found was not searched by people on foot. Instead, he said, searchers concentrated on what were then believed to be more likely locations, such as the bike path and the residential areas of Elkhorn.
Aerial surveillance was made of the area, but Daggett said the body wasn't spotted, in part because Gannon was wearing a coat predominantly blue in color rather than yellow as earlier believed.
"It was definitely part of the aerial search, but they missed him," Daggett said. "That's the way aerial searches go. You could not see him from the road because the hill curves backwards."
The police chief said the body was discovered about 2:45 p.m. Tuesday by volunteers who were on another mountain slope just to the north of where Gannon was found.
"They just caught a small glimpse of the blue coat," Daggett said. "They found him by scanning the ridgeline from a high point with binoculars, which was a very good tactic. I commend them."
Terry Smith: firstname.lastname@example.org