The discovery of human remains near Seward has sparked speculation that the body of Michael LeMaitre, possibly the state's most famous missing person, has been found, but that appears unlikely.
A member of the LeMaitre family said Alaska State Troopers told him it did not appear the partial human jawbone found in the mountains above Tonsina Point south of the city belongs to the 65-year-old who disappeared during the Mount Marathon Race on July 4, 2012.
The red lantern in the race from downtown Seward to Race Point high up on Mount Marathon and then back, LeMaitre was last seen just a few hundred feet below the point in 2012. Race volunteers headed down the mountain told him to make the turn and follow them to the finish.
He never showed up. The general belief now is that LeMaitre, who'd never been to the point, followed an obvious trail past the turnaround rocks there and disappeared into the Kenai Mountains to the west.
To get from where he was last seen in 2012 to where the jawbone was found would require that he first make a left turn off the Mount Marathon ridge when he knew a right turn was required to pick up the trail down.
If he did turn 180 degrees in the wrong direction, he would then need to descend extremely steep and rough terrain on the south side of Mount Marathon, cross Lowell Creek, make a difficult climb up the Bear Mountain ridge, drop off it into the Spruce Creek drainage, climb yet another high ridge, and then drop into the Tonsina drainage.
"We haven't been able to rule out anybody,'' Alaska State Trooper spokesperson Beth Ipsen said Friday, but she admitted that distance and topography alone make it unlikely the jawbone is that of LeMaitre.
"There are eight people missing'' in the Seward area since 1993, she added, and trooper files hold an unknown number of cases of people who disappeared before that date.
The partial jawbone in question, she said, was found by hunters in the mountains above Tonsina Creek about 4 miles from the city. Tonsina Creek is along a trail that begins near the end of Lowell Point Road south of downtown.
The area is heavily used by hikers. A pickup truck belonging to 35-year-old Kristin Snyder, an Anchorage environmental consultant, was found in the parking lot not far from the start of that trail in February 2003. She was never found and remains among the missing in the area.
At the time of her disappearance, troopers said that there was a note in her truck saying she didn't want a search. The note, they added, expressed "her depression.''
An old kayak missing from the yard at Miller's Landing, a resort at the end of the road, led to speculation she might have paddled off into Resurrection Bay, but she could just as easily headed down the trail to Tonsina Creek.
Ipsen said troopers don't yet know if the jawbone found in the mountains belongs to a man or a woman. It has been sent to the State Medical Examiner's Office for further examination. There is hope that it might eventually be matched to the dental records of one of the missing people, but so far troopers haven't even been able to conclude who it isn't.
"We haven't been able to rule out anybody,'' she said.
It is possible, she added, that the identity of the owner of the jawbone may never be known. It could predate modern record-keeping on the missing or belong to someone with no dental records on file to match.
Contact Craig Medred at craig(at)alaskadispatch.com