A hiker recently discovered human remains and items belonging to a Juneau man who went missing in the Dredge Lake area more than six years ago, according to the Juneau Police Department.
The hiker discovered the remains in that same area about two weeks ago, about 50 feet from a trail. Juneau Police Department Lt. David Campbell said responding investigators found a cellphone and other personal items later identified as belonging to Jeffrey "Scott" Walkenford.
The 41-year-old Juneau resident was reported missing on May 15, 2010.
Campbell said officers are "fairly certain" the remains belong to Walkenford, based on an article of clothing and selfies of the missing man pulled off the cellphone's SIM card, he said.
Alaska State Troopers originally reported a family member spoke with Walkenford the day he went missing, but he would not say where he was. Family members found his vehicle that night in a Mendenhall River School parking area, troopers said.
Searches using dogs, mountain rescue personnel and a helicopter were conducted around the school and the Dredge Lake area, troopers said. The extensive search efforts were unsuccessful, Campbell said.
Campbell described the area as large and flat. It includes an extensive trail system and several lakes and ponds. The foliage in the area is thick, he said, which may explain why it took years for a passerby to spot the remains.
"It was simply an issue of terrain and vegetation," Campbell said. "It's very dense. You can be within feet from someone and not see them."
Walkenford's family has been told about the discovery, he said.
"The human remains have not been positively identified as being Walkenford. Positive identification is estimated to take approximately 6 months," JPD said in a Wednesday release.
The police department sent the remains to the State Medical Examiner's Office in Anchorage for analysis, but identification requires DNA testing outside of Alaska, Campbell said.