Sunday, June 18, 2017


A Grand Junction, Colorado man who went missing earlier this week may be the second known person to die while searching for buried treasure in northern New Mexico in the last couple of years.

Paris Wallace, a pastor at Connections Church in Grand Junction was first reported missing by his family on Wednesday June 14.  As reported by KJCT-8 ABC News  and The Daily Sentinel

, Mr. Wallace was traveling alone in the vicinity of Espaniola, New Mexico for some meetings.  He failed to show up for an appointment on Wednesday. Police found some of his belongings at his hotel room in Espaniola but Wallace and his vehicle were not there.
"Family members reported that Wallace was hiking in the area but it’s unclear what he may have been doing when he went missing. He is driving a tan 2001 Chevrolet Tahoe with Colorado license plate FQS-377. He’s described as being a white/Filipino man who is about 5-feet 9-inches tall, weighing about 200 pounds, with chin-length hair and a clean-shaven face."

As the week unfolded, more information came to light. On Thursday, Wallace's vehicle was found along NM State Road 570, a few miles west and south of Ranchos de Taos.  Initially, KJCT-8 News reported that "Approximately 1.5 miles uphill from where Paris’ vehicle was found, NM Search and Rescue found a backpack belonging to Paris."
Area Map of Northern New Mexico.  Paris Wallace was hiking in the vicinity of the Rio Grande or Rio Pueblo rivers between Espaniola and Taos. (Image from Google EarthTM) 
 But a subsequent report from local authorities indicated that a receipt for a rope (as well as other items) was found in his vehicle and a short distance from the vehicle a rope was found across the Rio Pueblo river, a tributary of the Rio Grande. The backpack was reportedly found in the river some distance downstream from the rope, leading one to speculate that Wallace may have been trying to cross the river, swollen by late spring run-off, and somehow got swept into the current.  Search continues downstream from the site and into the Rio Grande.
Paris Wallace's vehicle was found along the stretch of the Rio Pueblo river between Ranchos de Taos and the state road 567 Taos Junction bridge across the Rio Grande, (Image from Google EarthTM)
It turns out that Mr. Wallace was not merely hiking in the area.  Authorities have also reported that they were informed by family members that Mr. Wallace was in the Espaniola area to search for hidden treasure.  In particular he was interested in a purported stash of gold and jewels valued at between one and two million dollars. 
This article from Vox provides some background on the story of Forrest Fenn.  Mr. Fenn, now in his late-80s is a well-known Santa Fe artifacts dealer and author.  Stricken with cancer in 1988 he allegedly packed a small ornate chest with gold, jewels, ancient jade carvings and diamonds, intending to take it into the mountains and die beside it.  But his cancer was successfully treated and he held onto the treasure until...
"...two decades later, around 2010, an aging Fenn decided it was time to cement his legacy: He left his home, drove somewhere in the Rocky Mountains, and hid the chest. In a subsequent memoir, The Thrill of the Chase, he revealed the treasure to the public and offered a 24-line poem containing nine ambiguous clues leading to its precise location."

If Paris Wallace is found to have died while searching for Fenn's treasure, he would not be the first. In 2016, another Colorado man, 54-year-old Randy Bilyeu, died along the Rio Grande River west of Santa Fe while searching for Fenn's treasure via raft as reported in The Guardian last year
"Family and friends say Bilyeu bought a raft and set out on 5 January after scouting for two weeks along the river west of Santa Fe. He had a GPS device, a wetsuit and waders. He brought along his little white dog, Leo.  More than a week passed before a worried friend reached out to his ex-wife in Florida, Linda Bilyeu, who filed a missing person’s report on 14 January. His raft and dog were found the next day."

Randy Bilyeu

1 comment:

  1. Interstingly, it was several weeks after they found Bilyeu's raft and dog before they located his body downstream. Runoff on the upper Rio Grande can make for very treacherous conditions in the water.


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