Claudia Ruiz, a 44-year-old Silt woman who was found dead in secluded terrain in the midvalley on May 23, died of hypothermia, the Pitkin County Coroner’s Office said in a statement released Monday. The manner of death was ruled accidental, the office said.
A rancher delivering salt blocks to his cattle in the high country found Ruiz’s body on May 23 in an area known as the Crown.
Pitkin County Undersheriff Ron Ryan said previously that investigators didn’t believe foul play was involved in Ruiz’ death. He said an autopsy showed no signs of sexual assault and no trauma to the body. There were no defensive wounds on Ruiz, he said.
Ruiz’s daughter spotted her boarding a bus in Glenwood Springs on May 17. Surveillance cameras on the bus showed Ruiz getting off at Willits.
Ryan said witnesses reported seeing Ruiz at precise times in midvalley locations between May 17 and 24. That led authorities to believe she accessed the Crown via the north side rather than via the south. The witnesses reported seeing her alone and on foot, according to Ryan. The base of the Crown is roughly 2 miles from the Willits bus stop.
The Crown is accessed by a handful of steep routes, including Nancy’s Path, from the north side. There is vehicular access via the south side. Ryan said there is no indication Ruiz was ever on the south side of the Crown.
Many midvalley residents considered the incident strange because Ruiz was listed as being 5 feet, 2 inches tall and 180 pounds and didn’t seem likely to hike the steep Nancy’s Path or other trails on the Crown. She was wearing sandals at the time of her disappearance.
The rancher found her naked body near a stock pond. He said it was about 1/4 mile from the top of Nancy’s Path and about 1/4 mile from the nearest four-wheel-drive road.
Ruiz’ family and friends from their church launched a search for her in the midvalley after she disappeared. They said they were particularly concerned because she didn’t have her medication for a mental-health issue.