Jaryd John AtaderoJaryd J. Atadero

Jaryd was 3 years old when he attaked by a what authorities believe to have been a mountain lion. Jaryd was a bright outgoing child that made all around him smile. He was decribed as Happy and active. On Oct. 2, 1999 Jaryd was on a hicking trip with family and friends from a church group. This was the last time anyone saw Jaryd alive. A massive search was conducted but nothing was found until 2003 when Jaryd's partial remains and tattered clothes were discovered by hickers.


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Jaryd was a happy and active three-year-old child. He was with his parents and their church group on a hiking outing in Colorado when he ran ahead up the path. When the group came to where he should have been, he was gone. It was believed that he was taken by a mountain lion, or possibly abducted by someone on the trail. A massive search was made, but nothing was found. Then, in 2003, hikers found his clothing and partial remains. Authorities said that punctures and tears in the clothing were consistent with a mountain lion attack. Jaryd's was a young life that was taken far too soon.


POSTED: 8:31 am MDT June 11, 2003
UPDATED: 11:56 am MDT June 11, 2003

The Larimer County Sheriff said that a missing Littleton boy was likely killed by a predator.


Sheriff Jim Alderden made the statement on Tuesday while talking about the tattered clothes found last week in the rugged Comanche Peak Wilderness. The camel-colored fleece jacket, blue-and-white tennis shoes and blue cotton pants belonged to 3-year-old Jaryd John Atadero, who has been missing since Oct. 2, 1999.


Alderden said the condition of the clothes made it appear that some sort of a predator, like a bear or mountain lion, killed Atadero. He also pointed to dark and light hairs on the pullover that the Colorado Bureau of Investigtion will analyze. Jaryd's hair was dark, so investigators want to know if the hairs can be identified.


Two Fort Collins hikers found the clothes last Wednesday about 550 feet from the Big South Trail -- an area that had been searched numerous times after Jaryd was reported missing.

Gary Watts, 54, said that a wrong turn on a hiking trail led the discovery. Watts said he and his hiking partner, Robert Osborne, were very familiar with the story about the boy lost more than three years ago.

"When I saw the first shoe I knew right away, it was like opening a door to light," Watts said. "I knew we had answers."

The clothes were found 600 feet up the side of a canyon, said Larimer County sheriff's spokeswoman Eloise Campanella.

Testing on the clothes, which do not have visual signs of blood, could take weeks. Forensic experts said that the clothing has been exposed to the elements for more than three years, which will make their job much more difficult.

"Where you have an outside garment, you've got the weather, you've got wind, you've got moisture, humidity, heat, the sun. They're working to degrade or to break down any DNA that may be found on a garment," said Ron Arndt with the Colorado Bureau of Investigation.

No remains were found but 20 or more searchers will return to the site on Saturday to search for remains, bones and a T-shirt that is still missing.


"With all those animals up there, there is a strong possibility that some of this evidence could have been carried away," Campanella said.

The blue cotton pants were found turned inside out and the right leg was missing. Fragments of material were scattered in a 100-yard radius around the clothing and may have been strewn by rodents building nests, investigators said.

Authorities have steered clear of declaring the boy dead.

In the meantime, Jaryd's father, Allyn Atadero, is holding out hope that his son is still alive. He said so far, only clothes have been found. He said he will not hold a memorial service for his son until he knows for certain what happened.

"Everyone else can come to a conclusion," Atadero said. "But I have to live with it every day. I can't sit here and say ... it's time for Daddy to move on."


Jaryd was on a hiking trip with his sister and 11 adults in a church group when he vanished without a trace. Searchers scoured the area for days before calling off the search on Oct. 8, 1999, after finding no trace of the boy in hiking area or nearby Poudre River. About four days later independent trackers find hand and footprints, but authorities nothing that conclusively links to Jaryd. The next year, then President Bill Clinton signs a bill dedicating the trail to Jaryd. A memorial to the lost boy sits at the trailhead.

Atadero has kept mementos of the day his son disappeared -- rocks from the canyon, a bottle of water from the South Fork of the Poudre River where investigators thought the boy may have drowned and a walking stick. All are kept on a shelf at his Littleton home.

"Everyday I walk by it, touch it and make sure he's part of my life," he said.

He said he will probably wait until the weekend to visit the site and look for more clues in his son's mysterious disappearance.

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