Harold Parker, 06-30-05

Clues indicate skeletal remains could be those of missing miner

SEARCH: Relatives weren't concerned about man's location until more than a year passed without communication.

By ZAZ HOLLANDER Anchorage Daily News

Published: August 17th, 2005

SUNSHINE -- Searchers earlier this month found skeletal remains after relatives reported 65-year-old gold miner Harold Parker missing in late June.

The bones, still encased by winter clothing, lay scattered next to an abandoned snowmachine in the country north of Talkeetna, a sparsely populated area accessible by river or trails.

Authorities think the remains belong to Parker because of their size and the extent of decomposition, but they can't know for sure until they obtain dental records or DNA from a relative.

Parker was enough of a loner that his out-of-state relatives didn't think to notify troopers he was missing until they hadn't heard from him for more than a year, troopers said.

Parker's pickup was located June 30 in a parking area near Talkeetna, troopers said.

They didn't know for certain where his cabin was until Aug. 1, when a friend in Talkeetna told them -- 11 miles north of the village, on Clear Creek.

Trooper John Ostoj flew to the cabin in the troopers' helicopter Aug. 5. Tall brush surrounded the small A-frame. A sliding metal bar blocked the door to keep bears out. Inside, Ostoj noticed a mess of Parker's belongings, as if the man hadn't arranged them yet.

"He hadn't been there in a long time," the trooper said.

He found a pull-sled and a coat about two miles southeast of the cabin. Inside a coat pocket was a key to Parker's pickup.

The next day, Aug. 6, troopers pilot Mel Nading took up a crew of Alaska Peace Officers Association Explorers, young people getting early law enforcement experience. The three boys and one girl looked for any signs of a missing man.

Josh Peterson, 18 and a recent graduate of Valley Christian School, spotted the yellow Ski-Doo about two miles south of the sled.

"It was right out in the open, out in the clear," Peterson said.

The helicopter landed, and the troopers aboard got out to investigate. They came back to get a body bag, Peterson said.

If the remains do belong to Parker, it's possible he suffered a heart attack while trying to dig out his snowmachine, said Ostoj and John Jansen, president of APOA's Mat-Su chapter.

Jansen said he's proud of the work the Explorers brought to the search.

"This guy's been gone for two years. His family is wondering, 'Whatever happened to him?' "

Reporter Zaz Hollander can be reached at the Daily News Wasilla office at zhollander@adn.com or 352-6711.