Yellowstone National Park South Entrance, Yellowstone visitation

Yellowstone Hiker Fatality Last Summer Linked to Treasure Hunt

The hiker who died last summer after falling off a trail near Turkey Pen Peak in Yellowstone National Park was reportedly in search of treasure.

According to KTVH News, Jeff Murphy, 53, of Batavia, Illinois was reportedly searching for the so-called “Fenn treasure,” a trove of gold and jewels supposedly hidden by Santa Fe-based art dealer Forrest Fenn somewhere in the Rocky Mountains.

Murphy went missing June 7, 2017 and was last seen alive at 8 a.m. that day near the Rescue Creek Trailhead. Officials discovered his body June 9.

In the park’s report on Murphy’s death, recently disclosed through a Freedom of Information Act request, Murphy’s wife told Yellowstone investigators Murphy was seeking the treasure. The report also states that Murphy’s death was an accident. From KTVH:

Other details included in the report are emails from [Jeff] Murphy to Forrest Fenn in the days before his death. Yellowstone officials also emailed Fenn.

Fenn expressed concern for Murphy and offered to help pay for a helicopter for the search. He also told officials he had never been to the area where Murphy fell.

Murphy’s wife also emailed Fenn during the search. She said, “I hope your quest won’t be adversely affected by these current events.”

Yellowstone spokeswoman Morgan Warthin declined an interview for the report but did earlier confirm that Murphy’s death was associated with the search for Fenn’s treasure.

Forrest Fenn also declined to comment.

Murphy is reportedly the fourth person whose death has been linked to the Fenn treasure since 2016. According to the Albuquerque Journal, the police have called on Fenn more than once to end the hunt, citing the mounting number of fatalities:

Fenn has rejected calls to end the treasure hunt after prior fatalities among people looking for the hidden loot. State Police Chief Pete Kassetas is among those who have called for Fenn to stop the hunt because of the fatalities.

“As with deer hunters and fishermen, there is an inherent risk that comes with hiking the canyons and mountain trails,” Fenn has said. “The treasure is not hidden in a dangerous spot and I have said that no one should search in a place where an 80-year-old man could not hide it.”

About Sean Reichard

Sean Reichard is the editor of Yellowstone Insider and author of Yellowstone Insider For Families 2017.

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