Hiker missing from US state of Utah wilderness found in Australia

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Tuesday, August 23, 2005

A man missing from a camping ground in southern Utah in the Western US since July 30 was found in Australia. His automobile was found in a campground of Dixie National Forest with a note that he would be back in a few hours. An extensive search and rescue operation was conducted to try to locate this hiker by the Washington County Sheriff's Office in Utah.

Investigators in the Sheriff's Office were able to track him down to Cairns, Queensland. Apparently before he was "missing", he bought a one-way ticket to Australia. Bryan Butas, the missing hiker, apparently had been under a great deal of stress and "got sick of it all", according to a telephone interview by the Associated Press.

Butas has been charged with insurance fraud, a second-degree felony, by Washington County Attorney Brock Belnap. This was because Butas plotted to obtain a $250,000 life insurance policy before faking his own disappearance. He has also been given a bill for $20,000 by the Washington County Sheriff's Office for their search and rescue operations on his behalf.

His wife and children have since his disappearance moved to the wife's parent's home in Ohio. Butas's parents came to Southern Utah to help in the search and were "embarrassed and shocked" to learn their son had merely run away from marital and financial difficulties, Washington County Sheriff Kirk Smith said.

Washington County Sheriff Sgt. Jake Adams said his investigation included tracing an application Butas made for a passport, his purchase of a one-way airline ticket to Australia, and the life insurance policy that names his wife and children as beneficiaries. On August 18, Adams said Butas's mother called him to say her son had called home the evening of August 11, several days after the search was officially called off for the missing man. Butas asked his mother for money and an airline ticket home, which she sent.

Butas has since been checked into the Veteran's Administration Hospital in Brecksville, Ohio, according to Adams, but will shortly return to Utah.

Sources

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