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SEARCHERS FIND BODIES OF 2 SUSPECTS IN KILLING

SHARE SEARCHERS FIND BODIES OF 2 SUSPECTS IN KILLING

The bodies of a man and woman believed to be those of the suspects in the shooting death of Hinsdale County Sheriff Roger Coursey were found by dog search teams near here Saturday afternoon.

"I yelled for joy and started crying," on news of the discovery, said Sheriff Ray Blaum, who was with Coursey at a roadblock outside Lake City the morning of Nov. 18 when the sheriff was gunned down."I was very happy and relieved . . . presuming it's them," said Blaum, who had been Coursey's undersheriff and was promoted to fill the sheriff's vacancy on his death.

The bodies are believed to be those of Mark Vredenburg, 31, and Ruth Slater, 38, objects of a nationwide manhunt since Coursey was slain.

"We have found the bodies of a male and female whom we presume to be the suspects. However, it has not been verified yet. They were found with bullet wounds to the head. It was either a suicide-suicide or a suicide-homicide," Blaum said.

"They may have been dead for up to four weeks, since the incident happened," Blaum said.

The bodies were found covered with a sleeping bag under a tree on a steep mountainside above Colorado Highway 149 about 1.5 miles north of where the sheriff was slain and just south of Lake City, said Hinsdale County Search and Rescue coordinator Lyn Lampert.

The bodies were left at the site, under guard, for a Colorado Bureau of Investigation team which would make official identification, Lampert said.

The hunt for the suspects began Nov. 18 after Coursey was shot at 5:30 a.m. at a roadblock the sheriff and Blaum had set up on Colorado 149 at the base of Slumgullion Pass. Authorities had notified them to be on the lookout for a pickup truck believed associated with break-ins at businesses and a bank at Creede.

Blaum said they spotted a truck matching the description coming down the pass.

The sheriff and Blaum stopped the truck by a sign that reads "Alferd Packer Massacre site."

Coursey walked to the driver's window and Blaum walked to the passenger's window. Coursey asked the man to step out of the pickup. A shot was fired from inside the truck, Coursey yelled and fell, mortally wounded.

As the truck sped off, Blaum emptied his pistol at the vehicle, then went to the dying Coursey's aid.

The bullet-riddled pickup truck was found abandoned about a mile south of Lake City later that day.