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Remains found in Arizona wilderness could belong to missing Utah hikers

MARICOPA COUNTY, Ariz. — Skeletal remains discovered in the Arizona mountains could be those of Utah men who went missing last summer while looking for a lost mine.

"We have found what we believe are the skeletal remains of two humans in the Superstition Mountains," said Maricopa County sheriff's spokesman Jeff Sprong. "We are checking to see if these could be two of the missing hikers in July. Due to the conditions of the remains, the medical examiner's office will be attempting to identify the remains."

Sprong said it is unknown how long the identification will take.

Three men from Salt Lake City set out in the Arizona wilderness last July in search of the legendary Lost Dutchman Gold Mine.

Family members identified them as 67-year-old Curtis Meriworth, 62-year-old Ardean Charles and 51-year-old Malcolm Meeks. They planned to hike into the mountains and explore the area about 40 miles east of Phoenix during the day and spend nights in a motel. Their vehicle was found at a trailhead July 11.

A hiker found the remains Friday and Maricopa County authorities were notified about 2 a.m. Saturday, Sprong said. A search party was sent out during the day hoping to find the remains of a third person.

"We have not located a third body," he said.

Sprong said he was not aware that searchers found any clothing or hiking gear that would help identify the bodies. They didn't have descriptions of the men's clothing at the time they disappeared, he said.

Last July, authorities braved triple-digit temperatures during a six-day search for the men covering 100 miles. The search was later scaled back to just morning hours and eventually called off.

e-mail: romboy@desnews.com