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Update: Bodies in Colorado Campground Identified As Family Attempting to Live Off-Grid

Sisters Christine and Rebecca Vance, and Rebecca's 14-year-old son likely perished of malnutrition or exposure to the elements.

On July 9, a hiker found a decomposed body at a remote campsite high in the mountains of Colorado. Investigators later found two more bodies inside a nearby tent. This week, the three bodies were identified as three family members from Colorado Springs, and investigators have more insight on the backstory of why they may have been out there and what they may have perished from.

As Wide Open Spaces reported on July 14, a hiker noticed a blue tent 1,000 feet from a campsite at Gold Creek Campground in Gunnison National Forest. Thinking that the tent looked "out of place," the hiker decided to investigate. When they got closer, they saw a body lying across the tent door and immediately called the authorities.

When the Gunnison County Sheriff's Office arrived on the scene, they found two more bodies inside the zipped-up tent. A partially built lean-to and empty food cans were also found nearby.

A Colorado coroner has now positively identified the bodies as Colorado Springs residents Christine Vance, 41, her sister Rebecca Vance, 42, and Rebecca's 14-year-old son, who has not been named.

Gunnison Country Coroner Michael Barnes says that the family had been attempting to "live off the grid." They likely started camping in July 2022 and died sometime over the winter, likely from starvation or exposure, according to the Gunnison County Sheriff's Office. All three bodies showed significant signs of malnourishment.

The Vance women's step-sister, Trevala Jara, also of Colorado Springs, told The Washington Post that the group said they were going to live off the grid, but did not tell anyone where they were going to be.

"She didn't like the way the world was going, and she thought it would be better if her and her son and Christine were alone, away from everybody," Jara said. "She didn't want the influences of the world to get to them. She really thought she was protecting her family."

Jara noted that while the Vance sisters had been discouraged by the state of the world in recent years, the pandemic heightened Rebecca's fears significantly. "The fear overwhelmed her, most definitely. I did feel a shift in her."

Jara tried to persuade the Vance sisters not to go and Christine did not initially want to join Rebecca and her son. Christine eventually decided to join because she believed that they would have a better chance of surviving if she went as well.

Jara and her husband offered the trio their RV and generators to use in the mountains as a practice run, but the Vances said they felt comfortable living off the grid after doing online research and watching Youtube videos. "The last time they even went camping was when we were kids," Jara told The Washington Post.

Books on outdoor survival and foraging were found around the campsite, and the group had started to build a lean-to shelter but likely were not able to finish it before winter set in.

"I wonder if winter came on quickly and suddenly they were just in survival mode in the tent," Barnes told The Associated Press. "They had a lot of literature with them about outdoor survival and foraging and stuff like that. But it looked like they supplied at a grocery store."

An official cause of death will not be released until toxicology reports are completed, but Barnes suspects that the three died of malnutrition or exposure to the elements. He also hasn't ruled out carbon monoxide poisoning from the trio using a fire to stay warm.

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