Craters of the Moon

Jo Elliott-Blakeslee and Amy Linkert - Strange Disappearances and Deaths in U.S. National Parks

Jo Elliott-Blakeslee and Amy Linkert disappearance

Jo Elliott-Blakeslee and Amy Linkert, disappeared September  24th, 2013 Craters of the Moon National Monument, Idaho

Jo Elliott-Blakeslee, 63,  was a physician at the Snake River Correctional Institution in Ontario, Ore., and Amy Linkert, 69, had retired from teaching at Lowell Scott Middle School in Meridian, Idaho.

The two of them visited Craters of the Moon National Monument and Preserve and left Boise in Idaho on September 13, 2013 and failed to return Friday, September 20th. They were reported missing September  24th, when employees who worked with Dr. Jo called police when she failed to show up at work. However, the federal government shutdown at the time and that started October 1st hindered the search. Fortunately, ten park service rangers continued to look for Jo and Amy on foot without access to government resources, such as search helicopters, dogs or planes.

Craters of the Moon National Monument and Preserve

Police say they found receipts from the Craters of the Moon visitor's centre indicating that they were at the monument on Tuesday, September 24th. A couple of days later, they were allegedly spotted at a campground in Arco, which is about 18 miles away from Craters.

Their vehicle was later found at the Tree Molds Trail parking lot, a popular trailhead in the monument. Strangely, the women's dogs, cell phones and other items were found inside their pickup truck at the trailhead.  The fact that they left their two dogs behind suggested they didn't plan to be gone for very long.  Their family said they wouldn't go off trail, or out of sight of the track, because their dogs were in the car. Tammy Kerklow, Amy's niece. said "They were both missionaries, they're both avid hikers, survivalists, this is very strange. To have their phones, I mean I know they probably wouldn't work in the caves but to leave them in the truck, that's strange to us."

Craters of the Moon National Monument and Preserve sign

The search and rescue team searched with that in mind. The search was concentrated in a five square mile area on the south end of the monument near the Tree Molds, Broken Top Loop, and Wilderness Trails. The search area was in rugged and often dangerous territory and prone to unpredictable weather. But they didn't find them despite the intense search effort which saw 6,000 volunteer search hours.

Craters of the Moon park

They expanded the search area and on September 25th, in a lava field, northwest of the Tree Molds Trail, they found Amy Linkert's body. She was found face up on the lava, wearing only a short sleeve shirt and pants, but without a jacket, backpack, food or water. Rescuers believed she became disoriented while possibly searching for help and died of exposure. Authorities did not suspect foul play in her death. Initially the searchers believed they had found Elliot-Blakeslee as there was no identification on the body, but dental records confirmed that the body was actually that of Linkert.

Search and rescue workers Craters of the moon

After the search had gone on a whole month, they found Jo about a mile from from Amy, two and a half miles from the pickup in an area that had over flights for the past month. Both appeared to have died of exposure and showed signs of dehydration. How and why the women were separated remains unclear but perhaps one of the two became injured and the other woman went to seek help and got into trouble.

Many questions remain about this puzzling case:

  • Why did Jo and Amy leave their dogs and mobile phones in the pickup suggesting that they were planning to stay in the vicinity?

  • Why was Amy found face up on the lava, wearing only a short sleeve shirt and pants, but without a jacket, backpack, food or water. Why did she go on the trail with no equipment of supplies?

  • Why were Jo and Amy separated?

  • Why was Jo found so far from the trailhead car park and why did it take over a month to find her body despite numerous fly overs by helicopters?

Although the authorities have dismissed foul play, it seems unlikely that the two just left their dogs behind and went wandering in this potentially dangerous terrain without supplies. What made them leave the pickup truck behind and then separate? As the family member said they were both keen both keen hikers and survivalists, not naive and not inexperienced in these wilderness areas. A strange and sad end to these ladies lives.