Kurt Andrew Collins Nevada County Sheriff’s Office
Kurt Andrew Collins Nevada County Sheriff’s Office

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Remains may be those of suspect in 2016 shooting of search and rescue volunteer

By Cathy Locke

clocke@sacbee.com

November 30, 2017 06:05 PM

UPDATED December 01, 2017 08:05 AM

Human remains found along the the Yuba River over the weekend may be those of a man suspected of shooting a Placer County Search and Rescue volunteer in August 2016, according to the Nevada County Sheriff’s Office.

Kurt Andrew Collins, 61, has been sought in connection with the shooting of Search and Rescue volunteer Steve Wolf as well as the killing of Michael Mahoney of Union City in July 2016 and the disappearance of Joseph Charles Murphy in October 2003.

The Nevada County Sheriff’s Office was contacted Sunday by an individual who reported coming across human remains while running on the South Yuba Trail along the Yuba River approximately four miles downstream of the town of Washington, according to a Sheriff’s Office news release.

Deputies went to the area and found the remains of a Caucasian male in an advanced state of decomposition. No identification was found nearby, and a physical identification was not possible, the news release said.

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An autopsy performed Tuesday failed to determine the cause of death, but the Sheriff’s Office said there was no evidence of foul play.

On Wednesday, deputies along with search and rescue members returned to the location where the remains were found.

“Based on findings during that search, as well as other circumstances surrounding the condition and location of the body, the Sheriff’s Office believes the remains may be those of Kurt Andrew Collins, who is known to live in several encampments along that portion of the Yuba River,” the news release said.

A DNA analysis will be used to help determine the identity of the remains, a process that the Sheriff’s Office said could take several months.

Wolf was shot Aug. 8, 2016, while participating in a search for a 75-year-old man missing from Tulare County. He and fellow searchers were about three miles west of Washington when they heard gunshots coming from the mountainside. Wolf was wounded in the hip.

Since that shooting, multiple attempts have been made to locate Collins, the Sheriff’s Office said.

Collins was identified as a “strong person of interest” in the 2016 killing of Mahoney, who was found dead outside his summer cabin in the town of Washington on July 18, 2016.

Collins also was considered a person of interest in the disappearance of Murphy, who was reported missing out of Washington in 2003. Murphy was a gold prospector who had reportedly worked with Collins.

Cathy Locke: 916-321-5287, @lockecathy