The identification of the remains was announced publicly on Wednesday afternoon, Jan. 6, by the Grand County Sheriff’s Office. A news release stated that the sheriff’s office had received confirmation from the Utah Medical Examiner’s Office that “the human remains found on Dec. 24, 2015, have been positively identified as that of Lance Leeroy Arellano, the suspect in the shooting of State Park Ranger Brody Young.”
Sheriff’s department officials said the Utah Medical Examiner’s Office identified the remains as Arellano’s using dental records.
Young spoke at a press conference at the Poison Spider Mesa trailhead on Jan. 7, and used the opportunity to publicly thank all those who had searched for his assailant.
“I’m so grateful for the hard work and dedication of everyone involved,” Young later told The Times-Independent. “It really closes a chapter, and answered a lot of questions.”
According to investigators, Young had been shot from behind during a routine check of Arellano’s vehicle at the Poison Spider Mesa trailhead on state Route 279 on the evening of Nov. 19, 2010. Young returned fire and managed to crawl about 30 feet back to his vehicle to radio for help.
Young suffered nine bullet wounds and underwent multiple surgeries before ultimately recovering from the injuries.
Based on bloody clothing found in the immediate area, officials believed Young wounded the 40-year-old Arellano during the confrontation, but searchers were unable to find the suspected assailant, despite a massive manhunt in the rugged desert terrain near SR 279.
A $30,000 reward was posted for information leading to Arellano, dead or alive, but no trace of the suspect was found for more than five years.
Then, in late December 2015, Moab natives Caleb Shumway, 23, and his 15-year-old brother, Jarom, decided to methodically search the area where Arellano was last known to have been, near the Tangri-La Ranch more than 20 miles southwest of Moab and past the end of SR 279, which runs north of the Colorado River.
“We were pretty confident that we’d find something,” said Caleb Shumway, who was home visiting Moab during the holiday break from his studies at Utah Valley University. “It was only a matter of time.”
In the late afternoon of Dec. 23, near the end of the second day of searching, the Shumway brothers found what appeared to be a human bone, with a backpack containing a pistol and ammunition that had been stashed nearby. The following day, Caleb Shumway led Grand County Sheriff Steve White and three other deputies to the site, where a complete skeleton was found in a small underground opening amid the large sandstone boulders.
At the time of the discovery, local law enforcement officials were highly confident that the remains were Arellano’s, but they awaited official confirmation from the medical examiner’s office, which took another couple of weeks.
Young personally thanked the Shumway brothers during a visit to their family’s home on Christmas Day.
“[Christmas Eve] was five years to the day that I came home from the hospital,” Young said.
In a written statement issued after last week’s announcement that the remains found by the Shumways had been positively identified, Young said he and his family had long ago forgiven Arellano.
“My family and I want everyone to know we have been and are extremely blessed,” Young said. “For many reasons, we were able to put the events of this unfortunate incident behind us several years ago. Due in large part to our faith, we have completely forgiven Lance Arellano. This event has strengthened us as a family and individually ... and for that we are grateful.”
He also expressed sympathy for the Arellano family, especially Arellano’s mother and daughter.
“Five years of uncertainty is a long time. We hope this brings closure and allows them to move forward,” he said. “We wish nothing but the best for them.”
“I do feel for his family,” Young said again this week during an interview. “Especially with them getting the news on Christmas.”
Young still works as a Utah State Parks ranger but is now the assistant coordinator for the agency’s statewide boating program as well as still serving as a state law enforcement ranger.
“I love my job,” he said. “I enjoy serving the public and feel satisfaction in helping those I contact.”
Young and his wife Wendy are the parents of three children.
“We’re very grateful to have this closure,” Wendy Young said earlier this week.
“There’s so much good that goes on in our community, and we really appreciate all the love and support everyone has shown,” Brody Young added.
Last week’s news also paves the way for Caleb Shumway and his brother to collect the reward, which was pledged in the form of $10,000 each by three separate agencies — the U.S. Marshals Service, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and Utah State Parks.
Sheriff White said this week that the required paperwork has been submitted to each of the agencies, and that it might take a few weeks or more for the separate rewards to be issued.
“We’ll just have to wait while [the rewards] are processed,” White said, noting that each agency has its own procedures for disbursing and publicizing the reward money.
White also joined with Young and others in thanking all those who assisted in the search efforts over the past five years.
“It’s nice to finally have some closure and some answers,” White said.