Colorado Treasure Hunter Confirmed Dead Nearly 7 Months After Disappearing During Search for $2 Million Chest of Gold
The remains of Randy Bilyeu, 54, we found in New Mexico, police confirmed
The remains of long-missing treasure hunter Randy Bilyeu have been found in New Mexico, the Santa Fe Police department confirmed in a media release on Wednesday.
Bilyeu, 54, was found north of Sandoval County’s Cochiti Lake along the Rio Grande River, the Santa Fe Office of the Medical Investigator said. Police said their investigation into Bilyeu’s death is still active. A cause of death has not been released.
The discovery comes nearly seven months after Bilyeu went missing in January after setting out on the Rio Grande River in a raft with his dog in search of a treasure chest.
The chest, hidden over five years ago by antiques dealer Forrest Fenn, contains an estimated $2 million in gold and jewels. It is rumored to be located somewhere in the Rocky Mountains, as indicated by a cryptic poem in Fenn’s 2010 memoir The Three of the Chase.
Bilyeu, a Broomfield, Colorado, resident, was last seen buying an inflatable raft, compass and wetsuit on Jan. 5, before setting out on the river.
He was reported missing by ex-wife Linda Bilyeu just over a week later. His raft, and dog, Leo, were spotted on the riverbank by helicopter crews just one day later.
Throughout the following days, New Mexico state police searched the nearby canyons and mesas, eventually suspending efforts, the Associated Press said in January.
Bilyeu isn’t the only victim of Fenn’s treasure quest – a woman in Texas got lost while searching near Bandolier National Monument for the treasure in New Mexico in 2013. She was found by rescuers after spending a night lost in the mountains, according to the AP.
Earlier this year, Fenn, 85, told PEOPLE of Bilyeu’s disappearance, “I don’t feel responsible for what Randy has done, but I wanted to be part of the rescue.”
Fenn chartered helicopters for three days looking up and down the river for Fenn, and paid for some searchers’ expenses.
Fenn wrote a 24-line poem in his memoir, that he says contains nine clues at to where the treasure is buried. For example, one stanza reads, “Begin it where warm waters halt/and take it in the canyon down,/not far, but too far to walk./Put in below the home of Brown.”
The eccentric art dealer and decorated Vietnam War combat pilot said he hid the treasure for two main reasons: to lure people away from their TV sets and into the healthy wilderness and to give working class Americans, still suffering from the recession, a chance at sudden, blessed wealth.
“I’ve had so much fun over the last 75 years looking for arrowheads and fossils and strange things out in the forests and along the river banks, why not give others the opportunity to do the same thing?” he told PEOPLE.