Remains of North Dakota man reported missing in 2015 found in Montana

Posted at 1:09 PM, May 03, 2018
and last updated 2018-05-03 15:09:56-04

(GREAT FALLS) The Gallatin County Sheriff’s Office has recovered the remains of Patrick J. Fitzpatrick of Bismarck, North Dakota, who was reported missing in 2015. His body was found on Saturday, April 28. 

His vehicle was found stuck in a field south of Willow Creek on July 4, 2015. 

According to the Charley Project website that tracks reports of missing people, Fitzpatrick was last seen in Bozeman on July 2, 2015. He visited a bank and was seen on the bank’s surveillance camera footage at 9:51 a.m.

His SUV and camping trailer were found abandoned on July 3, stuck in the mud at the edge of a pea field south of Willow Creek.

Fitzpatrick, a retired ophthalmologist, made regular trips to Montana to take photographs and often stayed at the Rainbow Motel in Bozeman. He had called the motel to ask about a room on July 2, and they told him no rooms would be available until 2:00 p.m. He never showed up at the motel and it’s unclear where he spent the night of July 2-3.

At that time searchers combed the area for four days, using ground crews, search dogs, helicopters, airplanes, and drones, but were unable to find him.

The public provided numerous leads and reported sightings over the next few months, all of which were followed up by Sheriff’s investigators.  

The Sheriff’s Office, with Search & Rescue volunteers, continued to analyze data and develop new search plans. 

In March 2017, a large ground search covered the drainages north of the vehicle including using SAR divers to search Willow Creek and a nearby pond, but nothing was found.

Last month, SAR deputies and search managers tried again. With no progress on any of the leads, they reviewed what had been done and thought about what else they could try.

Last Saturday, 26 searchers, eight dogs, and several Sheriff’s deputies covered the area. A bloodhound found Fitzgerald’s remains approximately a mile east of where his vehicle was found, on a rolling hillside in a spot that had kept it hiden from view from any distance.

Gallatin County Sheriff Brian Gootkin said in a press release, “We are pleased that we could bring Dr. Fitzpatrick’s family some closure.  The state medical examiner’s office will perform the examination of the remains but at this time, there is no indication of foul play.  Missing person investigations are very difficult.  We used every tool we had and even used some technology from Bridger Aerospace without success but we never gave up.  Hundreds of man hours were expended on this case and I want to thank the Search and Rescue volunteers for their dedication.”

We will update you if we get more information.

Patrick Fitzpatrick

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