(1st REPORT) Human remains believed to be two people that were reported missing in 2017 were found Wednesday near a rest area in Mineral County.
Mineral County Sheriff Mike Toth tells MTN News that huckleberry pickers found human bones near the Dena Mora rest area, about 200 yards west of the off-ramp.
The rest area is near the Montana/Idaho border along Interstate 90.
Sheriff Toth believes the bones could be tied to a woman and man from California whose car was found at the rest area on December 2, 2017.
At that time, several law enforcement agencies searched for the couple, but they did not find them.
Sheriff Toth says the bones will be taken to the Montana State Crime Lab in Missoula for analysis.
(UPDATE, 1:35 p.m.) Once deputies confirmed the remains Tuesday, the Department of Criminal Investigations (DCI) assisted the county in securing the crime scene and recovering the remains.
The remains were taken to the Montana State Crime Lab in Missoula Wednesday where DNA evidence will likely be used to identify the two people.
Mineral County officials received a call from Issaquah, Washington in December of 2017 alerting them of possible missing persons in the county. At the time, Deputies found an abandoned vehicle matching the description of the missing people at the Dena Rest Stop and found snow covering the vehicle.
A search was conducted by Mineral County Search and Rescue with help from Sanders County and Kootenai County in Idaho. Authorities were not able to locate the missing people at the time, or in a separate springtime search, according to Sheriff Toth.
Sheriff Toth said authorities believed the two may have died by suicide due to a letter that was mailed to the mother by one of the victims.
He told MTN News he has strong reason to believe the remains are associated with the missing persons cold case: “We have no other missing persons out there. The time frame matches, some of the clothing that was found matches what we believe they were wearing. So, it's pointing that way."
Sheriff Toth said he has already contacted family of one of the possible victims: "I thought, you know, they deserve to know that there's a chance that we found their child and they were thankful, and I want them to hear from us first before they saw the news."
Results from DNA evidence may take several months to be released.