Rust disappearance is no cold case
Posted: Wednesday, Mar 31st, 2010
By ERIC MULLENS
SAGUACHE — The BLM dirt road off of the highway is filled with bumps and gullies. The chico country is rough and dry and doesn’t seem to provide many landmarks, but to Saguache county lawmen every bump is familiar because BLM Road 5300 leads off of Highway 285 to the residence of Michael Rust.
It is very familiar territory to Sheriff Mike Norris and Saguache County Sheriff’s Office Investigator Mark Werts. Both men, and many others have traveled the road from the highway to the Rust home many, many times since early April 2009.
Michael Rust, 56, disappeared from this area one year ago today and both seasoned lawmen wonder what might have been if one of the phone calls made that evening had been directed to their office.
The narrow rough road winds from the highway towards Rust’s retirement home built against the hillside. This is four-wheel drive or off road motorcycle and ATV country. It isn’t that far from Saguache, but unless one knows the area or is looking for it, the home blends almost into the hillside.
Sheriff Norris stops his four-wheel drive SUV on the road, and he and Werts exit the vehicle. Norris points out where a bloody fleece lined vest was found, where blood was discovered on the ground and where a broken revolver handle was taken into evidence. Werts walks into the brush and kneels. He points to a motorcycle track, one day less than one year old. “This was made by Mike Rust’s motorcycle,” he says.
The fact the tire track remains on the eve of the one year anniversary of the man’s disappearance is chilling, even on a warm, breezy spring day.
Sometime after 7 p.m. on Tues., March 31, 2009 Mike Rust went missing. He had gone to the store and bought groceries earlier in the evening and when he returned to his remote home something made him think his home had been broken into. He called a friend, Mary Ann Bravaria of Salida and told her he thought someone had broken in. Within an hour he called her again and said he had seen someone and was going to follow their tracks. Investigators believe the first call was made from Rust’s car, and then later he called from his cell phone from within his home and then left on a red and white colored Honda CRF 250 Enduro motorcycle that belonged to his friend Jerry Mosier, looking for whoever may have broken into his home.
The cell phone and the groceries would be found on the kitchen table by family members who came down from the Colorado Springs area when their loved one failed to return phone calls. They would later say there were some things in the home that didn’t look quite right, items sitting in the wrong place. Maybe this is what Mike Rust saw one year ago today.
There was no clear evidence of a break in at the home, no smashed windows, or forced open doors. Only one item has ever been listed as missing, that .22 caliber western style revolver. One of the two wooden hand grips of that .22 caliber revolver was recovered by investigators in the open fields near Rust’s home.
Saguache authorities were notified of the missing person on April 2, 2009, almost two full days after he is believed to have gone missing.
Michael Rust and Mosier’s motorcycle were gone; what was found was troubling to investigators. The motorcycle track, a four-wheeled vehicle’s track nearby, footprints, the revolver’s grip and Rust’s fleece vest, bloodstained as if he had been struck on the head from behind.
Norris and his team collected the evidence and the blood samples from the vest were sent to a private DNA laboratory, LabCorp, of North Carolina, and shortly thereafter confirmed to be Rust’s. “It was important to get that confirmation quickly,” Norris said. The cost was borne from the sheriff’s budget, a little over $2,000, which had been earmarked for overtime.
The time element has been a large part of the case.
Last week Werts and Saguache Undersheriff Dan Warwick met with Colorado Bureau of Investigation agents...