A sheriff’s department media liaison has questioned statements made by the family of a California woman who was found in Zion National Park nearly two weeks after she went missing there on October 6.
As CrimeOnline previously reported, 38-year-old Holly Suzanne Courtier was found alive on Sunday after a witness reported a sighting in the park, where Courtier had last been seen arriving via shuttle bus to a parking area near multiple hiking trails. She did not appear for the return shuttle trip scheduled later the same day.
Authorities initially provided very few details about the circumstances of Courtier’s rescue, but have since commented on the mysterious disappearance, after Courtier’s daughter told CNN that her mother hit her head on a tree not long into her time at the national park, and was too disoriented and weak to seek help. The daughter said that Courtier stayed close to a water source — the Virgin River — and indicated that she did not have access to food.
“She told me she was so dehydrated she couldn’t open her mouth,” Courier’s daughter said in a text message exchange with CNN.
On Monday night, hours after the daughter’s interview was published, Zion National Park’s Acting Chief of Interpretation Amanda Rowland told Fox News that Courtier did not appear to be in desperate need of medical help when she was found near the Virgin River on Sunday.
“She was able to leave of her own capability with minimal assistance,” Rowland told Fox News.
On Wednesday, a member of the Washington County Sheriff’s Search and Rescue team, which aided in the search effort, appeared to further challenge to family’s claims in an interview with ABC 4 News.
Sgt. Darrell Cashin revealed for the first time that Courtier, who did not have her cell phone with her, left her home in California in the middle of the night. It is unclear what, if anything, Courtier told her family about specific travel plans, though her daughter previously said the Courtier was an experienced hiker and was traveling the U.S. after losing her nanny job due to the pandemic.
“[Searchers] had everything about Holly they possibly could’ve gotten to give an indication of what her behavior was like and where she might have gone,” Cashin told ABC 4 News.
“Understand, there’s a lot of country up there. If you go off-trail, it will be virtually impossible to find somebody unless they want to be found.”
Cashin also noted that water in the Virgin River contained high levels of toxic algae when it was last tested in July, and believes it is likely Courtier would have died if the river had been her primary water source.
“If she had been drinking that water, unless she had some really high immune system, she would’ve been very, very ill and probably unable to come out on her own,” Cashin says. “She either took a lot of water with her or had another clean water source that was near here, but the Virgin River is not that source.”
The sheriff’s sergeant appeared to corroborate the Zion National Park official’s account that Courtier appeared to be in relatively good condition when she was rescued.
“Physically, she seemed to be in a condition that did not warrant an ambulance and they felt was comfortable to release her to her family to address,” he said, adding that Courtier herself may be able to fill in the blanks of the story.
“The statements that the family is giving and the statements that the park is giving don’t add up,” Cashin said. “Those are the types of questions I think everybody has. I think the place where that question can be answered is with her.”
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