UPDATE: Missing Sams Valley Man Died of 'Hypothermia'

Rick Ward was reported missing after friends and family—who last heard from him on Sunday—did not see him on Monday or Tuesday.

Posted: Apr. 11, 2018 11:06 AM
Updated: Apr. 11, 2018 5:22 PM

UPDATE: Investigators believe that the death of Rick Ward was accidental. The conclusion comes from an autopsy that was performed on Wednesday by Dr. James Olson, MD.

Dr. Olson concluded that, although Ward had sustained visible injuries to his head and limbs, those injuries were not fatal. Ward may have fallen at 'ground level' and received those minor wounds—but, JCSO said, his death was most likely caused by hypothermia.

Evidence of alcohol consumption at the scene suggest that drinking may have played a role, detectives believe. However, toxicology results are still pending at this time.

(Updated as of 5:00 p.m. on Wednesday, April 11)

EAGLE POINT, Ore. — The body of 45-year-old Richard "Rick" Ward Jr.—a Sams Valley man reported missing on Tuesday—has now been recovered, according to the Jackson County Sheriff's Office (JCSO). Ward's body was found on Tuesday after a search by the JCSO search and rescue (SAR) team.

A woman called to report Ward as missing on Tuesday around 7:15 a.m. in the morning. She said that Ward had been off-roading in his truck on Sunday near Butte Falls Highway and Derby Road when his truck got stuck in mud. A friend helped Ward free his truck from the mud.

Detectives believe that Ward's truck became stuck again as he was trying to leave the area. Friends and family were unable to reach Ward by phone after that.

Deputies and SAR teams joined Ward's friends and family in searching the area on Tuesday. Around 2:10 p.m., an SAR K9 unit found Ward's body near a gravel quarry, about 1/8 of a mile from where his truck was found.

Although an autopsy is planned for today, detectives report that Ward had head injuries 'consistent with a ground level fall.'

The investigation is ongoing, and there is currently no evidence to suggest foul play. This article will be updated when and if more information emerges.

Anyone with information about the incident can call the JCSO tip line at (541) 770-8333. Refer to case #18-6958.

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