Search officials in Sitka confirmed that the body of 19-year-old Scott Falzerano, Jr., was located this morning at about 9:25 AM, near the Indian River Trail.
Falzerano’s family reported him missing on Tuesday, and teams had searched the Indian River Valley for the past three days.
The Sitka police said that Falzerano appears to have died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound. The case has been referred to the medical examiner for confirmation, and the police are conducting an investigation.
Falzerano was found by a canine team from Sitka Mountain Rescue, according to search and rescue captain Don Kluting. Search dogs had signaled an “alert” on his scent late yesterday (Thu 11-14-13), but the search was called off due to darkness and weather. Teams returned to the area this morning (Fri 11-15-13) and located Falzerano within about 20 minutes.
Earlier in the week, search teams had traveled much farther up Indian River valley, covering a lot of ground in the hope that Falzerano was perhaps injured and able to respond. But as the week wore on, the search focused closer to town, and to the site where Falzerano had last been seen on Monday afternoon: on Sawmill Creek Road near Indian River Road.
“There’s data that’s compiled nationwide, worldwide, that shows that 90% of [such] cases will be found within 1.5mi of point last seen,” Kluting said. “So we were able to apply that, and use that as a factor to determine our search area. And those segments aren’t easy segments, you know, we’re talking dense underbrush and the canopy, literally in places where you can’t see your hand in front of your face. So the searchers were really faced with a difficult task and did a phenomenal job.”
Falzerano was found near the intersection of the Indian River Trail and Cross Trail.
Kluting estimated that over the course of the week, nearly a hundred people took part in the search, including personnel from the Coast Guard, Forest Service, Park Service, State Troopers, Red Cross, and Sitka police and fire departments – as well as Falzerano’s family and friends.
“I’m happy to say that at the end of the day we were able to bring some closure for the family, and bring Scott home,” Kluting said. “But unfortunately it’s not the outcome we were hoping for.”
Falzerano graduated from Sitka High School in 2012. His parents and siblings live in Sitka.