Utah Shed Hunter Finds Skeletal Remains of Man Who Went Missing 5 Years Ago

The missing man has been identified as Matthew Jay Broncho of Fort Hall, Idaho
Natalie Krebs Avatar
Matthew J Broncho's remains were discovered by a shed hunter and recovered by search and rescue in April.

The Box Elder County Search and Rescue team assisting in the search for then-unidentified human remains on April 27. Photo courtesy of the Box Elder County Sheriff's Office

A shed hunter who discovered human remains in Utah’s remote Hansel Mountains late last month has provided law enforcement with key evidence in an unsolved missing person’s case. The remains have been identified as Matthew Jay Broncho, a Shoshone-Bannock tribal member who was reported missing from Idaho in March 2019.

The Box Elder County Sheriff’s Office received word on April 27, 2024 that a shed hunter, whose name has not been made public, had discovered skeletal remains in northeast Utah, according to a press release from the agency on Friday. Officials from the sheriff’s office joined the Utah Office of the Medical Examiner and the Box Elder County Search and Rescue Team to locate the remains on the slopes southeast of Snowville, between the Idaho state line and the Great Salt Lake. The teams recovered the remains and identified them at the Office of the Medical Examiner using dental records. 

“We extend our condolences to the family of Matthew Broncho,” chief deputy sheriff Cade Palmer said in a statement. “Although this is difficult news to receive and there are still unanswered questions, we hope they can find some comfort in knowing that he has been found.”

The body of missing person Matt Broncho has been identified in Utah.
A photo of Matt Broncho that was widely distributed by friends and family during the five years he was missing. Photo via Matthew Jay Broncho Missing Person Reward Fundraiser

It’s not immediately clear how Broncho may have died or if he died at the location where his body was discovered. The case remains an active investigation and the sheriff’s office has declined to release any further information, including whether officials suspect foul play.

According to a Facebook fundraiser Broncho, then 34, was last seen at his residence on the Fort Hall Reservation of the Shoshone-Bannock Tribes in late winter 2019 (the exact date isn’t clear). There was no indication that Broncho had planned to leave home for an extended period and, by March 22, 2019, his mother had grown worried enough to track his cell phone “using GPS.” She traced it to his pickup truck, a dark gray Toyota Tacoma that was parked on the I-84 Exit 7 ramp near Snowville. Broncho’s cell phone and wallet containing his driver’s license, tribal ID, and bank cards were found locked inside the vehicle.

Although the fundraiser states Broncho’s mother contacted the Box Elder County Sheriff’s Office dispatch that same day to report the truck and her son’s disappearance, the sheriff’s office stated in its release that it had received word of Broncho’s disappearance two days later on March 24 from the Fort Hall Police Department. A search was conducted by 50-plus members of multiple law enforcement agencies, tribal officials, friends, family, and volunteers without success. Broncho’s dog, a 3-year-old red Dachshund, was discovered near the I-84 Exit 5 ramp on March 27, 2019, wandering a few miles west of where the truck was found.

Matt Broncho's red Dachshund dog.
Broncho’s red Dachshund, who was reported missing in March 2019 and located nearly a week later by the same highway where Broncho’s truck was discovered. Photo by Matt Broncho, via Facebook

“Since [Broncho’s] disappearance, a joint investigation between the Box Elder County Sheriff’s Office and the Fort Hall Police Department has been ongoing,” Palmer said.

Broncho had previously participated in Shoshone-Bannock relay and rodeo events, and had run for Land Use Commissioner in the Tribe’s general election the year before he went missing.

“We kindly request privacy and respect as we come to terms with the loss of our beloved Matthew,” KM Clelan Ephraim, who identified herself as Broncho’s cousin, wrote in a Facebook post Friday. “We are grateful for the support and love of our family and friends who helped in our 5 year search for Matthew. We find solace knowing that we are surrounded by caring individuals who contributed and offered prayer.”

The public announcement on Friday that Broncho had been identified coincided with the Biden Administration’s proclamation that Missing and Murdered Indigenous Persons Awareness Day will now be observed on May 5 each year.