Law enforcement officers solved the question to the pending riddle—Where did Jason McVean go?—nine years after the fugitive and two partners reportedly stole a truck, shot and killed Cortez (Colo.) Police Officer Dale Claxton, and then vanished. Based upon witness accounts of the 1998 murder, it is believed McVean pulled the trigger.

His accomplices, apparent suicides, were later found.

But McVean's whereabouts remained a mystery, despite an extensive air, foot, and horseback search that lasted for weeks across rocky canyon terrain following Claxton's death. More than 500 officers from 54 police agencies across the West participated in the hunt, trekking across the Four Corners region where Utah, New Mexico, Arizona, and Colorado come together.

Nine years later, McVean continued to elude the police. Until last week, when a Utah rancher tending his cattle discovered a partial jawbone. A dental record match confirmed that the remains belonged to McVean.

Sue Claxton, the wife of the slain officer, still resides in Cortez, Colo., today. Their 20-year-old son followed in his father's footsteps and recently joined the local police force.

Cortez Police Chief Roy Lance told The Caspar Star-Tribune in Wyoming that while there is a sense of much needed closure to the case, questions still remain. "I think she's (Claxton) relieved, but we all would have liked to have a person to talk to so we'd get some answers," says Lance.

For while the riddle of what happened to McVean has been solved, none of the items recovered along with his remains—an AK-47, ammunition, five pipe bombs, four jugs of water, some food, and a first-aid kit—explains what the Colorado trio was planning nine years ago.