Investigators have identified remains found near Lower Table Rock last week as those of a Central Point man who was last seen in May 2007 and was known to camp in secluded caves on the rock.
The Jackson County Sheriff's Department worked with the Oregon State Police crime lab to confirm the identity of Randy Sherman Dow using fingerprints.
Dow, who was 44 when he disappeared, was last seen by his mother, Shirley Wade, on May 21, 2007, sheriff's Lt. Rich Fogarty said. She reported him missing a few days later, on May 24.
Investigators believe he died around that time, most likely in a fall. All evidence indicates his death was accidental, the Sheriff's Department said.
Dow had left home on a bike, taking few possessions with him, Wade told authorities when she reported him missing. She said he had gone away on extended absences voluntarily before, but he usually returned after some time away.
"He just wanted to be alone," Fogarty said. "He didn't work and didn't trust others."
Dow's friends and family described him to investigators as something of a loner who didn't strike up friendships easily.
"People he was closest to knew he went off by himself," Fogarty said.
One of those friends reported that Dow sometimes stayed in a cave somewhere on Lower Table Rock, but declined to show deputies the location.
Investigators didn't find the possible campsite, and the remote and treacherous location of Dow's fall prevented anyone from discovering his fate until last week. Hikers clambering through rough terrain off the main trail up Lower Table Rock spotted Dow's body at about 10:45 a.m. Dec. 30 and notified authorities. The hikers were reportedly headed off-trail in search of wildlife photography opportunities.
Deputies worked through the day to recover the body and other evidence, using a helicopter to reach the rugged area on the south side of Lower Table Rock.
Dow apparently had tumbled down a rock shaft, knocking down large boulders, some of which had fallen on top of him, Fogarty said.
Fogarty said the site would have been an unlikely location for a suicide, but was consistent with a place someone might have fallen while seeking seclusion.
The sheltered location protected the body from the elements and from scattering by animals, leaving investigators with more than just teeth or DNA from bones that they typically have to rely on to identify bodies that have lain undiscovered for an extended time, he said.
"It was almost mummified," Fogarty said of the body.
Crime lab technicians were able to rehydrate tissue on Dow's hands and obtain a clear print from the left thumb, which matched fingerprints on file for Dow, who had felony convictions for assault of a police officer and for being a felon in possession of a weapon.
"We were 99 percent sure who it was because we had an ID with the remains, but we needed scientific proof," Fogarty said.
The sheriff's department had collected DNA from Dow's mother and submitted it to a national database maintained at the University of North Texas Center for Human Identification. A state law enacted a year ago requires that for all missing-person cases, but the time-consuming DNA confirmation wasn't necessary in this case.
Reach reporter Anita Burke at 776-4485, or e-mail email@example.com.