A Southern Oregon University professor of environmental education and his class had wrapped up an ecological study of the Parsnip Lakes area east of Ashland Friday and were returning to their cars when they happened upon the body of a Klamath Falls fugitive.

The professor, Michael Parker, and his Natural History of the Pacific Northwest class were hiking through a forested area when Parker spotted the body “out in the open,” said SOU spokesman Ryan Brown.

Parker rerouted students around the area, and only a handful of students near the front of the group caught a glimpse of the body, later identified by Jackson County deputy medical examiner Randy Arnold and an OSP detective as 32-year-old Christopher Sellars of Klamath Falls.

Brown said staff from the university’s Department of Student Support and Intervention were immediately contacted and reached out to students on the field trip. He said Parker declined to talk to the media.

The State Medical Examiner’s Office has since determined that Sellars died of “exposure and hypothermia.”

Sellars was last seen Dec. 19 fleeing into the woods near Hyatt Lake following a violent high-speed chase.

“It was in the mid-30s and raining the night he was last seen and that’s prime conditions for hypothermia, especially if you’re not prepared,” said Sgt. Bob Fenner of the Oregon State Police.

State troopers had attempted to stop Sellars for a traffic violation near milepost 58 on Highway 66 in Klamath County, but he headed west in an attempt to elude officers.

During the pursuit, Sellars and passengers Levi Cortez, 25, and William Noble, 24, allegedly threw an incendiary device made from a gas can at state police vehicles.

Sellars finally came to a stop near milepost 18 where he and Noble fled on foot. Cortez surrendered to police, and the next morning, Noble also was taken into custody. However, efforts by state police and Jackson County sheriff’s deputies to find Sellars were unsuccessful.

Police had been following leads on Sellars’ whereabouts ever since he went missing, Fenner said.

In December, a Jackson County grand jury indicted Sellars, Noble and Cortez on charges of attempted first-degree assault, unlawful manufacture and possession of a destructive device and the manufacture, delivery and possession of methamphetamine.

Sellars also was charged with attempting to elude a police officer and being a felon in possession of a firearm. Police recovered a 9 mm pistol from the vehicle, and Cortez allegedly told arresting officers that Noble had made comments about shooting at the pursuing troopers, according to court documents.

Cortez is currently being held in the Jackson County Jail on $500,000 bail and Noble on $800,000 bail.

Reach reporter Teresa Thomas at 541-776-4497 or tthomas@mailtribune.com. Follow her at www.twitter.com/teresathomas_mt.