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Remains may help solve puzzle

Bones tentatively identified as those of Central Point man missing since 2000

Friends of a Central Point hunter missing since 2000 in remote Coos County believe the discovery of his remains Friday proves that he didn't fake his own death as police once theorized.

Skeletal remains found in a steep ravine were tentatively identified as those of Christopher Lapping, 46, Coos County sheriff's deputies said.

The bones, found by a sheriff's lieutenant on a last-ditch search, were near where his pickup truck had landed about 300 feet down a steep embankment off a remote logging road.

Countless searches by Lapping's friends, police and even two cadaver-sniffing dogs had failed to locate Lapping after his disappearance.

— Shortly after his September 2000 disappearance, investigators said the most likely theory was that Lapping crashed his own pickup and made off with &

36;400 he had withdrawn earlier from an ATM in Myrtle Point.

Friends on Tuesday said the findings prove their longstanding belief that police were wrong.

He was a loving, caring man, friend Dayle Mallory said Tuesday. How he died, I don't know. But he didn't walk away and leave us.

I knew he didn't do it, she said.

Moreover, Mallory said she believes sheriff's detectives owe Dawn Hull, Lapping's longtime girlfriend, an apology for implying that Lapping staged the crash to abandon her.

He loved her more than life itself, Mallory said. There was no way he would have left her, but that's all investigators wanted to go with.

Coos County Sheriff Andy Jackson on Tuesday distanced his agency from earlier reports, saying that police never said that's what he actually did and offered no apology for investigating that theory.

He said no cause of death has been determined, but there was no indication of foul play.

Jackson said his investigators will be conducting a follow-up investigation.

I'm certain it will bring to rest a lot of unanswered questions, eventually, Jackson said.

Lapping left home Sept. 10, 2000, on a one-day bow-hunt trip for elk in the Tioga Mountain area of Coos County.

His pickup truck was discovered a week later more than 300 feet below a gravel logging road about 25 miles northeast of Coquille.

No blood was found at the scene, and his bow was still in the pickup, Mallory said.

Mallory said police told Hull that they didn't find the &

36;400, leading Mallory to continue believing that foul play was involved.

Police informed Hull of their finding Monday.

Reached by telephone, a grief-stricken Hull said only that it was always easy for police to believe the staged disappearance theory despite pleas to dissuade them.

The feelings I have are nothing different than what I've had all along, Hull said Tuesday.

Reach reporter Mark Freeman at 776-4470, or e-mail