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He Went Missing, but Friends Didn't Buy Family's Story

'The Atlantic' looks at a murder in small-town Colorado
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 31, 2020 8:47 AM CDT
Updated Apr 4, 2020 1:45 PM CDT

(Newser) – Jake Millison disappeared in May 2015, and it made no sense to the 29-year-old's friends in the small town of Gunnison, Colo. His mother, Deb, told them he'd dropped his phone in an irrigation ditch, which is why he wasn't answering. When police came around, she told them he'd gone to Reno with someone she didn't know, probably to go camping. Later, she changed her story to say they had argued before he left. Either way, it was no big deal, she said. Her son was just finally heading out on his own, leaving the family's ranch. As it turns out, it was a big deal, and Rachel Monroe unspools it all at the Atlantic. The story details the family tensions, between Jake and Deb; between Jake and his sister, Steph; and between Jake and Steph's husband, Dave. All were living together at the ranch, which Jake was set to inherit upon his mother's death.

In fact, Jake and his mom lived on the property alone for years, with Jake doing all the ranch work without pay. The promise of inheritance was supposed to be payment enough. Then Steph and her husband moved in, and the friction went off the charts. The story suggests Jake may have stayed missing if not for his friends' persistence. They kept bugging the county sheriff's office, which called in the state Bureau of Investigations in 2017. Finally, investigators uncovered Jake's buried body at the ranch. Deb, who had stage 4 breast cancer, confessed and claimed she shot her son and buried him herself. Some doubt that, given that she weighed 97 pounds at the time. She got 40 years and died in prison. Dave is serving 10 years and Steph 24 years for moving the body, which they say they discovered on their own and reburied, in part to protect Deb. But not everyone is buying this version of events. Read the full story for the full tale. (Read more Longform stories.)

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