Autopsies In on Family Who Died Trying to Live Off the Grid

Christine and Rebecca Vance and latter's teen son likely died of malnutrition, hypothermia
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Sep 1, 2023 2:17 PM CDT
Autopsies In on Family Who Died Trying to Live Off the Grid
This selfie photo shows Trevala Jara, left, and Christine Vance posing for a photo together in July 2022 in Colorado. Vance left with her sister and nephew to try and live off the grid at a remote campsite in Colorado's Rocky Mountains.   (Trevala Jara via AP)

The stepsister of a Colorado woman who was found dead along with her sister and teenage son at a remote Rocky Mountain campsite says the women fled into the wilderness after struggling to cope with societal changes in recent years, but they were unequipped to survive off the grid. Exposed to several feet of snow and chills below zero, and with no food found at their camp, Christine Vance, Rebecca Vance, and Rebecca's 14-year-old son likely died of malnutrition and hypothermia, according to autopsies released this week, per the AP. Authorities haven't released the boy's name. His autopsy revealed he was only 40 pounds when he died, per the Colorado Sun. The camp and the teen's body were first discovered by a hiker wandering off a trail in July.

The Gunnison County Sheriff's Office found the two women's bodies the following day when they searched the campsite and unzipped the tent. All three had been dead for some time. Strewn across the ground were empty food containers and survival books. Nearby, a lean-to extended near a firepit. The sisters from Colorado Springs, about an hour south of Denver, had been planning to live off the grid since the fall of 2021, says stepsister Trevala Jara. They felt that the pandemic and politics brought out the worst in humanity. They weren't conspiracy theorists, says Jara, but Rebecca Vance "thought that with everything changing and all, that this world is going to end." They "wanted to be away from people and the influences of what people can do to each other."

Christine Vance wasn't at first convinced by the idea to escape society, but Jara says "she just changed her mind because she didn't want our sister and nephew to be by themselves." Rebecca and Christine Vance told others they were traveling to another state for a family emergency. They told Jara of their plans, but not where they would set up camp. They watched YouTube videos to prepare for their life in the wilderness, but they were woefully underprepared. Jara says she tried everything short of kidnapping to keep them from leaving, but nothing worked. Now, Jara wants to warn others about the risks of surviving in the wilderness. "Why didn't you listen to me and my husband?" she asks of her deceased loved ones.

(More Colorado stories.)

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