BANGOR, Maine — The Maine office of the chief medical examiner has positively identified the skeletal remains found on Oct. 14 in Redington Township near the Appalachian Trail as Geraldine Largay, the Maine Warden Service announced Friday.
The identification of the 66-year-old deceased hiker from Brentwood, Tennessee, was made through DNA analysis, according to Cpl. John MacDonald of the warden service.
After examination of the remains and working in conjunction with information from investigators on the case, the chief medical examiner determined Largay’s death was accidental, caused by lack of food and water and environmental exposure.
“These findings now bring closure to one of Maine’s most unique and challenging search and rescue incidents,” MacDonald said, referring to the efforts to find Largay that involved hundreds of people combing the rugged, forested area after she disappeared more than two years ago.
The cellphone found in Largay’s possession was examined by the Maine State Police Computer Crime Lab. Information found on the cellphone concluded that Largay reached Orbeton Stream and the discontinued railroad bed crossing in the late morning of July 22, 2013.
Shortly after reaching that intersection, she continued north on the Appalachian Trail and at some point left the trail and became lost. The exact location where she departed the trail is unknown.
Largay’s remains were found on the morning of Wednesday, Oct. 14, by a contractor conducting a forestry survey as part of an environmental impact statement on property owned by the U.S. Navy in Redington Township, MacDonald said. The contractor reported his findings to the Navy, which alerted the Maine Warden Service.
Personnel from agencies including the Maine Warden Service, the Maine State Police, the Naval Criminal Investigative Service and a state medical examiner’s office representative hiked to the area where the remains were located the following morning.
Skeletal remains and several pieces of clothing and belongings consistent with items known to be in Largay’s possession were found at the scene, located west of the Maine Public Reserve Land that contains a portion of the Appalachian Trail and about 3,500 feet east of the easterly shore of Redington Pond.
Largay started her hike on the Appalachian Trail in April 2013 at Harpers Ferry, West Virginia. Her trail name was “Inchworm.” Her destination was Baxter State Park in Maine. Her husband, George Largay, kept track of her along the way and made frequent predetermined stops to resupply her.
On the morning of July 21, 2013, Geraldine Largay departed from her husband at the Route 4 Appalachian Trail crossing in Sandy River Plantation, near the town of Rangeley. Later that day, she texted her husband and told him she was on top of Saddleback Mountain.
Largay last was seen on the following morning at Poplar Ridge Lean-to on the Appalachian Trail in Maine. She was planning to hike that day to Spaulding Lean-to in Redington Township, about eight miles to the north. She planned to continue hiking north on July 23, 2013, from Spaulding Lean-to in Mount Abram Township to meet her husband, who was waiting for her at the Route 27 crossing.
She never arrived at that location, MacDonald said.
“The Maine Warden Service wishes to thank the many law enforcement and EMS organizations, search and rescue volunteers and local business owners who generously gave their time and resources,” MacDonald said.
“We consistently see the community spirit in Maine, and this is another fine example of a community coming together to assist in helping a person and family in need,” he said.
MacDonald passed along the following statement from the Largay family:
“We wish to thank all of those who gave their time and prayers while searching for our wife, sister, mother and grandmother. We especially would like to thank the entire Maine Warden Service for their dedication to this case.
“It became apparent from day one that this was personal to them and they would not rest until Gerry was found. After all of the communication and information from everyone involved including the medical examiner’s office, Navy and the Maine attorney general’s office, these findings are conclusive in that no foul play was involved and that Gerry simply made a wrong turn shortly after crossing Orbeton Stream,” the family said.
“Now that we know her death was an accident, we again ask all media for the respect of our privacy as we continue our grieving process with this new chapter of closure.”