Crime - Sacto 911

DNA confirms body of gold prospector sought in shooting, homicide and missing person case

Kurt Andrew Collins
Kurt Andrew Collins California Department of Motor Vehicles

The badly decomposed body found along a Nevada County trail in November has been confirmed as that of a man suspected of shooting a Placer County Sheriff's Search and Rescue volunteer in 2016.

With the completion of DNA testing, the Nevada County Sheriff's Office announced Thursday that the remains are those of Kurt Andrew Collins, 61, who had been sought in connection with the shooting of Search and Rescue volunteer Steve Wolf in August 2016. Collins also was considered a person of interest in the killing of Michael Mahoney of Union City in July 2016 and the disappearance of Joseph Charles Murphy in October 2013.

Collins was a gold prospector who had lived in the wilderness of the Yuba River near the town of Washington for about 20 years. He was known for his hermit lifestyle and largely avoided public contact, according to a Sheriff's Office news release.

Wolf was shot Aug. 8, 2016, while participating in a search for a 75-year-old man missing from Tulare County. He and fellow searchers were about 3 miles west of Washington when they heard gunshots coming from the mountainside. Wolf was wounded in the hip.

Following the shooting, multiple attempts were made to locate Collins, according to the Sheriff's Office.

He was identified as a "strong person of interest" in the killing of Mahoney, who was found dead outside his summer cabin in the town of Washington on July 18, 2016.

He was also a person of interest in the disappearance of Murphy, who was reported missing out of the town of Washington on Oct. 13, 2013. Murphy reportedly had worked with Collins just before he disappeared.

The Sheriff's Office was contacted in November by an individual who came upon Collins' remains while running on the South Yuba Trail west of the intersection of the Missouri Bar Trail, next to the south fork of the Yuba River.

With the results of the DNA tests, the investigation into Wolf's shooting is officially closed, according to the Sheriff's Office..

The Mahoney homicide and Murphy's missing person case remain open, but both have been suspended pending development of any actionable leads, the news release said.

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