SUBLETTE COUNTY – A human skull found by a rockhound near Sublette Springs on May 30 is not connected to the active investigation near LaBarge of a missing woman and a trapper who died while his property was searched for evidence of her disappearance.
A man found the human skull near the historic waterhole, likely used by travelers for hundreds of years and now on public land, and contacted the Sublette County Sheriff’s Office, public information officer Sgt. Travis Bingham said.
No other bones were found near the skull, which an expert forensic anthropologist is studying for age and ethnicity. Bingham said the expert’s first impression was that it was not recent.
“That skull was found in a completely different area of the county and by ‘old,’ she guessed at least 100 years old,” he said. “I do know for a fact they are unrelated (to the current investigation).”
LaBarge resident Vanessa Sue Orren, 61, was reported missing in January 2017 and the ongoing investigation led Sublette County investigators to execute a search warrant on the property of Darrell Lee “Pete” Petry, 66, living in Sublette County close to LaBarge, which is in Lincoln County.
LaBarge area residents have told the Sublette Examiner that Petry and Orren were in a relationship at one time.
County and state investigators led by Detective Ian Allen – with the FBI’s assistance – served Petry the warrant on Saturday, June 19, looking for evidence of Orren’s disappearance, according to Bingham. Petry was not detained or under arrest at the time, he said.
Petry stayed Saturday during the search and left on Sunday, June 20. His body was found on Tuesday, June 22, dead with a self-inflicted injury, Bingham said, adding foul play was not suspected. The search closed out on June 23, he said.
Petry’s posts and videos show him to be longtime horseshoer, Army veteran and skilled trapper who shared tips with locals and online subscribers.
Petry bought the 60-acre property near LaBarge in June 2006 and lived off-the-grid in a log cabin with three gas wells onsite surrounded by remote ranch and BLM lands; he had a LaBarge mailing address, according to county records.
He described it as “in the middle of one of Wyoming’s winter mule deer ranges” and posted pictures of his “pet” bobcat and animals caught in his traps.
The coroner’s office is investigating Petry’s cause and time of death, Bingham said.
The search for Orren continues and more information will be released as available.
“We’re not assuming that she’s dead,” Bingham said. “We’re treating her as a missing person.”
Anyone with information about Vanessa Sue Orren’s disappearance is asked to call the Sublette County Sheriff’s Office Detective Division at 307-367-4378.