Coroner: Skull most likely that of misssing Lander man Clay Rubano; DNA analysis inconclusive due to weathering

Clay Rubano.

Clay Rubano.

By Ernie Over, managing editor,

(Riverton, Wyo.) – The Fremont County Coroner’s office said Friday that a skull found last August along the Middle Fork Trail beyond Popo Agie Falls is in all likelihood that of a 46-year-old Lander man who disappeared in November of 2007. 

Clay Rubano went for hike in Sinks Canyon on November 11 of that year and never returned. Less than a year later, on June 8th, 2008, clothing and scattered bones were found at the base of a cliff and were identified as belonging to the missing outdoorsman. Then in August of last year, hikers along the Middle Fork Trail found a skull.

According to the Coroner’s Verdict and Case Docket released this morning, DNA results on the remains from a laboratory in Salt Lake City were inconclusive due to “environment degradation.” Deputy Coroner Mark Stratmoen said an investigation of the skull at the University of Wyoming Anthropology Department showed “reasonable congruence” to Rubano. Stratmoen said UW researchers established the age, race and sex of the skull, and the proximity of the skull to the earlier confirmed remains of Rubano lead officials to determine the skull is most likely his.

Cause of death was listed as “undetermined” but most likely due to “probable trauma from fall and hypothermia.”

Rubano worked at the National Outdoor Leadership School in Lander.

For an earlier report on the finding of the skull, click here.