In the community

Remains of long-missing Idaho woman found in Succor Creek area

A long search to find a missing Boise woman on the range north of Jordan Valley ended with the discovery last month of her remains, approximately two miles from where her vehicle was found abandoned last June.

Malheur County Sheriff Travis Johnson confirmed the discovery of Gwen Brunelle’s remains in area about 18 miles north of Jordan Valley in the Succor Creek area.

An analysis of drone photography yielded crucial clues that led to her discovery, according to her father, Andy Brunelle of Boise.

Gwen Brunelle was 27 when she left her Boise home in June 2023 with a car loaded with 11 show rabbits for what she told her family was a trip to California.

She was seen the following day in Jordan Valley and her vehicle was found abandoned on a gravel pullout on Succor Creek Road, a well-used gravel road leading to the scenic Leslie Gulch. The pullout is about a half mile off U.S. Highway 95, north of Jordan Valley near the Oregon-Idaho border.

In the following months, police and volunteers conducted one search after another looking for the missing woman. That September, searchers found clothing but no trace of Brunelle. The family continued posting updates on a web page devoted to her case.

Her father said in an interview with the Malheur Enterprise on Wednesday, May 1, that aerial photos produced by Terravata of Homedale, Idaho, covered more than 4,000 acres in the region.

Andy Brunelle said the photos were passed along in March to a Sherwood nonprofit, Aloft Drone Search. The organization helps families and authorities search for missing persons and uses image-analyzing software to examine drone photography.

“They found something” in their analysis, the father said, and alerted the Malheur County Sheriff’s Office to the clues.

On April 8, the sheriff’s office recovered some remains in an open range area and notified Andy and his wife, Betsy. The Oregon medical examiner’s office confirmed the identity through dental records and authorities notified the Brunelles on Tuesday, April 30.

Johnson said the remains were found just outside the large search area that had been covered in earlier searches.

“This was truly a remarkable find,” he said.

Andy Brunelle said that he and his wife had come close to the remains in a search they did with volunteers last November.

“I got within 400 feet of her,” Brunelle said.

“We know this has been, and continues to be a very difficult time for this family,” Johnson said in a statement. “MCSO would like to sincerely thank all of the volunteers who helped in this search effort. There were countless hours from volunteers given in this effort. So many freely shared their time and resources in the aid of a fellow community member.”

Betsy Brunelle said the discovery brought the family closure.

“It’s been a long 10 months,” she said.

The family plans to hold a memorial service.

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