“I had a 400mm lens on my Canon,” explains wildlife photography Axel Simmons, “when I saw the smoke. I couldn’t see the source so I moved closer, down the hill I was shooting on.”
As Axel approached the source of the smoke he had no idea that he would see something that would launch his world into turmoil.
Out in the woods an hour from Rose Colorado, he was looking for wild flowers, new spring growth, fungi, insects, small animals and other subjects. Ax Lake Nature Preserve was a favorite hunting ground. It was a two hour hike in from the roadside overlook. More determined souls often used one of the two rivers that emptied out of the lake to gain access, usually with camping gear to say a few days. Ax lake sports crystal clear waters that let you see to the bottom, and it is prohibited to bring any gasoline powered equipment into the preserve, a policy that continues to keep the area clean and attractive to tourists, hikers, and locals.
On the day that changed his life, Axel had begun shooting caterpillars he found near the top of a small rise. Surrounded by cedar saplings and ferns, he concentrated on his multilegged little subjects and didn’t notice anything amiss until he smelled the smoke.
“I assumed it was a campfire. But that’s illegal in the preserve too, until the fifth of next month.” Not appreciating the fact that others might not hold the rules of the preserve as closely to the heart as himself, he decided to document the abusers in case he ran into a ranger. “The thought of that beautiful place burning just because of some yahoo with a campfire really make me angry,” he explained. “So yeah, if I could put a stop to someone doing it in again by making sure they got a fat fine that would be great. I would have never guessed what I saw when I looked over that hill.”
The Colorado State Police found his tripod 160 yards from the campsite that is now at the center of a murder and missing persons investigation. The FBI, Federal Park Authorities, state and local police have joined forces in the hunt for clues about who – or what – is responsible for the deaths of Sarah and Henry Miles, and a search has been conducted for Parker Miles, their 5-year old daughter.
The sensational photograph Mr. Simmonds took that day has been subjected to thorough analysis and found to be free of any manipulation whatsoever. Evidence collected at the crime scene (hair and body fluids) corroborate his account. The remains of the family dog, a 3-year old poodle, confirms his story.
“I took that first picture, and thought I was seeing things, it was so weird.” The fist picture was the only picture that came out. All subsequent shots, which he claims were much closer, where blurry and indistinct. “It heard that second shot, probably the wind changed or something and it jerked its head around at me. It had the leg of that dog in its mouth . . . something out of a horror movie. Then it roared.” Axel’s eyes grew wide at remembering the details. “Damn thing roared like a gorilla or something. I shit my pants.”
Indeed, Axel. At that point Axel said he ran and didn’t stop until he reached the scenic overlook at Country Rd. 154, where his truck was located. He got in and went home and passed out. When he work he called the police. The three hours he delayed in reporting the incident would have had no effect on the survivability of the Miles’ family, according to Coroner Allen Bunked of Rose city hospital. “Those people were long dead. We reckon time of death was almost two days before the report made by Mr. Simmonds.”
When asked about the condition of the bodies, Mr. Bunked said only that they had been “disjointed, like dolls in the hands of a very strong and angry child.” Death came as a result of blood loss and blunt impact trauma.
Police continue to report no sign of 5-year old Parker. “There’s some clothes on site, some toys, so we know she was there. We even found a set of footprints left by a child of her age,” reported Captain Richard Brokter of the Rose city police department. “They didn’t lead anywhere.”
When asked if the child had run away into the woods or had been abducted, Captain Brokter was unsure. “All I know is we haven’t found any of her blood are a sign that she has been injured. We’re treating it like a missing person’s case right now. We’ve got plans for another search of the woods, but so far we haven’t found anything I can mention to you.” When asked about the hair and body fluids found at the camp site, the captain said they were under continued investigation.