Dead Run, by Dan Schultz, (St. Martins Press) takes a close look at the participants and events surrounding the fugitive hunt, which began with the killing of Cortez CO policeman Dale Claxton and which has not yet been fully resolved.
While the bodies of all three fugitives were eventually found in San Juan County, the questions of their intents and actions still permeate the area and the book.
How did three fugitives, who were sought by an army of highly-trained officers, simply disappear into the San Juan County wilderness? What was their intent? How did they each meet their demise?
Schultz tackles these questions. Along the way, he provides insight into the three fugitives and helps bring clarity to many of the questions surrounding the issue.
Since the fugitives were never arrested or questioned, Schultz also takes the liberty of questioning the “official” accounts of what happened.
For instance, Schultz suggests that at least one fugitive, Jason McVean, escaped and spent several years on the run. Schultz suggests that McVean traveled throughout the western United States before eventually returning to the Cross Canyon area, where he was killed.
Schultz also suggests that all three fugitives may not have died at their own hand, as is generally thought.
He also guesses at the intent of the fugitives and of their ties to paramilitary and eco-terrorism groups.
Schultz also tries to find blame in the jurisdictional nightmares that may have extended the duration of the search. This was created by a group of fugitives who committed a crime in one state (Colorado) and disappeared into another (Utah).
It was a perfect storm for federal, tribal, state and local law-enforcement officials, who were all trying to solve the crime, apprehend the suspects, and protect their men.
This results in an entertaining book, but also a book full of as many questions as it tries to answer.
“It turns into a novel in a hurry,” said previous San Juan County Sheriff Rigby Wright. “I am extremely disappointed.”
While there are flaws in the book, it is a very interesting read. Dead Run should be of interest to anyone interested in the events that temporarily brought the focus of the entire nation on San Juan County during the hot and intense summer of 1998.
Dead Run is available at the San Juan Record bookstore in Monticello.