Human Remains Found in Carbon County Confirmed to be Missing Thermopolis Man

Family remember him as a proud veteran with gift for languages

Thermopolis resident John Hammond was 65 when he disappeared on an overnight fishing trip with friends near the Miracle Mile in November 2021. (Courtesy photo from Georgeanne Hammond)

By Jennifer Kocher

Special to the Wyoming Truth

The human remains found in May by shed hunters near the Pedro Mountains have been confirmed as a missing veteran from Thermopolis who disappeared in November 2021.

The Carbon County Sheriff’s Office confirmed that the bones are those of John Hammond, who was 65 when he failed to return home from an overnight fishing trip with friends near the Miracle Mile.

Hammond’s older sister, Georgeanne Hammond, 69, told the Wyoming Truth on Tuesday that  based on her communication with law enforcement, all indications suggest her brother died of exposure to the elements. It’s not clear what happened on that trip, Georgeanne said; Hammond was either left behind by the people he was with or got lost on his own while walking back to the campsite.

John Hammond and his wife, Debbie, were married on April 1, 2001 at the LIttle White Chapel in Las Vegas. (Courtesy photo from Georgeanne Hammond)

“He had gone fishing near Miracle Mile with three people who returned to town and never reported him missing,” she said. “It appears he died of exposure attempting to walk to the nearest road.”

Hammond’s close friend, with whom he’d been on the overnight trip, previously told Georgeanne that Hammond may have walked off or perhaps been unintentionally left behind. The friends had been driving two vehicles and both thought Hammond got into the other car. When they realized he was missing, the group went back to search for him, Georgeanne said, but he was nowhere to be found.

Numerous foot, drone and air searches – including driving searches Georgeanne, a former land surveyor, conducted herself – yielded nothing until the shed hunters discovered his bones 18 months later.

Hammond’s remains were analyzed by a forensic pathologist in Casper, who confirmed his identity using skeletal analysis and Hammond’s medical records.

There are no indications of foul play, according to Carbon County Sheriff Alex Bakken.

Georgeanne described her younger brother as somewhat of a drifter and gifted linguist who spoke four languages. His skill with languages caught the attention of the U.S. Air Force, which  recruited him after he graduated from Hot Springs County High School in 1974 and sent him to language school to prepare for a career as a Russian language specialist.

Upon his return to Thermopolis after his service, Hammond mainly worked odd jobs to support his love of books and classic rock albums. In 2001, Hammond married his wife, Debbie, in Las Vegas, but lost her eight years later to cancer.

“We would like to say that he [Hammond] loved his family, friends and country,” Georgeanne said. “He was proud of his service…We will miss his humor and honesty. We know he will be dancing in heaven with his wife Debbie.”

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