Authorities Find Body of Mt. Rainier Shooting Suspect

Police say a dead body found inside the park is the shooting suspect.

ByABC News
January 2, 2012, 10:17 AM

Jan. 2, 2012— -- The man suspected of killing a ranger at Mount Rainier National Park in Washington state apparently has died from exposure to the elements, according to police.

Pierce County Sheriff's spokesman Ed Troyer said tonight the body they had located earlier today face-down in the snow without any identification is Benjamin Colton Barnes, 24, the sole suspect in Sunday's shooting.

"We found his body. His body has been recovered," Troyer said. "He died of conditions, there's no obvious sign of death other than being really cold on a mountain all night in freezing water.

"He was wearing T-shirt, a pair of jeans and one tennis shoe. That was it," he said.

Barnes was being tracked by ground and aerial search crews for the shooting death of 34-year-old ranger Margaret Anderson, who tried to block his path when Barnes sped past a checkpoint in the park Sunday morning. Barnes fired shots at Anderson and another ranger before fleeing into the park's wilderness. The other ranger was not injured.

Shortly before the discovery of the body, police said they had been honing in on Barnes' location by following his footprints in chest-deep snow.

Authorities said he had some survival training and appeared to be moving in and out of river beds to avoid being followed. Police said they did not know whether he had enough supplies to continue outpacing them.

More than 100 agents from the National Park Service, state police, FBI and local sheriff's departments had descended on the park to help the search efforts.

Authorities had gathered 125 campers who were in the park Sunday into a visitors center, where they were held under police watch overnight. The visitors were evacuated in the dark early this morning.

Three small groups of hikers who were making an ascent of the mountain remained in the park.

Barnes is a military veteran who has a history of criminal violence, including threatening the mother of his child with guns during a bitter custody battle, according to court documents obtained by ABC News.

Anderson was a married mother of two daughters, ages 2 and 4.

Police had been searching the snowy park since early Sunday, using infrared radar, aircraft and ground units to try and track the suspect. Lee Taylor, a spokeswoman for the park, said 111 law enforcement officers from the National Park Service, U.S. Forest Service, Washington State Patrol, FBI, and Pierce and Louis counties were assisting in the search.