‘Off the Grid’ Family Found Dead in Colorado

Three members of a Colorado family have been found dead in Colorado Rockies. A hiker discovered the partially mummified remains of sisters Christine Vance, Rebecca Vance, and Rebecca’s 14-year-old son in a remote campsite in Gunnison National Forest.

The two sisters wanted to “live off the grid.” They were concerned about how civilization was progressing and thought it would be better to live separately from everyone else.

Their stepsister, Trevala Jara, told the Gazette, “We tried to stop them, but they wouldn’t listen. Their minds were made up.”

The two women had not told anyone else their plan and refused to tell Jara where they were going.

Live off the land, without skills

Rebecca Vance told her stepsister that they were going to live off the land. That it would be safer for her son to grow up away from modern America. The issue was that neither sister had any experience in homesteading or wilderness living. They had no outdoor skills at all. To prepare, they read books about survival and watched online videos on the subject.

Rebecca Vance seems to have been the instigator of the unusual, and eventually fatal, way of living. She liked to spend most of her time alone, or just with Christine and her son, and was wary of the government. Their stepmother explained that Christine resisted the idea ideally, but eventually went along. “Becky was the leader. Christine would usually go along with whatever Becky said,” she explained.

Gunnison National Forest. Photo: Shutterstock


Starvation and exposure

They went into the forest in July 2022. Though they were found earlier this month, the coroner, Michael Barnes, believes that they died over winter of starvation and exposure. Their bodies were found surrounded by empty packets and cans of food.

Barnes told AP News that one body lay outside of their tent, and the other two were inside. The women seemed to have tried to build a sturdier lean-to shelter for the winter but gave up and resorted to the tent.

“I wonder if winter came on quickly and suddenly they were just in survival mode in the tent,” Barnes said.

Winters are often harsh in the Rocky Mountains, but late 2022-early 2023 was particularly difficult, with lots more snow than in recent years.

Initially, the authorities were not sure who the individuals were. Then they found Rebecca Vance’s driver’s license and contacted Jara’s family to identify the bodies.

“When I got the call from the coroner, I knew it,” Jara told The Washington Post.

She had feared this since her sisters disappeared from normal life. She wants people to know that her sisters truly thought they were doing the right thing.

“I don’t want people to assume or think that they were crazy, because they weren’t,” she said. “[But] if anybody thinks they can go off the grid by watching YouTube or going on the internet, I would tell them to please think twice.”

Rebecca McPhee

Rebecca McPhee is a freelance writer for ExplorersWeb.

Rebecca has been writing about open water sports, adventure travel, and marine science for three years. Prior to that, Rebecca worked as an Editorial Assistant at Taylor and Francis, and a Wildlife Officer for ORCA.

Based in the UK Rebecca is a science teacher and volunteers for a number of marine charities. She enjoys open water swimming, hiking, diving, and traveling.