Last January 5th, 54-year-old Randy Bilyeu launched an $89 inflatable raft and set off down the Rio Grande, accompanied by Leo his nine-year-old poodle-terrier-mix, to find the 12th-century Romanesque chest, reputedly containing 42 pounds of gold coins, rubies, diamonds, sapphires, ancient jade carvings, pre-Columbian bracelets, and gold nuggets, stashed deliberately for the benefit of treasure hunters by the colorful Santa Fe art dealer Forest Fenn in 2010.
His ex-wife filed a missing persons report after not hearing from him for several days, and on January 15th Leo and his raft were found seven miles down river.
Bilyeu’s remains were finally found in the same general area last month.
Robert Sanchez, of Denver’s 5280 Magazine, talked to Forest Fenn:
Fenn seemed perturbed at the thought of Bilyeu and his dog going onto the Rio Grande in a sporting-goods-store raft with no training and in the dead of winter. â€œIâ€™ve said that people should not search in the winter,â€ Fenn said. In the past, he also said the treasure isnâ€™t in a dangerous place. He said he made two trips from his vehicle in one afternoonâ€”the first to carry the chest, the second to deliver the contents. â€œI donâ€™t want anybody searching where an 80-year-old man couldnâ€™t have made two trips,â€ he said. â€œRandyâ€™s raft was very far from his car. Randy was going to go down the river, somehow get back, and he was going to do that twice? The chest is 42 pounds. What was his exit plan?â€
That, he said, is just the beginning of his disappointment with Bilyeuâ€™s strategy. â€œThe treasure is in the Rocky Mountains, at least eight and a quarter miles north of the north city limits of Santa Fe,â€ Fenn said. â€œFrijoles Canyon is not in the Rocky Mountains. Why was he looking in a place that wasnâ€™t in the designated search area?â€ To Fenn, Bilyeuâ€™s poorly organized plan, and the area he decided to search, â€œpoint to the fact that maybe he didnâ€™t care. Maybe he wanted to disappear.â€
Read the whole thing.