GRANGEVILLE — Idaho County authorities believe the skeletal remains of a human hand found along the Salmon River earlier this month may be those of a Boise man who disappeared while on a fishing trip in July 2017.
Idaho County Sheriff Doug Giddings said Wednesday the remains have been sent for analysis to the University of North Texas Center for Human Identification. Although it may be months before results are known, it is believed the hand bones may be those of John Randall French, 54, who drove into the river three years ago.
“We think it is (French) because we’re not missing anybody else,” Giddings said. “We don’t know for sure, but we’ve sent it off and are waiting for matching DNA. We’re saying we think it is (French), but we can’t be sure.”
The skeletal remains were discovered Jan. 5 about a half-mile upriver from Skookumchuck by a woman who was recreating in the area, the sheriff said. Generally, when human remains are discovered, detectives go through a process to determine whether there are any missing persons reports or unsolved crime reports that could have a bearing on the discovery.
In this case, Giddings said, there have been no other known cases of missing persons in this area, although rivers in Idaho County frequently claim a number of lives.
In May 2016, two University of Idaho students who were returning to class drove into the Salmon River north of Riggins.
The body of Tiffany Maupin, 21, of Nampa, was recovered several weeks after the crash. The remains of Cayla A. Danenberg, 20, also of Nampa, were not recovered for more than a year.
Farther east in Idaho County, two brothers, Raymond and Jesse Ferrieri, remain unaccounted for after the truck they were riding in crashed into the Selway River 50 miles west of Darby, Mont., in May 2018 during a hunting trip. The bodies of two other men in the vehicle were later recovered.
Giddings said these crashes most often occur when drivers fall asleep at the wheel. It is not known, however, what happened in French’s case.
“We don’t know the circumstances of why he went off the highway,” Giddins said. “That is a bad road and we know right where he went in. We saw tracks. But why he went in, we’ll never know.”
Giddings said even French’s pickup truck, a maroon 2004 Chevrolet Avalanche, has not been found, although a license plate was recovered at the scene. After the accident, French’s family hired a diving team to search the river, but the divers were not able to come up with anything.
Hedberg may be contacted at email@example.com or (208) 983-2326.