HELENA — Human remains found in black trash bags on MacDonald Pass last fall are those of a 48-year-old Helena-area man who was reported missing in June, Lewis and Clark County officials said.
Sheriff Leo Dutton told the Independent Record Monday he received a call from the state crime lab reporting DNA taken from the bones match John Michael Crites of Birdseye. His death is being investigated as a homicide.
Officials declined to say if they have suspects or know the cause of death.
"This is an active investigation," Dutton said.
Crites was last seen on June 25. Circumstances surrounding his disappearance led officials to suspect Crites may have been the victim of a crime, but they had no direct evidence to back that up.
His vehicle, wallet and cellphone were at his house. The door to his house was unlocked and left open, a gate on his property was vandalized and his dogs were running loose.
Officials say Crites was part of an ongoing land dispute and had been involved in lawsuits with neighbors regarding access to land near his house.
The sheriff's office along with search and rescue teams and Crites' family conducted extensive searches for him in the weeks following his disappearance.
A U.S. Forest Service employee found the bones in trash bags along U.S. Highway 12 on Oct. 5. They were sent to the state crime lab in Missoula for testing.