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West Jordan Man Dies, Autistic Son Found After Extended Search


Posted On : 10/1/2016 2:19:12 PM

After a West Jordan man died near Jacob's Ladder in Utah County his autistic son was missing. Following an extended search the son was found in good condition.


On September 30, 2016, shortly before 3:00 PM, Officers with Unified Police Department responded to a report of a man who died in Corner Canyon near Draper. When they arrived the discovered that a man had died but that it happened in Utah County in an area known as Jacob's Ladder north of Alpine. Deputies and Search and Rescue (SAR) responded and found the body of a 57 year old man, Charles "Chuck" Gregory Laughlin of West Jordan. What caused him to die is unknown but there was nothing suspicious about the area or circumstances where his body was found.

After several hours West Jordan Police were able to get in touch with Chuck's wife to tell her what happened. She told police that her 21 year old son, Michael David Laughlin, was with her husband when they went backpacking Thursday morning. After receiving this information SAR members returned to the area to search for Michael. LifeFlight also went to the area and assisted in the search. Shortly after midnight the search was called off because of the risks involved with a search in dangerous terrain in darkness.

Early Saturday morning, October 1, searchers returned to the area to resume the search. Volunteer groups with the Utah County Sheriff's Office, including SAR and the Mounted Posse, along with SAR members from Unified Police Department, searched the area where Chuck's body was found. A UCSO pilot in a fixed wing aircraft, and a helicopter with LifeFlight also assisted in the search. Numerous people contacted the Sheriff's Office with offers of help. Because of the difficulty with maintaining communications with those volunteers they were not directly involved in the search effort. Several people, independent of the formal search effort, went to the area of Jacob's Ladder. One group of them ultimately found Michael about 11:30 AM Saturday morning walking, or running, down a trail. Another citizen in the area gave him a ride to waiting rescuers where he was re-united with his mother.

This rescue was made more difficult because Michael is severely autistic. His mother explained that Michael and his father, Chuck, had gone backpacking and camping in the Jacob's Ladder many times. She further explained that Michael was capable of completing small tasks when directed by his father, but she didn't believe he could do those things without Chuck. She also was not certain about how Michael would respond without his father. When Michael was found he was in good physical condition and did not appear to have suffered any injuries.

For questions contact Sergeant Spencer Cannon, Public Information Officer, Utah County Sheriff's Office. (801)404-1912. Twitter: SGTCannonPIO

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