Remains of Shiprock airman identified in Montana cold case

Rudy Redd Victor disappeared while on leave from Air Force

Joshua Kellogg
Farmington Daily Times
An undated photo of Airman First Class Rudy Redd Victor. His remains recently were identified in a Montana cold case after Victor went missing in 1974.
  • Victor was last seen in Montana in 1974.
  • A skull later identified as Victor's was found in 1982.
  • A national missing and unidentified persons database led to Victor being identified.


FARMINGTON — The remains of a missing Shiprock man serving in the U.S. Air Force have been identified as part of a cold case more than 40 years old.

The remains of Airman First Class Rudy Redd Victor were identified on June 8 after he was last seen near the Wolf Creek Rest Area in Lewis and Clark County in Montana in 1974, according to an Air Force Office of Special Investigations press release.

Victor was 20 when he went missing. His family has been notified about his remains being identified, an Air Force Office of Special Investigations spokeswoman said.

Attempts by The Daily Times to contact Victor's family for reaction were unsuccessful.

Victor was a power production specialist in the 449th Mobility Support Squadron at Holloman Air Force Base southwest of Alamogordo.

Victor was on leave visiting family in Colorado and Arizona when he did not return to duty on June 21, 1974, according to the press release.

He was listed by the Air Force as absent without leave before being listed as a deserter on July 21, 1974.

The press release goes into detail on key points of the investigation that led to Victor being identified.

A human skull later identified as Victor's was found on Sept. 4, 1982, by a livestock inspector at the Wolf Creek Rest Area.

The skull was given to the Lewis and Clark County Coroner’s Office in Helena and then was transferred to the Montana Crime Laboratory in Missoula.


Additional remains were found on July 25, 1984, by the Lewis and Clark County Sheriff’s Office near the site where the skull was discovered.

The remains also were sent to the Montana Crime Laboratory, where it was determined they belonged to a man between 20 and 28 years old, about 5-foot-6 or 5-foot-7 and possibly of Native American descent. 

Lewis and Clark County Coroner Bryan Backeberg said he believed the technology and tests didn't exist at the time the remains were found to identify Victor, which is why the case went cold.

"It's great to have closure for all involved," Backeburg said in a telephone interview.

He added that since the remains were found nearly a decade after Victor went missing, the investigators probably were unable to put the case together then.

The investigators were able to identify Victor with the help of the National Missing and Unidentified Person System (NamUs), said Todd Matthews, the case management and communications director for NamUS at the University of North Texas Center for Human Identification in Fort Worth, Texas.

NamUS is a National Institute of Justice system used to store information about missing and unidentified people. 

Victor's case was uploaded into the NamUS system as an unidentified person in 2014, Backeburg said.

The Air Force Office of Special Investigations entered Victor's information as a missing person case into the NamUS system in 2016, Thomas said.

As part of the investigation, the Lewis and Clark County Coroner’s Office requested a dental comparison on May 8 between dental records from Victor's missing person case and the skull found in Mountain tied to an unidentified person case listed in NamUS.

On June 8, Backeburg received a match between Victor's dental records and the skull found in 1982.

Backeburg produced a death certificate on June 14 that stated Victor died on or about June 15, 1974, with an undetermined cause of death.

He said Victor's remains would be transported today from Montana to Shiprock. 

Victor's military personnel record has been updated to remove his deserter status.

Joshua Kellogg covers crime, courts and social issues for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4627.