By Don Nelson

Remains believed to be those of 21-year-old Nicholas A. Tortora of Twisp, who was reported missing nearly two years ago, were recovered Monday (April 21) after a dog found a human skull near the Methow River on property owned by Twisp Police Chief Paul Budrow.

Okanogan County Sheriff’s Department investigators have found nothing that indicates foul play in Tortora’s death, Sheriff Frank Rogers said Tuesday (April 22) in a press release.

Tortora was reported missing on June 3, 2012, after telling people he was despondent, according to Rogers’ press release. A search of the Twisp area at that time was unsuccessful, and Tortora’s family was uncertain about where he might have gone, according to the sheriff’s press release, although they believed he may have returned to his former home in New Mexico.

The skull was discovered by Chief Budrow’s son, Lucas Budrow, when he arrived at the Budrow property about four miles south of Twisp on Highway 153 at around 12:10 p.m. on Monday.

Lucas Budrow said the Budrow’s dog frequently brings animal bones into the yard. But when he picked up the skull, he immediately recognized it as human, Budrow said. The upper teeth were intact although the lower jaw was not.

Lucas Budrow told Paul Budrow’s wife, Aimee, about the skull, and she immediately called the Twisp chief — who in turn contacted the sheriff’s office.

Paul Budrow, sheriff’s Chief Criminal Detective Dave Rodriguez and Deputy Andre Loranc subsequently began a search along the Methow River where the Budrow family dog often finds animal remains, Chief Budrow said Tuesday. Additional remains and clothing were found after about four hours of searching, at a heavily wooded site about 100 yards inland from the river, according to the sheriff’s press release.

Budrow said that clothing found at the site matched the description of items worn by Tortora when he disappeared. Tortora’s family was contacted before any information was released to the public. Rogers said the remains and evidence will undergo more investigation to certify the identification.

Tortora was the only person known to have gone missing in the Twisp area in the past several years, Budrow said, which helped in expediting the identification of remains.

In the 2012 search, according to the sheriff’s press release, investigators identified a “ping” coming from Tortora’s cell phone as being in the Twisp area, possibly near Lookout Mountain, about five miles northwest of where the remains were found Monday. After several days of searching, the effort was called off.

“On June 12, 2012, they tried another cell phone check and found that it was not working,” Rogers’ press release said. “At that time the search for Tortora was ended and he was listed as a missing person.”