Ravalli County Sheriff Steve Holton told us on Wednesday that remains found in the Selway Bitterroot Wilderness area this week have been tentatively identified as a missing Missoula man.

Holton provided these details:

“It was actually the night before last the volunteer Forest Service trail crew, some of the supervisors found some human remains and bones about five miles in from the Bass Creek trailhead on the Bitterroot Selway,” said Sheriff Holton. “We had deputies and investigators who hiked in yesterday who recovered the remains and processed the scene.”

Holton said he and his department are confident that they know the identity of the remains, due to a previous extensive search.

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“At this point, we're pretty confident that we can tentatively identify the person as Philip Stokey,” he said. “He was the subject of a pretty intense search and rescue operation back in August of 2020. We put a lot of days and a lot of man hours and helicopters and dogs into that search, but we were never able to find him.”

Holton repeated that he was confident of the identification.

“Based on the evidence and things the guys found at the scene yesterday like I said, we're pretty confident that we can tentatively ID him,” he said. “We're going to obviously work with the Montana State Crime Lab to confirm all of that.”

Holton said the Montana State Crime Lab in Missoula will be handling the official identification of the remains.

“We've got good pathologists at the crime lab in Missoula, and, and I'm hoping that we'll be able to put some things together with that and come up with a solid cause and manner (of death).,” he said. “It's bittersweet. It's, really nice to be able to tell the friends and family and maybe give them some closure. But on the other hand, it's always tough news for anybody to get.”

The 37-year-old Stokey was a resident of Missoula. He was reported missing in August of 2020.

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