Joshua Vernon Maddux was born on March 9, 1990, and lived in Woodland Park, Colorado. His parents were divorced and he lived with his father and two sisters, Kate and Ruth. In 2006, his 18-year-old brother Zachary died by suicide after battling depression.
Joshua was a free spirit who loved to spend time in nature. He was a musician and writer and did well academically.
On March 8, 2008, 18-year-old Joshua left his home to go for a walk. He never returned. His family contacted his friends, searched homeless shelters and campgrounds but to no avail.
Mike Maddux reported his son missing on March 13.
Because Joshua had just turned 18, his family considered the possibility of him having started a new life elsewhere. Perhaps becoming a writer or musician.
They also pondered if Zachary’s death had caused Joshua to disappear as it had just been the two year anniversary of his suicide.
Nevertheless, those around him claim he seemed happy and untroubled in the weeks leading up to his disappearance.
In the 1950s, Chuck Murphy bought a cabin 2 blocks away from the Maddux’s family home. It had been previously known as the Thunderhead Branch, an infamous drinking and dining establishment owned by “Big Bert” Bergstrom.
Murphy’s brother had lived in the cabin until 2005. Afterward, it became a decaying storage facility which Murphy rarely visited.
On August 6, 2015, Murphy began demolishing the cabin for property development. While an excavator tore down the chimney, a mummified body was found.
The body had been in a fetal position, with its legs above its head. The remains were identified as Joshua’s after comparing dental records.
According to autopsy results, Joshua had no drugs in his system and his body had no sign of trauma. There were no broken bones and no knife or bullet wounds.
The coroner, Al Born, stated that his death had not been instant, most likely having died of hypothermia or dehydration.
Born ruled Joshua’s death accidental.
Born’s theory was that Joshua, who was 6-feet tall and 150 pounds, had tried to climb down the chimney. If this were the case, and Joshua got stuck, he would have been too far away for anyone to hear his pleas.
However, Murphy vehemently denies the possibility of his death having been an accident. He believes someone stuffed Joshua inside the chimney. If this is the case, it would have likely taken two people in order to position Joshua in the way he was found.
Nevertheless, Joshua would have had to enter the chimney head first.
There are three main reasons why most people believe foul play is involved:
- First, Murphy had installed a steel rebar on the chimney to avoid problems with animals and debris. Born refuted claiming there had been no signs of a rebar at the crime scene. However, when the body was found, the cabin was a construction zone. The rebar had already been demolished and taken away.
- Secondly, a large wooden breakfast bar had been ripped from a wall in the cabin’s kitchen and placed in front of the fireplace.
- Lastly, Joshua had only been wearing a thermal shirt when he was found. The rest of his clothes, including his socks and shoes, were inside the cabin, folded up beside the fireplace.
Just 3 days after the ruling, Born reopened the case, conceding to Murphy’s statements.
Despite admitting that the circumstances were odd, Born once again ruled the death an accident, insisting Joshua had tried to descend the chimney himself.
Meanwhile, the police had been receiving tips from people who claimed to know of a person who had allegedly bragged about killing Joshua.
Although police ignored the tip at the time, one of those tipsters wrote a Reddit post explaining who their suspect was:
I went to high school with this skinny dorky hippy named Andy who played guitar in a band. I was never good friends with him or anything, but a year or so after I graduated, one of my good friends, Josh, started hanging out with him and then went missing. Last I heard, Andy was telling another friend, “Yeah, me and Josh have been spending a lot of time together, we’re planning a trip to New Mexico!”
The Andy that the user was referring to is Andrew Richard Newman, a California native. After high school, he became a nomad and had various criminal charges against him, including for assaulting a police officer, disorderly intoxication, grand theft, and battery.
Though Joshua did not go to with him, Andy went to New Mexico in 2009. He stayed with a friend of his, James Wellito, who was the caretaker of a disabled man. While the three men were at the apartment, Wellito went to take a shower. When he got out, Andy was gone and the disabled man had been stabbed to death.
Months later, Andrew was taken into custody after he was reported wandering around Texas County, knocking on doors asking for water and food. After processing his fingerprints through the system, it was revealed that he was wanted for the stabbing in New Mexico and also a burglary in Washington. He has a criminal record in at least six states.
Furthermore, Andrew confessed to killing a woman and stuffing her in a barrel in Taos, New Mexico. However, police had already arrested someone for the woman’s murder and decided to charge them instead of Andrew.
Though Joshua’s friends tried to get the police to investigate Andrew at the time, their concerns were dismissed. Authorities told them Joshua was alive and living elsewhere. Nevertheless, Andrew reportedly bragged about having “put Josh in a hole”.
It is believed that Andrew is in a mental institution.
There is one other suspect, but Born claims the unnamed man would have been too small to be able to stuff Joshua’s body into the chimney.
Joshua Maddux was given a proper memorial service after his body was found.