Family Grieves Loss of Grandmother after Teams Find Her Remains Near Wilseyville

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LODI -- After an intensive search lasting over two weeks, the remains of a missing elderly woman were found by search teams in Calaveras County.

Helen Coultrup was found a few hundred yards from where her car was discovered Thursday near Wilseyville.

"Heart-wrenching. Heart-wrenching for all of us," said Coultrup's granddaughter, Christine.

It was a bitter ending for a family who had held out hope that the 87-year-old grandmother would still be alive. She was last seen in Valley Springs on Aug. 3.

Family members say she had symptoms of dementia.

Coultrup’s car ended up 6 miles down a dirt road at a timber operation near Wilseyville. It was discovered by people who saw the car on a missing persons flier.

"Vehicle became stuck, from there she lost her vehicle and appeared to walk out and became lost," said Calaveras County Sheriff's Sgt. Greg Stark.

Search teams from three counties and a dog team found her remains Friday morning.

It appears a tire on Helen’s Toyota Yaris might have gone flat after the wheels began spinning on the dirt road.

There is evidence that animals had disturbed the remains, so she likely died very soon after she got lost.

There is no clear sign of a cause of death and an autopsy is pending. The remains and evidence involving animal activity will be sent to the Calaveras County Coroner’s Office and a California Department of Fish and Wild Life laboratory for further processing and examination.

But there is no doubt that it was Coultrup.

"There was clothing, car keys and identification found near where the remains were found," Sgt. Stark told FOX40.

Many family members gathered at a Lodi area restaurant to grieve and celebrate a life well-lived.

FOX40 showed them their first look at the site where Coultrup was found. More tragic was that it was near an area where they searched early on.

"Just right there but you can't grab it, and that's how we feel right now," Christine Coultrup said. "We were so close but yet, not close enough."

Through it all, they had hoped for the best despite the odds.

"Everyone always wants a happy ending and, unfortunately, it wasn't," Christine said.

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