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Remains in Norwich Identified as Those of Austin Colson

  • Vermont State Police Cpl. Paul Feeney, right, asks an employee of property owner Bukk Carleton, to wait to speak with Lt. J.P. Schmidt, in Norwich, Vt., Wednesday, May 23, 2018. Carleton owns the barn where police say they have found potential evidence in the disappearance of Royalton, Vt., man Austin Colson. The employee declined to be identified. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Austin Colson and his girlfriend Katie Grizzaffi in an undated photograph. Colson was last seen Jan. 11, 2018. (Courtesy Katie Grizzaffi)



Saturday, May 26, 2018

Worst fears became reality for the family and friends of a missing Royalton man on Saturday, when an autopsy confirmed that human remains discovered in a Norwich barn last week are those of Austin Colson, who was last seen in January.

The cause and manner of Colson’s death remain under investigation, according to a news release from the Vermont State Police announcing the autopsy results.

On Saturday, Colson’s mother, DeAunna Claflin-McKinney, said waiting for news of her son’s fate has been agonizing.

“I was expecting it,” she said in an interview. “I knew from the beginning … my gut told me something awful happened. When they found the body, I pretty much knew it was him. But we still had to wait to know 100 percent.”

Claflin-McKinney said she hopes the discovery of her son’s body will lead to answers about his disappearance and help her gain some measure of closure.

“Now we can finally figure out what happened,” she said. “And we can know how to grieve the right way.”

Colson’s remains were located last Wednesday in a decrepit barn on Beaver Meadow Road on a property that police had searched previously.

Authorities have not said what led them to return to the property last week to focus on the barn, except that warmer weather brought new leads in the case.

On Wednesday afternoon, authorities announced they had located evidence in the barn they believed was connected to the Colson case. Later that evening, investigators announced they had recovered human remains from the barn.

On Saturday, Colson’s father, Dana Colson, said he’s ready to find out what happened to his son.

“I’ve struggled with this, but my conclusion is, I’d rather find out now than have this drag on for years,” he said. “It’s not the outcome we wanted, but we would rather have the news sooner rather than later.”

Colson went missing on Jan. 11, the day his family members said he was scheduled to collect scrap metal with White River Junction resident Richard Whitcomb, who has been named in federal court paperwork as a suspect in Colson’s disappearance.

The trailer the pair was going to use to haul scrap was found abandoned on Downer Road in Sharon the following week.

Whitcomb faces multiple federal charges, one of which alleges that he used a handgun as collateral in a cocaine deal with Colson in January.

Whitcomb has pleaded not guilty to those charges.

A document filed in an unrelated fraud case in Windsor Superior Court indicates that Whitcomb was slated to be released from federal custody on April 25 and report directly to Valley Vista, in Bradford, Vt., for residential drug treatment.

Windsor County State’s Attorney David Cahill said on Friday that Whitcomb is now out in the community.

Attempts to reach Whitcomb on Saturday were unsuccessful. According to court records, he is due in White River Junction for a hearing in the unrelated fraud case on June 19.

Meanwhile, Dana Colson said the next few days will be spent making arrangements for his son’s funeral.

His mother, Claflin-McKinney, said she’s enduring wave after wave of grief.

“I wish it wasn’t him,” she said, as she began to weep. “I wish he was still alive.”

Later she added: “It still hurts. I’m not sure how to explain how this feeling is. There’s so much pain at once.”

Anyone with information in the case can contact the Vermont State Police Royalton Barracks at 802-234-9933.

Staff writer Emma Jean Holley contributed to this report.