By John Miller
Multiple searches around the Río Grande Gorge Bridge where Anthony Hildebrand’s car was found early this month have turned up no signs of its owner, a man who law enforcement say had expressed suicidal thoughts and emailed a note to friends telling them he planned to take his own life.
The Taos County Sheriff’s Office, whose officers were assisted by New Mexico State Police and Taos Search and Rescue, is now putting their search on hold.
Hildebrand, 35, was reported missing April 5. His car was found parked at the rest area on the west end of the bridge, the same location where a vehicle belonging to Holly White, a Taos woman, was found abandoned before she went missing on May 7, 2016.
Sheriff Jerry Hogrefe said he deployed his specially trained tactical team multiple times to look for what they expect to find under similar circumstances: a body somewhere in the canyon below the bridge.
But deputies who searched the canyon with binoculars were unable to locate Hildebrand. Drone flights conducted by members of Taos Search and Rescue and a helicopter flyover of the gorge by New Mexico State Police were similarly unsuccessful. Members of search and rescue also searched the river on kayaks, but again could find no sign of the missing man.
Hogrefe said he may deploy members of his office on a river raft at some point in the future, but is holding off for now.
“Although we are suspending the active search [that] doesn’t mean we are done,” the sheriff said. “Mr. Hildebrand is still missing and we encourage everyone to report anything they know or hear.”
In 2018, it took two months to locate the body of Ignacio Perez Jr., a 49-year-old man from Albuquerque who was reported missing in May 2018 after his car was also found parked near the bridge. His remains were found some two and a half miles downstream from the bridge by two kayakers who were making a summer run down the river.
An initial press release from the sheriff’s office described Hildebrand as 6 feet, 3 inches tall with a medium build and weighing roughly 215 pounds. He was last seen wearing blue jeans and a camouflage coat.
Hogrefe said Hildebrand is originally from Pennsylvania.
According to the Carnegie Mellon University website, Hildebrand graduated from the University of Kansas and was at one time pursuing a degree at Carnegie Mellon in entertainment technology.