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Woman separated from husband during Scottsdale hike found dead

Scottsdale police say the body of 57-year-old Donna Miller from Rhode Island was discovered in...
Scottsdale police say the body of 57-year-old Donna Miller from Rhode Island was discovered in the Brown’s Ranch hiking trail system.(AZ Family)
Published: Sep. 14, 2021 at 11:58 AM MST
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SCOTTSDALE, AZ (3TV/CBS 5) - Scottsdale police say a woman who went missing while hiking with her husband Sunday, Sept. 12, has been found dead near a trail in northeast Scottsdale.

Police say the body of 57-year-old Donna Miller from Rhode Island was discovered in the Brown’s Ranch hiking trail system near Jomax and Alma School Road.

Miller’s husband says that he and his wife started hiking in the area at around 12:30 p.m. The pair separated but had planned to meet up a short time later. However, Miller never showed up at their meeting spot. Her husband called 911 at around 3:15 p.m.

Firefighters from Scottsdale and Phoenix as well as MCSO and the Maricopa County Mountain Rescue Team arrived at the scene and began an extensive search of the area. Search dogs and a helicopter also assisted in the search. Miller’s body was found shortly after 9 p.m.

Miller’s cause of death has not confirmed. However, police believe she suffered heat related illness and environmental exposure.

Katherine Royster often hikes Brown’s Ranch, but she says things were very different on Saturday. “There were about 15 or 20 sheriff’s officers, police officers, K9 officers; the helicopter came in,” Royster said. “The helicopter came around and hovered over me and said, ‘Are you OK? Are you hurt?”

She wasn’t hurt, but was told shortly afterward that searchers were looking for a missing woman. “I saw her car and I saw them taking items for the dogs to smell, so I’m sure they were trying to find a location,” Royster said.

Right now the city of Phoenix has a pilot program in place where they close the trailheads to Camelback and Piestewa Peak mountains when an excessive heat watch is issued. But the city of Scottsdale doesn’t have anything like that. There was an excessive heat warning in effect this past weekend, and Scottsdale Fire said they’ve had many more mountain rescues this summer compared to last.

“Since July we’ve had 15 rescues to date,” said deputy fire chief Adam Hoster.

Hoster said that the number is high compared to the same time period last year, when they had just six rescues. They’re now looking at Phoenix’s trail closure pilot program too.

“It’s something we may be looking into in the future,” Hoster said.

Hoster said it’s critical to be prepared, and one thing stood out right away in this situation.

“Preliminary information that I received, I do not believe she had a cell phone with her,” he said.

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