The big dig

No one has officially been named a suspect in the disappearance of Roger Ellison. Without a body, proving a crime has been committed is a tall order even for the most seasoned prosecutor. While investigators continue to follow leads in the case, they keep coming back to one house situated next door to the old Cedaredge High School building.

The tan two-story dwelling with chocolate brown trim is the former residence of John Pash.  Pash taught social studies and coached wrestling at Cedaredge High School in 1981, the same year Roger disappeared.

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The former Pash house as it looks today.

Evelyn Ellison, Roger’s mother, begged authorities before she died in 1992 to take a closer look at the possible link between Roger and Pash. She said Pash went to her home after her son’s disappearance and told the family that Roger was suicidal, something that Pash hadn’t mentioned to the family or other teachers before.

A source close to the investigation said that Pash told him that Roger had a lot of problems and that he would counsel him late at night at his private residence. Roger also went to the Pash home on numerous occasions to turn in his homework so he could get time off to go skiing. The 17-year-old high school senior was a member of the Powderhorn Racing Club and regularly trained and raced in competitive weekend ski meets outside of school. 

Those close to Roger weren’t buying it. Why would someone like Roger who had so much going for him end his life? It just didn’t make sense. Pash continued to teach at Cedaredge High School after Roger’s disappearance, but eventually left the area under a cloud of suspicion.

The case went cold.

That is until 1994 when a former classmate of Roger’s told authorities he might know where the missing teen was buried. With renewed interest, law enforcement from various agencies gathered in the backyard of the former Pash home.

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The mortuary yard was dug up by a NecroSearch team in 1994 after a tipster told police Roger may be buried in the backyard of the former Pash home.  

The home was resold in 1984 and turned into a mortuary. A NecroSearch team specializing in finding clandestine graves used ground penetrating radar to pinpoint six areas where the land below the surface had been disturbed. Two of those spots were under the funeral home’s concrete garage floor. Four others were in the mortuary yard. A backhoe was brought in and a section of the garden measuring 20 feet by 12 feet by 2 feet was dug up, according to published reports.

Nothing was found.

Authorities decided against digging up the concrete garage floor until they could investigate further. Curious about the home and its former owner, I drove to Cedaredge on a recent Saturday afternoon and knocked on the front door. The mortuary part of the property was recently turned into a gym and salon. The house is currently under renovation. The homeowner invited me in. If walls could talk, this house definitely had a story to tell.

Coming up: Inside the former Pash house

Lori

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