Detectives Hope Arches National Park Hiker’s GPS Watch Will Solve Her Mysterious Death

by Caitlin Berard
(Photo by f11photo via Getty Images)

On October 1, park employees and officers from Grand County Sheriff’s Office recovered a woman’s body from Arches National Park. Officials transported the body to the Utah Medical Examiner’s Office, maintaining that the cause of the death remained unknown.

A few days later, a release from the National Park Service gave further details regarding the case. The woman was found in the Devils Garden area of the park and was sadly identified as Ekaterina Yaroslavna Ksenjek, a 33-year-old Arlington, Virginia, resident.

It’s now been a month since the hiker was found but details remain scarce. As the investigation continues, detectives are leaving no stone unturned, determined to learn more about the hiker’s mysterious death.

According to investigators, Ksenjek’s death was originally considered suspicious. Deaths in outdoor spaces like Arches National Park are, unfortunately, not all that uncommon. The state of Kesenjek’s body, however, was strange.

When rescue crews found her, the hiker was wearing only one shoe and one sock. Additionally, she was found wedged underneath a large boulder well outside the typical Arches National Park hiking area. And though it’s possible the rock fell on her, the rest of her clothing, as well as her other personal items, were found several feet away.

Ksenjek’s body was “in an advanced state of decomposition,” making the investigation even more challenging. They were, however, able to conduct an autopsy. The Utah State Medical Examiner’s Office determined that the hiker had suffered multiple broken ribs and a dislocated shoulder.

Through the autopsy, detectives also discovered that their original theory of foul play might not be accurate. According to the USMEO, “there were no foreign objects found in the body and there were no external injuries that could be said to have immediately caused the death of Ekaterina.”

Detectives Hope to Use GPS Watch in Arches National Park Investigation

With no obvious signs of foul play aside from the state of the body, detectives were forced to change tack. Now, they’re leaning toward hiking accident as the Arches National Park hiker’s cause of death.

Grand County Sheriff’s office detectives believe Ekaterina Ksenjek might have fallen from the trail, causing her extensive injuries. Unable to move on her own, Ekaterina began to suffer the effects of hypothermia.

This theory would explain the removal of clothing and the distance between the hiker and her personal belongings. The hiker’s strange location under the rock could also be explained by hypothermia, as those freezing to death often exhibit “burrowing behavior.”

Detectives hope to one item among Ksenjek’s personal effects could either further this theory or put them on a new track. The young Arches National Park hiker was wearing a Garmin smartwatch when she died. Hikers’ GPS and fitness watches have been indispensable tools in search and rescue missions before, and detectives are hoping hers holds the key to solving her death.

By using the data held by her GPS watch, detectives could determine her time of death. “If the time can be determined via the information from the watch or account, it can either confirm or dispute the current thought of an accidental fall followed by hypothermia,” the police wrote in a search warrant affidavit.