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A Mysterious Vanishing and the Strange Death of the Man in the Chimney

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On May 8, 2008, 18-year old Joshua Maddux left his home in the small town of in Woodland Park, Colorado to go talk a leisurely walk on a trail in parkland lying along the Pike National Forest. This was a totally normal thing for him to do, as he was an outdoor lover and often took these walks, so when he said goodbye to his mother and sister he told them he would be back in a couple of hours and no one thought anything of it. Little did they realize that this was the last time they would ever see him alive. This would only be the start of a strange vanishing and mystery that has never been fully solved.

When Josh did not return by that evening, his family became worried, and when he had still not come home a couple of days later they reported him as missing. Police at first thought he had perhaps run away from home or possibly even harmed himself, because his brother had committed suicide two years before, but his family and friends denied this. Josh was described as a bright and cheerful boy, well-liked by his classmates and peers, so it was seen as unlikely that he would have run away or done anything to hurt himself. There was also no sign of mental problems in his history, he had no known enemies, and had never been known to use drugs. There was no reason at all to believe that he had had any choice in the matter of his disappearance. It was also thought that he might have met with foul play or had gotten lost in the wilderness, and in the meantime, a large-scale search was started.

Joshua Maddux

Volunteers and police scoured the area for many miles around, but no sign of the missing Josh was turned up, leading police to think that he had indeed either run away or met with some sort of foul play. His family began to suspect that maybe he had gone off to start a new life somewhere. Police would do everything they could to try and locate Josh, but there were no clues, no leads, nothing, and 7 years later he remained missing, as if he had just vanished off the face of the earth. No one had a clue about where he had gone or what had happened to him, and hope began to wane that Josh would ever be seen again, but he would be. It was just not the way anyone had hoped.

In August 2015, a man named Chuck Murphy was working out at an old wooden cabin he owned on a large plot of wooded land less than a mile from the Maddux home, by most accounts only two blocks away. The area had once been called the Homestead of Thunderhead Ranch and murphy’s brother had lived there for a time before it had passed on to him after the brother’s passing. The cabin was dilapidated and decaying by that time, used merely as a storage space that Murphy almost never visited, and so he had decided to have the old cabin demolished. As he was doing this, there was a macabre discovery made as the chimney was being torn down. There in the dank darkness was a mummified human body, bent over in a fetal position and stuffed into the chimney with its legs above the head. The remains were so decomposed and had been so degraded by the elements, that dental records were needed to discover the identity of the corpse, and the results would shock everyone.

It was found that the body stuffed into that chimney was none other than the missing Josh Maddux, and rather eerily, his clothes, shoes, and socks had all been removed and were neatly stacked inside of the cabin, for what reasons no one knew. An autopsy showed that there were no signs of drugs in the system and no apparent signs of serious injuries or trauma such as bullet or knife holes. For the most part the body was in pristine condition, all things considered, and the best that police could come up with was that Josh had for whatever reason crawled into that chimney of his own volition, gotten stuck, and then died of hypothermia or dehydration. The coroner labelled it as an accidental death and that was that, but not everyone was convinced.

Murphy was quick to point out that this would have been impossible, and that someone must have gone through great lengths to intentionally stuff him in there from the fireplace in the cabin. For one, there had been rebar and thick wire mesh installed in the chimney to prevent animals from entering. Murphy would say, “There’s no way that guy crawled inside that chimney with that steel webbing. He didn’t come down the chimney.” There was also the position of the body, and the fact that the legs had been actually disjointed from the torso, which meant Josh would have had to have gone down headfirst and with great force, which didn’t make sense. Police had also noticed that a large wooden breakfast bar had been ripped out of a kitchen wall and dragged to the fireplace, seemingly in an effort to block it. Then there were also those clothes eerily folded up inside of the cabin. Would Josh have gone in there, taken off his clothes, shoes and socks, and then crawled up that chimney on his own, and if so, how did the breakfast bar get there? None of it made any sense. Unbelievably, despite all of these discrepancies, the official cause remained “accidental death.”

It would later come to light that a man by the name of Andrew Richard Newman had been one of the last people to have seen Josh alive, and not only that, a witness claimed that Newman had actually bragged about killing him. It turns out that Newman had a long history of criminal offenses, including assaulting a police officer, disorderly intoxication, grand theft, and battery. On top of this, he would be arrested for stabbing a handicapped man to death, and it would also turn out that he confessed to killing a woman and stuffing her in a barrel in Taos, New Mexico, but someone had already been convicted of that crime. Despite how promising this lead seemed, police essentially ignored it, and Newman was not even so much as called in for questioning on the matter. Why should this be? Who knows? We are left with a lot of questions here. Why did Joshua Maddux go missing and how did he turn up in that chimney? Did he crawl in there by himself or was he put there? If so, who and why? What is with the bar pulled up against the chimney and the folded clothes in the cabin? It is a pretty bizarre case, and such questions are no closer to being answered now than they were then.

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