Skull found by hiker in Montana belonged to man missing 46 years, sheriff says

Carbon County Sheriff's Office

A skull discovered by a hiker in Montana in 2004 has been identified as that of a Wisconsin man who went missing 46 years ago, sheriff’s officials reported.

Rogers “Roger” Lee Ellis was 22 when he fled Wisconsin Rapids in 1976 after an arrest for possessing marijuana, the Carbon County Sheriff’s Office said in a news release.

Ellis told his family he was heading west because he didn’t want to go to jail, the release said. Then he disappeared.

In June 2004, a hiker found a human skull about 15 miles south of Red Lodge, Montana, sheriff’s officials said. Deputies also found a femur and pelvic bone.

DNA tests failed to turn up a match, but a re-analysis in 2022 using new techniques identified the bones as belonging to Ellis, the release said.

Investigators believe Ellis was hitchhiking when he left Wisconsin and was slain by someone who picked him up and left his body in Montana, sheriff’s officials said.

A cold case investigation into his death has been opened in hopes of finding the person who killed Ellis, the release said. Investigators hope to contact people who knew him in the 1970s.

They ask anyone with information to call 406-445-7284 or email

The U.S. Department of Justice, the FBI, the National Missing and Unidentified Persons System and the Missoula County Sheriff’s Office Cold Case team assisted with identifying Ellis.

Carbon County is southwest of Billings on the Wyoming border.

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