A 52-year-old pastor from Colorado has been found dead after he reportedly went to New Mexico to find a hidden treasure chest that supposedly contained gold and jewels worth $2 million.
Paris Wallace, the lead pastor of Connection Church in Grand Junction, traveled to New Mexico earlier this month and was reported missing by his wife on Wednesday.
According to Daily Mail, Wallace was looking for a treasure chest buried by author Forrest Fein somewhere in the Rocky Mountains in 2010. The author claimed that the contents of the chest are worth $2 million and clues about its location can be found in his work.
On a website about the hunt, Fenn had emphasized that readers should never attempt to look for the treasure alone. He had encouraged fans to look for clues in his two books titled, "Thrill of the Chase" and "Too Long For Walking," to find the treasure. The author had stated that the treasure hunt is his way of encouraging families to go outdoors and spend time together.
Wallace's friend, who had taken 19 trips to find the chest, had suspected that the pastor had launched his own quest and appealed to a fan forum for help.
The pastor's car was found in the town of Pilar, and the authorities later found his backpack and rope that was tied to a rock near the town of Espanola. His body was found on Sunday about five to seven miles downstream from where he parked his car.
Prior to the recovery of Wallace's body, Fenn expressed sadness over the pastor's disappearance.
"It is terrible news that the man has gone missing. I pray that he will be found safe and well," said the 86-year-old author.
"If I were 10 years younger I would be out looking for him myself. It is unfortunate that hundreds of hunters and hikers are lost each year in our forests and waterways," he added.
According to Daily Mail, the authorities are still confirming the identity of the body.
In a statement issued on CBS This Morning, Fenn said: "My heart and my prayers go out to his family and his church...this is such a tragedy."
Fox News reported in July that about 65,000 treasure hunters have attempted to find the chest in the New Mexico wilderness since Fenn released "The Thrill of the Chase" and launched the quest in 2010.
In January 2016, Randy Bilyeu, another Colorado resident, disappeared while looking for the same treasure. After Bilyeu's remains were found in July in the Rio Grande, his grieving widow said she believes that the treasure hunt was a hoax.
"We're disappointed that he lost his life because of a treasure hunt. There's no treasure - it's not real. He lost his life for a hoax," she told Albuquerque Journal in July.
Fenn had insisted that the hidden treasure was not a hoax, and he had previously noted that the chest is not hidden in a dangerous place. He cautioned that "no one should search in a place where an 80-year-old man could not hide it."