Missing Gillette Woman Died Of Hypothermia, Coroner Says

Campbell County Coroner reported Tuesday that a Gillette woman found dead last week after a five-day search died of hypothermia and shows “no evidence of injury or foul play.”

Clair McFarland

April 02, 20242 min read

Tami Sturgeon
Tami Sturgeon (Via Facebook)

A Gillette woman who went missing last month died accidentally of hypothermia, the local coroner has ruled.

Tami Sturgeon, 55, was shed hunting with her husband John on March 23 in the rugged Yellow Hammer Buttes area about 6 miles southeast of Gillette. The pair separated to search the area for Sturgeon’s lost phone, according to the Campbell County Sheriff’s Office.

Her husband called dispatch at 6:55 that evening to report Sturgeon missing after she did not return to their side-by-side vehicle.

Sturgeon likely died that night, Campbell County Coroner Paul Wallem told Cowboy State Daily on Tuesday.

“(There’s) good evidence of hypothermic death, no evidence of injury or foul play,” Wallem recounted after Sturgeon’s autopsy in Rapid City, South Dakota. “(It’s) ruled an accidental death due to hypothermia.”

Searched For Days

Campbell County Sheriff Scott Matheny reported last week that search and rescue personnel found a cigarette butt and a pair of gloves in the area just prior to finding Sturgeon in the mouth of a ravine at 4:22 p.m. Thursday.

She had apparently crossed a well-traveled road before reaching the rugged sagebrush area where she was found.

Sturgeon was wearing a down coat but it was thin, and underneath the coat she wore a cotton sweatshirt which was "soaked," Matheny said in a Tuesday interview with Cowboy State Daily. Rain fell heavily the night she went missing.

Sturgeon's husband was also soaking wet when authorities met up with him, the sheriff said.

Multiple agencies responded to assist the Campbell County Sheriff’s Office during the five-day search.

Matheny extended his thanks last week to volunteers from Crook County, Johnson County, Sheridan County, Weston County, Washakie County, Natrona County and Ellsworth Air Force Base in Rapid City, South Dakota, for their help and resources.

A Black Hawk helicopter equipped with thermal scopes had conducted an aerial search. Over the ensuing days, more than 15 volunteers with search and rescue experience assisted with several grid searches of the area where Sturgeon was located.

"It's a sad situation, and our sincerest condolences go to the family," said Matheny.

Editor's note - This story has been updated to reflect a post-publication interview with Campbell County Sheriff Scott Matheny.

Clair McFarland can be reached at clair@cowboystatedaily.com.

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Clair McFarland

Crime and Courts Reporter