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Remains of woman who went missing near Sooke Potholes discovered by hikers

Melissa McDevitt had been reported missing on Dec. 12, 2022 after her vehicle was found in the parking lot of the Charters Creek fish hatchery

The remains of a 38-year-old woman who went missing after going hiking near Sooke Potholes almost a year ago were located Wednesday by a group of hikers who had been searching for her, say Sooke RCMP.

The group found Melissa McDevitt’s body in thick vegetation in an area that searchers had previously targeted, police said.

Sooke RCMP Staff Sgt. Greg Willcocks, the detachment commander, said a group known as Mindful of Melissa on Instagram put in “a remarkable amount of effort” to locate McDevitt over the past year.

The Search and Recovery Dog Association of Victoria said Mindful of Melissa played an integral role, but SARDAV members located the remains.

McDevitt was reported missing on Dec. 12, 2022, after her vehicle was found in the parking lot of the Charters Creek fish hatchery, which is close to a series of trails.

She was last seen carrying hiking poles on surveillance video from the fish hatchery’s parking lot on Dec. 9, 2022. She had been due to fly to North Carolina the following day to visit her family.

Police said few other details are being released “out of respect for her family.”

“Although a full determination has yet to be made, RCMP do not believe that criminality was involved in the woman’s death,” Sooke RCMP said in a statement. “The RCMP offers its condolences to the family and friends of the deceased.”

The B.C. Coroners Service is also investigating.

A large-scale search for McDevitt was launched in the days after she was reported missing, with about 170 people from 17 search teams on Vancouver Island and the Lower Mainland helping to scour the area’s sometimes challenging, steep terrain.

McDevitt’s father travelled from North Carolina to work with the searchers, who put in a combined total of 5,000 hours during the operation.

The search was called off after nine days, but a second search was made in July after data from McDevitt’s smartwatch helped narrow down where she could be.

About 80 volunteers from 11 search-and-rescue teams took part over two days.

Sooke RCMP then maintained an active missing-person investigation and kept in close contact with McDevitt’s family.

They acknowledged the “significant efforts” of Juan de Fuca Search and Rescue and assisting search agencies.

jbell@timescolonist.com