Before his death, Christopher Zoellner was an avid outdoorsman who loved hunting and riding dirt bikes.
He married his wife, Brynn, nearly 16 years ago and they were raising three kids in Eagle Mountain before Zoellner went missing more than a week ago.
“He was a hardworking, funny, outspoken guy who is loved by many,” said Charli Anderson, a cousin to the couple.
Family members believed he may have gotten lost or stranded in a remote area with his brown 1998 Chevrolet truck.
During a search party on Saturday, one searcher found Zoellner deceased inside his pickup truck north of State Route 73 at Five Mile Pass, the Utah County Sheriff’s Office announced.
The Medical Examiner’s Office is currently conducting an autopsy to determine the cause of death.
“You will always be in my heart,” Brynn Zoellner wrote on social media on Sunday. “I am going to miss your face, kissing you, getting mad at you, teasing you, laughing with you, raising these beautiful kids with you. I am so sad at all that could have been.”
She reportedly knew something was wrong when Zoellner didn’t come home on Jan. 10 and had turned his phone off after sending the text message to a family member, Anderson said.
His debit card had been used the same day at a Maverick gas station in Eagle Mountain and later at another store in Riverton, investigators reported.
Volunteers searched areas around Provo, Heber City, Soldier Pass, Strawberry Reservoir, Flaming Gorge and Duschene as well as calling nearby hospitals, Anderson explained.
“We are devastated,” she said on Saturday. “We are all still awaiting details while being respectful to Brynn and her family’s grieving process.”
A GoFundMe account to help pay for funeral costs had already raised $2,500 as of Sunday afternoon.
“I want to say thank you to everyone that took time, showed concern, physically looked for him, prayed for him,” Brynn Zoellner wrote on social media. “He touched alot of people and to those he was able to touch hold those memories dear because unfortunately that’s all we have left.”