Human remains found Sunday in American Fork Canyon have been positively identified by law enforcement as those of Jerika Binks, a Utah County woman who went missing more than a year ago.
Binks, who was 24 when she was last seen, had been missing since she left a sober house in an unincorporated area near American Fork on Feb. 18, 2018. She told her roommates she was going running, left all her belongings except for her cellphone in her room and never returned.
A press conference was held Wednesday at the Utah County Sheriff’s Office in Spanish Fork with deputies and Binks’ family, at which Utah County Sheriff Mike Smith announced that the Utah Medical Examiner’s Office had positively identified the remains found by a hiker Sunday as Binks.
“We really, really want to thank that gentleman that was on a hike that day. Thank you for bringing my sister, a daughter, an aunt, a cousin, a granddaughter home to her family so that we can put her to rest,” said Jed Alvey, Jerika’s brother and the family spokesperson.
Alvey went on to say that receiving the news this week made it feel like his sister just went missing the day before, but that he wanted people to remember Jerika as the fun, spontaneous person that she was. He described her as strong, athletic and someone who made others laugh.
“She was very spontaneous and fun to be around,” Alvey said. “She really lifted the room and knew how to relate to people really well, and she could see when someone was hurting and she was there to be able to help them and put her arms around them.”
Binks’ family had organized many searches of the area around Timpanogos Cave National Monument, where Binks’ image was captured by a trail camera on the day she went missing. The ravine where she was located is on the other side of the highway, west of the Swinging Bridge Picnic area.
Alvey said the family had planned more searches for this year, and thanked the community and the Sheriff’s Office for helping search for Jerika during that time.
“Throughout this, there has been so much love and support for my family,” Alvey said.
No official cause of death has been determined, though Binks had a severe break to her tibia and fibula, Smith said.
A man from the Alpine area discovered Binks’ remains Sunday while climbing in a remote ravine, according to a press release from the Sheriff’s Office.
“This is not an area where people say, ‘Hey, let’s go for a hike,’” said Sgt. Spencer Cannon with the Utah County Sheriff’s Office. “If it was, they would have found her sooner. The gentleman who found her hikes there frequently, but that ravine, that was the first time he had ever climbed up that drainage.”
Though foul play was investigated when Binks first went missing, Cannon said it would have been extremely unlikely that someone harmed Binks, then placed her body in that ravine.
“What’s the probability of someone harming her then dumping her there? Almost zero,” Cannon said. “... (Hiking up that ravine) carrying weight, even someone as small as her, would have been impossible.”
Cannon said it’s possible Binks fell from the cliff-like side of the ravine and broke her leg.
Binks’ cellphone, which was recovered with her body, is being sent to a facility at Dixie State University for further forensic examination.
Mike Smith, Utah County sheriff, said his office will decide how to proceed with the investigation when they get more information from the Medical Examiner’s Office, though at this time foul play is not suspected.