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Utah Survivalists

Officials are still puzzled about the motives of three men who murdered a small town Colorado police officer when he attempted to stop them in a stolen water truck.

Seventeen months after three survivalists murdered a police officer near Cortez, Colo., the body of one of them was discovered by deer hunters trekking through the Utah badlands. Alan "Monte" Pilon had apparently killed himself.

On May 29, 1998, Pilon, Robert Mason and Jason McVean shot 26 bullets into Cortez officer Dale Claxton when he attempted to stop them in a stolen water truck.

Two more officers were wounded in the chase that ensued, but the survivalists eluded the authorities and disappeared into the high desert of the Four Corners region.

What has been called the largest manhunt in the history of the Southwest followed.

Involving up to 500 officers from 41 law enforcement agencies, the pursuit even has been fictionalized in a current Tony Hillerman bestseller, Hunting Badger.

No suspect in the case has been found alive. Several days after the initial shootout, Mason killed himself after shooting at one of his pursuers. He was found with a rifle mounted on a bipod, a pistol near one hand and pipe bombs attached to his body. He was wearing a bulletproof vest and a military helmet.

Then, last Halloween, Pilon was found at Tin Cup Mesa, a few miles across the Colorado border in Utah.

Now only McVean, the alleged ringleader of the group that long feared the end of the world was near, remains at large — despite rewards totalling $327,000.

Some law enforcement officials believe he has gotten help in the area, which is known for its antigovernment sympathies. But others say he, too, may very well be dead.