Whatever happened to Gregory Auriemma, a 63-year-old lawyer from Brick, N.J., in the rugged wilderness of the White Mountains may remain a mystery.
A New Hampshire medical examiner said Monday evening that Auriemma’s body, found last week after an intensive search, was too decomposed for her to determine a cause of death.
“I don’t have all the tissue I need to make a determination,” said Jennie Duval, New Hampshire’s deputy chief medical examiner. “I don’t see any trauma, but I can’t rule that out. I can’t say for sure what’s happened.”
Duval suggested Auriemma may have been a victim of hypothermia, but stressed she did not know the circumstances surrounding his death. She said a routine toxicology exam was being performed, but she had no indication that alcohol or drugs were involved.
Auriemma, who chaired the Ocean County chapter of the Sierra Club, had battled cancer the last two years but had recently received better news when he left on a bus in late June for a solo, 10-day trek into the mountains.
He was reported missing after July 5, when he did not return in time to attend the local Sierra Club’s annual picnic. After an exhaustive search in remote and rugged terrain, Appalachian Mountain Club workers found his body Thursday in the woods of a trail in the Dry River Wilderness.
Searchers had spent more than a week combing the area, eventually settling on the Dry River area. Auriemma’s body was discovered off a 10-mile trail that runs through wilderness with difficult stream crossings and ends at an elevation of 5,012 feet at Lakes of the Clouds Hut.
Severe thunderstorms struck the area the first week of July – when he was on the trail. Duval said that could have played a factor. She believes he likely died July 1 or 2. Duval explained that even though the East Coast was baking in a heat wave, temperatures in the White Mountains can turn quickly.
His body was not found until July 20, meaning that it had been exposed to the elements for weeks.
Auriemma’s family has been notified, she said.