Federal and local investigators searching abandoned Nevada mine shafts for a large cache of stolen explosives found the remains of an apparent homicide victim who disappeared two years ago.
Pershing County authorities charged two Nevada miners with the murder they think occurred in 2001, though they declined to identify the male victim.
District Attorney Jim Shirley said Tuesday that investigators suspect the two men charged in the killing might have been involved in the theft.
"The thought is that they are," Shirley told The Associated Press.
The U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives confirmed Tuesday that federal agents recovered a large cache of explosives last week in rural north-central Nevada, about 150 miles northeast of Reno. The mine shaft in Humboldt County northwest of Mill City is in the Eugene Mountains near the Pershing County line on federal Bureau of Land Management property.
More than 2,000 pounds of explosives were stolen in May 2001 from Orica Mining Services in Winnemucca, which uses them in exploration.
"We are very pleased to have located the missing explosives and have them rendered safe without loss of life or property," said John Torres, special agent in charge of the ATF in San Francisco.
Agents used video equipment to examine the explosives, which were found to be unstable, ATF spokeswoman Marti McKee said from San Francisco. The agency detonated the explosives inside the mine shaft last week.
No one has been charged with the theft, McKee said.
Tim Dale, 49, was charged in Pershing County District Court in Lovelock on Monday with first-degree murder, and James Malone, 61, was charged with accessory to murder, Shirley said.
The two men were joined in court by a public defender, but it was not clear whether they had retained legal counsel. They were not asked to enter a plea.
Pershing County Sheriff Ron Skinner told the Elko Daily Free Press that the investigation began with the explosives and then turned into a murder investigation.
Shirley said the two men are miners, and the newspaper said they hold claims at the mine site.
"But my understanding is the type of mining they were doing didn't appear to need explosives," Shirley said.
Prosecutors said a confidential informant who led authorities to the missing explosives claims to have witnessed Dale kill the victim by hitting him on the head with a rock.
Lt. Thomas Bjerke of the Pershing County sheriff's office said in a probable cause statement that Malone knew the murder would take place and offered $600 to ensure it would.
A criminal complaint filed by Deputy District Attorney Carl E. Anderson said authorities believe Malone made up a story to explain the victim's disappearance to cover up the killing.
Humboldt County District Attorney David Allison said he intends to turn the explosives case over to the U.S. Attorney's office.
"The feds have got way more resources," he said.