SALIDA, Colo. (CBS4)– He didn’t leave his house often, so when new tracks were seen heading up his driveway Mike Rust knew something wasn’t right.
It was near dusk on March 31, 2009, when he entered his home and found his gun missing and binoculars out of place. Rust called his girlfriend and told her he was going after the people who broke into his home.
It’s been five years since anyone has seen him.
“We figure he saw someone coming down the road again, it looked like evidently they’d gone north and then turned around and saw them so he chased after them,” said Carl Rust, one of Mike’s brothers.
Mike had moved to 80 acres of land northeast of Saguache at the northern end of the San Luis Valley.
“When I found out he was missing and then all the other tragedy that followed, the news kept getting worse and worse. I was amazed,” said Wade Veazui, an old cycling friend of Mike’s and owner of Subculture Cyclery in Salida.
Mike Rust was a cyclist to the core. He started working at bike shops in Colorado Springs where he grew up and soon moved west.
“He was one of the early pioneers of what we know as modern mountain biking. And influenced a lot of the big names that we know now like Gary Fisher,” said Samuel Bricker, a movie director who has made a film about the Rust murder mystery.
Mike was part of the mountain biking movement in Salida and Crested Butte, inventing a smaller frame called a “shortie” for quicker turns on the mountain trails. That got him elected to the Mountain Biking Hall of Fame in 1991.
“They were building these really, high tech at the time, short, short base, like a sports car, mountain bike,” Veazui said. “They started this whole craze in Salida and now this whole town is (mountain bike) crazy and Mike did kind of lead the way in that.”
Mike started to believe society was changing and he didn’t like it. He called the country the “United States of Automobiles” and Salida’s growth was too much for him. Around the year 2000 he moved to remote Saguache County. With a million-dollar view, he started building a house, off-the-grid, with any scraps he could get his hands on.
“He was full of life so it was a hard thing to take,” Veazui said.
Mike wasn’t heard or seen after his phone call to his girlfriend. Soon, some of Mike’s brothers started searching for him. A case was opened with the Saguache County Sheriff’s Office. Four days later a searcher noticed something just a few feet off the long dirt driveway.
“It was a bloody vest and a handle, the butt handle to a .22 caliber pistol. We knew that .22 caliber pistol was missing and a couple of us knew that weapon,” Carl Rust said.
“We stated saying, okay what happened here? And walking around the area. We could see three sets of motorcycle tracks, one was Mike’s, and then two more, and then it looked like a small truck or something had come up and made a U-turn and gone back out the roadway. That was obvious.”
Tests later showed the blood was Mike’s. The motorcycle he used to chase the suspects was found up a remote mining road six weeks after Mike disappeared.
“You could see footprints, it looked like there was some kind of struggle,” Carl said. “Mike caught up to whoever these guys were and there was some kind of an altercation and he took the bad end of it. Why they didn’t leave him there? I don’t know.”
“To take somebody after you beat them up like that, and we don’t know if he was alive or dead when they hauled him off, but to do that is pretty damn cold. That’s extreme,” Carl said. “That’s the mystery to this, is where did they put him, what did they do to him after that happened?”
A question the movie “The Rider and The Wolf” is hoping to answer.
“We understand from doing this story that there are other missing people in Saguache County. And people I don’t think wanted to come forward and talk about something that was still an open case,” said Bricker. “People understand, investigators understand, that people are not talking.”
Five years after Mike’s disappearance friends and family still hope justice can be found. A $25,000 cash reward hasn’t brought forward any viable tips. The lead investigator for the case from the Saguache County Sheriff’s Office doesn’t work there anymore.
“I think it’s established that more than one person is involved and anytime you have that that’s a recipe for something to get out and that’s what we’re hoping for,” Veazui said.
“We’re just hoping with this movie coming out and the interest that may build on this that something else may break,” Carl Rust said.