By Jeff Todd
COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (CBS4) – For years, only a few people knew what happened to Mike Rust and they were keeping it a secret.
On Thursday, the secret turned into a murder conviction.
“There was a sense of relief,” said Mike’s brother, Carl Rust. “It was just… Wow, another chapter in this thing has been done.”
Rust’s story has many chapters. He grew up around Colorado Springs, and as a young man went west.
He was a pioneer in the early mountain biking scene in Crested Butte and Salida. He was even inducted into the Mountain Biking Hall of Fame in 1991.
Rust left Salida to escape the hustle and bustle and built his own house in rural Saguache County.
On March 31, 2009, Rust came home and noticed a gun was stolen from his house. It’s believed he went after the thief. He was never seen again.
“That’s the hard part about this is just not knowing, and those first few years it was speculation in your head, ‘I wonder if this happened, I wonder if that happened,’” Carl said.
For years, the case was cold. It was even featured on the Colorado Bureau of Investigation Cold Case website.
Carl credits three things with solving Mike’s case: a private detective the Rust family hired, a new sheriff in Saguache County, and the Film “The Rider and The Wolf” which is about Mike’s legend and disappearance.
“I believe that kind of spilled it over and somebody said, ‘Huh, well I know something here and I should talk,’” Carl said.
In court over the past few weeks, it came out Charles Gonzalez shot Mike in the back of the head. Gonzalez buried Mike on a family member’s property in the San Luis Valley. That’s where Mike’s remains were found in 2016.
After the remains were found, Gonzalez’s son and ex-girlfriend started cooperating with investigators.
On Thursday, Gonzalez was sentenced to life without the possibility of parole after a jury found him guilty on all counts including first-degree murder, burglary, and tampering with evidence.
“It’s not closure so much as it’s another step in justice for Mike which is important,” Carl said. “It’s bittersweet. Mike is still not here. That doesn’t bring Mike back.”
Jeff Todd joined the CBS4 team in 2011 covering the Western Slope in the Mountain Newsroom. Since 2015 he’s been working across the Front Range in the Denver Headquarters. Follow him on Twitter @CBS4Jeff.