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Missing hiker Gilbert Gilman will be declared legally dead

At the Staircase trailhead, John Watkins holds a bagged piece of clothing to his bloodhound beside the Ford Thunderbird of missing hiker Gilbert Gilman.
At the Staircase trailhead, John Watkins holds a bagged piece of clothing to his bloodhound beside the Ford Thunderbird of missing hiker Gilbert Gilman. Staff file, 2006

An Olympia man is about to be declared legally dead nearly a decade after his mysterious disappearance.

Gilbert Mark Gilman was last seen June 24, 2006, at Olympic National Park, where he went for a hike and vanished without a trace.

Gilman’s vehicle was found at the Staircase Ranger Station. After a massive 10-day search, he was declared lost by the U.S. Forest Service.

To be presumed dead, an individual must be missing and not heard from for at least seven years with an absence that “is not satisfactorily explained after diligent search or inquiry,” according to state law.

In June, Doris Gilman, Gilbert Gilman’s mother, filed a petition with Thurston County Superior Court to become the official estate trustee with the authority to close the estate. A judge is expected to declare Gilbert Gilman dead at a hearing Aug. 27.

Over the years, some had speculated that Gilman was still alive. In 2008, a report by KIRO-TV showed that Gilman had previously worked on top-secret military intelligence assignments and “led a mysterious life.”

A 2014 episode of “Dark Minds” by Investigation Discovery suggested that Gilman was a possible a victim of Alaska serial killer Israel Keyes.

The 47-year-old Gilman was the deputy director of the Washington State Pension Fund and a U.S. Army veteran. Despite the survival skills he honed in the military, Gilman arrived on the ill-fated hike without any supplies, according to reports. He was described as healthy and athletic, but he was nearly blind without his glasses.

For a decade, Doris Gilman has lived with the mystery of her son’s death.

She said her son was smart, traveled extensively and was fluent in several languages, including Arabic.

She’s still trying to accept the fact that he’s not going to show up some day.

“It’s hard to imagine a person can just disappear,” she said from her home in New York City. “Nothing was ever found. No remains, no glasses, no wristwatch. Nothing.”

Despite the official closure of the case, Gilbert’s death is still a presumption without proof, she said. She never hesitates to tell her son’s story, just in case someone has information.

“Maybe years in the future, something will turn up,” she said. “There’s always that question.”

Andy Hobbs: 360-704-6869

ahobbs@theolympian.com

@andyhobbs

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