Father of missing Steamboat man: ‘Help us bring him home’
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Matthew Shelters loves snowboarding, living in the mountains and his family.
“We are really close, very close,” Matthew’s father John Shelters said of his relationship with his son. “We are constantly talking to each other. Sometimes, a whole week would go by and I wouldn’t hear from him, but then I would get a text or a phone call. We were always very close — I just don’t know what to think.”
Matthews Shelters, a 38-year-old Steamboat Springs resident, has been missing since the early morning hours of April 24. Surveillance video shows him leaving Back Door Grill on Oak Street in downtown Steamboat at 12:20 a.m., but other than that, very little is known about his whereabouts.
John said his son was hanging out with friends in an end-of-season celebration at Back Door Grill before his disappearance. He believes his son may have bummed a cigarette before heading outside to smoke it. He also thinks his son may have headed to the VFW, the closest place open at that time of night to purchase cigarettes.
John Shelters said the last known location of his son’s phone was near the Bud Werner Memorial Library on Lincoln Avenue.
“It’s just out of character for Matt,” John said. “He didn’t leave with a vehicle in the middle of the night, he wasn’t drunk just visiting with friends and he was dressed in street clothes. He is an outdoorsman, so he knows what it takes to get by, if in fact, he was thinking about walking away.”
The proud father said it was the mountains that drew his son to Steamboat, where he has lived for the past 14 years. Most recently, he was working as a bartender at the E3 Chophouse.
“I would go out there and spend at least 1 month every summer hanging with him,” John said from his home in Michigan on Thursday. “He would get off work for the day, he would meet me and we would take off for little excursions up the Snake (River) or the Bear (River) or to the Flat Tops (Wilderness Area) or the Yampa (River).”
He said his son was good with people, and John recalls a day when he was hanging out at the E3 Chophouse having a beer on the lawn. Seated next to him was a couple who were not happy with a drink that came from the bar. They complained to the server, but it was Matthew who returned to the table with a new drink.
“Within minutes, he had them laughing, talking and smiling,” John said. “That was just Matt. He could deal with somebody in a moment with just a smile.”
Matthew made the pages of the Steamboat Today shortly after moving to the Yampa Valley in 2006 when he returned a wallet and more than $600 to the rightful owner.
John describes his son as a talented fly fisherman and a creative soul who started and ran a delivery business in Steamboat for several years. He was also a skateboard representative for Loaded boards.
“Matthew is probably one of the sweetest and most genuine people you would ever meet,” said Melissa LeBlanc, owner of Urbane, who met Matthew 10 years ago.
“In a busy room, he could make you feel like you were the only one there,” LeBlanc said. “He is concerned about the things that you spoke about, he remembers the things that are important to you and he has one of the most glorious smiles that you have ever seen. He is just a joyous and thoughtful and caring human being that makes your life richer because he is in it.”
LeBlanc has helped to organize the search efforts that have taken place since Matthew’s disappearance. The Search for Shelters group has used grids to search the mountain and downtown areas at least twice.
The group has rafted the Yampa River searching for Matthew, and a helicopter from Classic Air Medical flew the river from Steamboat to Craig. There have also been drone searches in the quarry area of Emerald Mountain and on Buffalo and Rabbit Ears passes.
LeBlanc said the efforts have relied on a dedicated group of 12 people, but on advertised search days, more than 40 people have shown up.
“There are a lot of human resources that we have, people that want to do things and want to search, but it’s hard without more information on where to send these resources,” LeBlanc said. “We are going to continue to keep him in the public eye and keep his face out there.”
John Shelters fears for his son but he’s grateful for what the community in Steamboat has done to help find Matthew.
“I would ask people to just keep looking, and I want to thank them so much for what you have done so far,” John said. “Help us bring him home.”
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