Photos show missing Utah County woman running down trail

Local News

UTAH COUNTY (News4Utah)- It’s been three months since 24-year-old Jerika Binks seemingly vanished after leaving to go for a run.

On Sunday morning, February 18th Binks’ roommate at a sober living home in American Fork decided not to go for a run with her. Jerika took her cellphone and went alone, leaving behind her ID, money and an uncashed paycheck. She hasn’t been seen or heard from since.

Now her family has released photos that provide insight into her activity that day.

“My sister Jerika Alvey binks, was alive and well at 1:30 pm on February 18th. Which corresponds with the time of her last cellphone ping in Saratoga Springs. A DNR motion activated camera caught shots of her running DOWN on the National Timpanogos Cave trail, up American Fork canyon,” a post on the Facebook page “Finding Jerika” stated.

“We as a family have been waiting for a month to release these photos. Out of respect, and not wanting to step on anyone’s toes who are aiding in the investigation,” the post states. 

Following the social media post Wednesday, officials responded clarifying and correcting some information shared by family members associated with the search for Binks. 

 Wildlife camera belongs to NPS, not DNR

Officials say the camera mentioned belongs to the National Park Service, not DNR. This particular camera was placed on the closed trail in late fall of 2017. 

It was retrieved on March 27, 2018.  When park staff downloaded the images, they recognized a woman matching Jerika’s description in photos date stamped as February 16, the reported date of her disappearance. 

NPS officials say the photos were immediately turned over to the Utah County Sheriff’s Office (UCSO). 

Photos triggered an extensive, exhaustive search of park area

Following the discovery of these photographs, an exhaustive search of the park and surrounding area was conducted by the UCSO and the county search and rescue team.  Focusing on areas above and below the cave trail, multiple days of searches were conducted by air and ground, including helicopters, drones, dog teams, and ground searchers rappelling through steep terrain.

Clues, as small as water bottles or other litter, detected from the air were checked by ground teams.   NPS staff actively participated and assisted in the search effort.

Alternate Routes also searched

Officials don’t know what route Jerrika took to get above the locked NPS gate.  Adjacent scree slopes, animal trails and other possible but unauthorized routes were also searched multiple times.

The cave trail gate is locked from below but can be opened from above at all times, leaving open the possibility that she continued down the trail and left the park.

Other “locked gates” mentioned in social media are outside park, belong to UDOT or USFS

Locked gates on State Route 92 (Alpine Scenic Loop) are managed by the Utah Department of Transportation, and other road gates in the canyon are controlled by the Pleasant Grove Ranger District within the Uinta-Wasatch-Cache National Forest.    The gate on SR 92 is typically unlocked for summer traffic on the Friday of Memorial Day weekend – this year May 25.

Volunteer searchers must stay on trail within monument boundaries, safety is critical

The steep slopes above and below the cave trail are extremely dangerous.  Falls and falling rock have caused injuries and fatalities to visitors, employees, and rescuers during past incidents. 

The NPS and UCSO conducted exhaustive searches of this area with highly trained and well equipped search and rescue personnel. 

The park reminds everyone to stay on the paved trail and report any observations or information related to this case to rangers or the Utah County Sheriff for investigation.

The trail, park visitor center, and cave tours all open to general public access on Saturday, May 19.

There is a  $10,000 reward offered for information in the case of her disappearance. Anyone with information is asked to call Det. Pratt with the Utah County Sheriff’s Office at 801-851-4013.

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