Donald Roberts showed up alive and well last month after being marooned on a mountain ledge for 85 days in the snowbound Idaho wilderness.
Here's what happened after he disappeared:
The bishop of his Mormon Church ward had the word "deceased" stamped on his official records and sent them to the church archives in Salt Lake City.
Two district court judges declared Roberts legally dead.
Relatives began quarrelling over his possessions.
An insurance company was about to pay off a $30,000 mortgage on his house.
But the worst blow was this:
Only a day after Roberts trekked 17 miles through avalanche country to return to civilization, county officials began to be openly skeptical of his explanation of how he survived 85 days on a mountain ledge.
Missing since Nov. 6, when he went on a mountain goat hunting trip in the Sawtooth Mountains, Roberts returned Jan. 30. He said he had injured himself in a fall to a ledge and decided to stay there until he was well enough to hike out.
Search and rescue teams scoured tje kagged terrain for more than a week but gave Roberts up for lost when heavy snow forced them off the hunt. Roberts, a 35-year-old ex-Marine, said he was able to survive sub-zero temperatures by burrowing into the snow and taking shelter in his sleeping bag, eating freeze-dried food and the meat of a goat he killed with a bow and arrow.
"I just can't believe he made it for 85 days in that country," Bosie County Sheriff Stan Jensen told an Idaho statesman reporter. "You're looking at 15 feet of snow and 50-below-zero temperatures."
County Deputy Sheriff Carl Ellis was more to the point, "If this guy spent 85 days up there he deserves to be written up in history. But if he's pulling our leg, he's due for 30 minutes of night-sticking.You got to remember justice is swift in Custer County," where the incident occurred.
But survival experts, noting that Roberts was an experienced outdoorsman, are less doubtful. Last summer in Custer County, two young Canadians survived 23 days in the wilderness after a plane crash by eating the flesh of a fellow passenger who had died.
After listening to similar tales of wilderness survival, Jensen retracted his statements and conceded Roberts was telling the truth after all.
The 6-foot-2 Roberts, bearded and 20 pounds lighter, has taken the controversy calmly. "The people who are skeptical aren't experienced with the mountains, he said. "Those who are know what's possible if a person has the right mental attitude."
JoAnn Roberts, his wife, said, "He was so good outdoors . . . it was hard for me to believe anything had happened although I knew it was possible. For a long time I just held on to hope. Even the children did. They said, 'Daddy will come home.'"
Roberts' best friend, Dale Hopkins, who also is the bishop of his local Mormon Church ward, had the same feeling.
Hopkins said he had to struggle with his conscience when a decision was made earlier this winter to hold a memorial service for Roberts.
"At first I was just like everybody else," Hopkins said. "I thought he had gone up there and been hurt and had died in the bad weather. But the longer the situation went on . . . I got a feeling he was alive. I even remarked that to my wife. I just didn't have him off my mind for two days at a stretch."
Reunited with his wife and three children, Roberts said he feels "just lucky to be alive," but confides he has been troubled with problem after problem since he returned.
Relatives had been quarreling over his possessions. There had been a dispute between his family and business partner over the estate share of his company, which is near bankruptcy. And after hearing he was back in town, bill collectors have been hounding him.
"When you're gone for three months, the bills just don't get paid," Roberts said. "Now that I've been in the news and in all the papers, a lot of people think I'm rich. But that's not the case."
"Donald has always been such a mild and mellow person," said his wife. "But all this has caught him completely off guard. He told me he couldn't imagine what had transpired."
Mrs. Roberts says she feels partly to blame because she filed in December for a court order to have her husband declared legally dead. Plagued by household and food bills and falling behind in mortgage payments, she had her lawyer submit a report to two district courts indicating survival in the wilderness was unlikely.
"I can't help but feel bad about that now," she said. "But when I talked to the lawyer, he said if I hadn't we would have probably lost everything."
Finance companies were "on me like a bunch of hounds," she said. "Donald would have come back without a car, a home -- there would have been nothing left."