Mystery surrounds Forrest Fenn treasure

More than a year after one of the most storied treasures in recent history was found in Wyoming, a group of disgruntled hunters are still not satisfied with the “solve.”

They grew even more suspicious last month after a confidant of Forrest Fenn, the enigmatic New Mexico antiques dealer who buried the loot, revealed a series of emails suggesting that Fenn was desperate for the search to end.

Now, some within the close-knit community of treasure seekers say he may even have set up the discovery by helping the medical student who found it.

“We believe that Fenn pulled the treasure and ended the chase,” said Miriam De Fronzo, a massage therapist from St. Petersburg, Fla., who spent four years searching for the bronze chest full of gold coins and jewelry that Fenn hid in the Rocky Mountains in 2010. Treasure hunters were given clues to its location in a poem written by Fenn.

“Forrest left everything wrapped up too tightly with a bow,” De Fronzo added of the solve, which came just months before Fenn’s death, at 90, in September 2020. “So much of it doesn’t make sense.”

Jack Steuf found the Forrest Fenn treasure
Jack Steuf found the Forrest Fenn treasure.
Jack Stuef/

In the emails, written between December 2019 and March 2020, Fenn seemed exhausted by what the search — which he set up to give families a reason to “get off their couches” and head into the outdoors — had become.

In addition to receiving death threats and his granddaughter being stalked by a treasure seeker during the 10-year search for the cache, Fenn was also facing lawsuits over the location of the loot and worried that more people would die trying to find it. Four men had already died while searching, and the body of a fifth would be discovered by Colorado rescuers on March 21, 2020.

“After consulting with several people, the decision was unanimous to stop the search,” said Fenn in an email to his spokesman Dal Neitzel on Dec. 7, 2019.

“I will cause the treasure chest to be photographed in situ, and then retrieved,” he wrote Neitzel. “The photos will be posted on {Neitzel’s] site … As of now … the chase is over.”

Forrest Fenn
A series of recently released emails suggest that Fenn was desperate for the search to end.

It officially ended six months later, although at the time Fenn gave out few details and did not reveal the finder. Last December, an article in “Outside” magazine named the person as Jack Stuef, a Michigan medical student.

But even then the details surrounding the “solve” were sketchy, complained De Fronzo and other treasure seekers. They wondered why Stuef admitted to searching the same area for 25 days and then leaving the treasure hidden once he had found it.

“It was possible that he [Stuef] was close and Forrest nudged him,” De Fronzo said. “Do you believe that after he found the treasure, he left it there overnight? …So much doesn’t add up.”

Stuef’s attorney Christopher Grant Humphrey declined to comment.

De Fronzo and others believe that Neitzel decided to post his correspondence with Fenn now in order to alert the treasure hunting community that something was not right.

“I published those emails for no different reason than I have made public any of the others,” Neitzel told The Post. “I think they are interesting and shed light on Forrest’s mindset at a particular moment during the chase. Those emails certainly confirm that Forrest considered ending the chase,  once in December of 2019 and again in March of 2020, and the specific reasons he had for considering doing so, but those emails alone do not provide evidence that he actually did end the chase.”


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