SANTA FE – New Mexico State Police announced Tuesday that the former White House executive chef whose body was found off a trail near the Taos Ski Valley had drowned.
Police say an autopsy by the state Office of the Medical Investigator determined that Walter Scheib accidentally drowned on June 13. He had set out on mountain hike on the Yerba Canyon Trail.
Scheib, 61, the White House executive chef from 1994 to 2005, was reported missing by a family member or his girlfriend June 16.
After five days of searching, rescue crews found his body on Sunday submerged in a mountain drainage 25 yards off the trail and 1.7 miles from the Yerba Canyon trailhead, off N.M. 150 north of Taos.
Scheib was wearing a windbreaker jacket, running pants and tennis shoes, but no other items or provisions belonging to him were found in the area.
According to the National Weather Service, thunderstorms hit the Taos area the entire week he was missing, and nearly an inch of rain fell June 16. Air search efforts halted on Thursday because of the storms.
Data provided from Scheib’s cellphone indicated that he was in the area of Lobo Peak, elevation of 12,115 feet, on June 13 around 3 p.m. There had been speculation that he ran into problems while making a descent on the four-mile trail, which rises steeply from a canyon to the peak.
Scheib was in the White House under President Bill Clinton and part of the George W. Bush administration and was the first U.S.-born cook to hold the title of executive chef there since the position was created in 1961.
John Moeller, Scheib’s sous chef at the White House, said this week that he believes Schieb moved to Taos in March.