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UPDATE: Man cutting Christmas tree found dead near Homestake; no foul play suspected

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Authorities said a 74-year-old Butte man was found dead next to a Christmas tree he was cutting just south of Homestake Pass late Tuesday afternoon.

Shaun Gardener, Jefferson County deputy coroner, told The Montana Standard Tuesday night that no foul play is suspected. He said the man’s name wouldn’t be released pending notification of relatives. Gardener said the body was found by a passerby just off the Forest Service Road 240, about a mile south of Interstate 90.

Mandy Axelson, co-owner of the Homestake Lodge cross country ski area, located several miles beyond where the man was found, said she noticed a red Jeep parked alongside the road when she drove into Butte with her three children Tuesday afternoon. On the way home, several hours later, about 5 p.m., the vehicle was still there — along with another vehicle and a man standing by the road. She stopped, and the man said he was looking for his friend who had gone to cut a Christmas tree, but hadn’t returned after several hours. The man’s wife was worried, she was told.

Axelson said she offered to help look, and followed tracks in the snow just off the road. She noticed a hand-saw left in a tree trunk, and a man lying somewhat face down on the ground near the tree.

Axelson said she called 911, and checked the man’s his pulse; there wasn’t one.

The man was dressed warmly with heavy pants, coat and a hat, and his vehicle was running when Axelson came upon the scene, she said.

She said his tracks had filled with freshly fallen snow, but were still discernible.

Deputy Coroner Gardener said authorities anticipate releasing the man’s name on Wednesday. Gardener declined to speculate on what caused the man’s death.

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