Story of missing hiker in Joshua Tree NP

Southern California and far-away places. Hiking, wildlife, cycling etc.

Re: Story of missing hiker in Joshua Tree NP

Postby sh44 » Wed Apr 18, 2018 8:01 am

Some more pictures. A lot of the pics had to be reduced in size so resolution may not be the best

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Re: Story of missing hiker in Joshua Tree NP

Postby adamghost » Thu Apr 19, 2018 8:02 am

MNZ3 wrote:I was down in Joshua Tree this past weekend for vacation and convinced my wife to join me on a search. Everyone has an idea/theory on how Bill disappeared which makes this mystery interesting. I personally do not believe he ever made it to the top of Quail Mountain. Two possible scenarios are; He got halfway up Quail Mountain, was tired and out of water and turned back down. On the way down he missed the left turn on the route he came in on and ending up down somewhere in the Stubbe Springs area. Scenario 2 is he walked the 4 miles from the trail head and saw the Stubbe Springs trail. Being so hot and he was already low on water, he decided to go to Stubbe Springs instead of hiking up Quail Mountain which he most likely planned. In both examples he is in Stubbe Springs in which he had not planned on being there. This means he would not have studied the map for that area. Now Bill is lost, tired, and out of water. Trails and washes all look the same and it is extremely easy to get lost. No good decisions happen at this point and he continues to wander along different washes until nightfall. This area has no cell service. Bill spends the night in this area.

Friday morning Bill would have woken up dehydrated and weak. He slowly hikes around having to stop and rest in whatever shade he can find. By the end of the day he is somewhere near the top of Lower Covington.

Saturday is the same, but he is moving even slower with little ground gained during the day. He is only able to make it to the Covington Spring area or just beyond it. This is right at around the 10.6 ping area. The hills separating Lower and Upper Covington have a lot of ground cover and trees for shade. You can see this just by looking at a satellite view map. You can also not see Lower Covington road from here. Bill wakes up Sunday morning with barely enough strength to stand up. He climbs to the nearest rock pile to try his cell phone one last time. He turns it on, it just pings the Serin tower, and then the cell phone dies. Bill stumbles back down to his shady rest spot off the trail and closes his eyes for the last time. A ranger would have come to the Covington trailheads Sunday morning and Bill would have been only a half mile away. By the time people were searching for him on foot in this area he wold have already been gone.

Tom's website lays out all the searched areas very nicely. Since I believe the above scenario I felt it was necessary to explore the hill above Covington Spring. This area had not been searched and fell within 11.2 miles of the ping. This allows the 10% variance. There were plenty of nice soft patches of dirt under trees where someone wanting to escape the sun could rest in this area. On the south side on the top of the hill I was able to get 3 bars of coverage on my verizon iphone. I was getting at least a bar of coverage almost halfway down the hill. In looking over maps I had played with drawing straight lines from the Serin tower to the Covington Spring area. Sometimes the line would pass directly through the FM Yucca Valley tower which is located on a hill before Nolina Cove. While out hiking above Covington Spring, anytime I could see the FM tower I would get a bar or more of reception. It was basically working as a visual clue for me on potential service. We did not find much other than 5 or 6 deflated balloons and a softball size coconut which was broken in half.

I still believe Bill will be found 20-40 yards off one of the main trails in the Lower Covington area.

I keep going back to an article in Backpacker magazine which recounts the Rosenthal lost hiker situation which happened a few months later in 2010. This guy was lucky and was found alive. Here are the points that stuck out to me in helped me think what Bill might have done:

    1. On his first night he worked his way off trail to a sandy depression to sleep.
    2. Exhausted on his 2nd day he stumbled to a set of evergreen trees and crawled under its branches for shade
    3. 3rd morning he was so weak he could only walk 1 mile before finding shade and staying put.

I know this is just another long post and theory. I do believe the more people talk about the Bill situation the more chances it can open a new door.

Covington.jpg


I think this is a valid theory. I spent some time looking on the north side of the canyon with this same general idea in mind. It's good to see someone hitting the south side. Nice work!

BTW I'm going back over all the old files with a mind to writing up the whole Ewasko tale on a blog I'm starting up and have noted a few minor but intriguing discrepancies none of us caught until now. I'll let everybody know when the blog is up.
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Re: Story of missing hiker in Joshua Tree NP

Postby zippetydude » Sun Apr 22, 2018 10:12 pm

This thread and the compassion and problem solving capacity of several here ( may I assume you know who you are?) continue to astound me. While I appreciate and fully support the "never say die" commitment, which I feel is valuable and crucial to success, I have a horrid question to ask which I would not ask earlier, when it was fairly close to the incident. What are the chances that all remnants have been removed, either by natural means or by deliberate malicious intervention? Now that the family are unlikely to be following the thread, do you have some estimate as to the possible chance of success? I ask because if there is evidence likely still out there, I think we would stand an increasingly likely chance of success the longer and the greater the search effort. If the chances of success have plateaued at roughly 1%, or 5%, or 10x that much, it would reasonably energize the continuing efforts. Do you experienced searchers have any guess or estimate as to whether or not there is actually any evidence remaining?

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Re: Story of missing hiker in Joshua Tree NP

Postby Perry » Mon Apr 23, 2018 1:06 pm

I'm not an experienced searcher, just a little hasty SAR experience, but as mentioned in the other search thread, a small human skull was found decades later after a small child was missing in Indian Cove, likely taken by a mountain lion.

While I'm glad to help people, generally speaking, in this particular case it's just interesting that somebody can disappear like that, and the details are strange. It's been such a long time that I doubt the relief for the family would be as significant as if somebody finds the missing PCT hiker who disappeared locally last year and whose family is publicly seeking closure.

I can't help but wonder if we should be searching for plant and soil indications of a buried body near Carey's Castle. That's where Bill said he planned to go that Thursday. There's 2 reasons to suspect that the car may have moved on Friday (but maybe it didn't). The phone number for Bill's hiking partners was answered by someone who denied knowing Bill, although presumably phone records were checked by the detective. And is it realistic that Bill couldn't get the attention of searchers and helicopters or ping a tower on Saturday but then ping a tower on Sunday? There's a lot that doesn't make sense in the narrative of a normal hike.

In the case of a planned disappearance with a few mistakes, everything makes more sense also. It would be interesting to know whether the phone number belonged to a man named Ken, since Bill wrote "Ken and Helen" next to the phone number.

But maybe he just went hiking and unfortunately didn't survive the summer heat, without any of this speculated drama.
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Re: Story of missing hiker in Joshua Tree NP

Postby Perry » Wed Apr 25, 2018 12:42 am

I did some re-thinking about which explanations are, in my opinion, the most likely, and where Bill would be:

1. Dementia, and maybe drug use (western part of park)
2. Murder (eastern part of park, or outside of park)
3. Planned disappearance (outside of park)
4. Normal hike (western part of park)

Dementia, prior to and during the hike, explains everything well, I think, but maybe someone more knowledgeable on this subject could comment. Why else would somebody who is familiar with the park and did recon in the past decide to bring directions for driving to Juniper Flats parking area? It's not that complicated.

I'm leaning away from the disappearance explanation because it would be really sloppy with extraneous things that reduce chance of success. No need to put down a fake phone number or drive around a car when law enforcement is searching for it. Just drive in, do some hiking, and have a friend pick you up.

Murder is more difficult because a victim could be unpredictable and it involves hiding a body from searchers and dogs. There's more likelihood of mistakes such as moving the car after Bill was reported missing. A murderer could have planted the driving directions to keep searchers away from Carey's Castle which was on Bill's itinerary for that day. I can't remember if they were printed or handwritten and too lazy to re-read the documents right now.

So basically I'm inclined to believe either scenario 1 or scenario 2, which narrows things down to the western part of the park, the eastern part of the park, or outside the park.
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Re: Story of missing hiker in Joshua Tree NP

Postby adamghost » Thu Apr 26, 2018 10:46 am

I just finished writing the first draft of the blog. It's huge - 13,000 words - but it encompasses everything I know of the case including the recent searches, and lays out a couple of different scenarios that I think fit the facts, including the place I think Bill's remains are most likely to be found, assuming he is in the park at all, and a logical reason why he might be there. I also found three or four odd little things in the record that were previously missed and those are included. I didn't make a big deal out of them but people that have followed the case will notice. I also took into account the recent searches here and elsewhere. I'll let everyone know when it's up. It's going to be part of new site I'm doing that's mostly going to be travel blogging and music but there will be some unsolved mystery stuff. It should be live by about May 10.

As to the question of whether Bill would have remains to be found, here's the quote from the blog:

This is a very remote area that is not often visited. Anything that isn’t part of the landscape sticks out. Human remains might not be immediately noticeable but any collection of belongings – clothes, backpacks, empty bottles (none confirmed to be Bill's were ever found), would immediately draw the eye in that environment. I believe if you got within 10 meters, you’d see that. And then you’d find Bill.
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Re: Story of missing hiker in Joshua Tree NP

Postby Perry » Fri Apr 27, 2018 12:25 pm

Adam, I'm interested to hear your latest thoughts and the details you noticed.

A clarification on the dementia theory: I meant the very early signs of dementia. Obviously if Bill could drive a car and buy things at a grocery store, then it wouldn't be too debilitating. Just enough to make it difficult to write down a correct phone number, need driving directions for something easy and somewhat familiar, not communicate a change in plans, possibly forget the day of the week.

After re-reading a few things I realized I need to go back through everything again to form an opinion. A couple things that have me re-thinking my recent comments:

1. People checked the trailhead for Carey's Castle and it appeared nobody had been there in a long time.

2. The cell phone ping was good quality. That suggests that the ping location was in an area of good or decent cell reception.

If the radius error is actually 20% off the true distance, as the pings in the Nguyen/Orbeso case suggest, that's a range of 8.8 to 13.3 miles. 12 or 13 miles sounds quite reasonable.
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Re: Story of missing hiker in Joshua Tree NP

Postby OtherHand » Fri Apr 27, 2018 5:21 pm

adamghost wrote:
This is a very remote area that is not often visited. Anything that isn’t part of the landscape sticks out. Human remains might not be immediately noticeable but any collection of belongings – clothes, backpacks, empty bottles (none confirmed to be Bill's were ever found), would immediately draw the eye in that environment. I believe if you got within 10 meters, you’d see that. And then you’d find Bill.


I'd agree with this, but I'd make the radius larger, perhaps 50 to 100 meters. Normally, the more time passes, the larger the "debris field" gets.

As Adam said, this region is pretty clean with hardly any trash. Anything non-natural just jumps out at you. Usually that means big horn bones or Mylar balloons. When I did come across big horn (or deer) parts, I'd spend some time looking around the area to see if I could find more. Usually the scattering was over quite a distance, although they were likely out there longer than Bill.

This is what fundamentally puzzles me. By now someone in their wanderings/searching should have clipped at least a corner of the debris field. Assuming he wasn't just plain missed, it may suggest he's in some radically unsuspected part of the park, or he fell in a hole that has effectively contained Bill and his belongings.
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Re: Story of missing hiker in Joshua Tree NP

Postby RichardK » Mon Apr 30, 2018 10:08 am

One point about Carey's Castle. Per OtherHand's summary, when Bill called Mary Thursday morning, he stated that he was westbound on I-10 at Monterey Avenue. Carey's Castle is eastbound. Bill was not going there. Mary assumed it because it was first on his itinerary. Bill never corrected her.

Per RSO Martinez, Ewasko places call to his fiancée ,Mary, in Georgia. Martinez
stated Ewasko told Mary he was w/b on I-10 in the area of Monterrey Avenue.
Cell phone records indicate that his phone was transmitting off of the Thousand
Palms Verizon cell tower, which is consistent with the location he gave Mary.


Dementia could include other things than the gradual onset of Alzheimer's. It could come on suddenly due to hyperthermia, dehydration, stroke, etc.
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Re: Story of missing hiker in Joshua Tree NP

Postby Perry » Mon Apr 30, 2018 10:53 am

Richard, I was thinking about that recently also. And she said he was going to have dinner at Pappy and Harriet's.

Here's a visual:

https://mapper.acme.com/?ll=33.84973,-1 ... ail%20head

F: Pappy and Harriets

D: Juniper Flats Trailhead

B: Monterey Exit on I-10

H: Hayfield Exit on I-10 (for reaching trailhead to Carey's Castle)
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