Story of missing hiker in Joshua Tree NP

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Re: Story of missing hiker in Joshua Tree NP

Postby RichardK » Wed May 23, 2018 2:50 pm

On Friday, David and Cheryl Haber reported Bill's car as being a couple of feet from the curb. From the picture in the ranger's report, the car is at least a tire's width and more from the curb. The curb's shadow makes it seem closer to the car than it really is. I'm willing to say that the Haber's casual statement of a couple of feet is not significantly different from what is in the picture. So, everyone who was actually boots on the ground, Greg Mendoza on Thursday, the Haber's on Friday, and the officers who found the car on Saturday, have it in the same position.

That leaves the drive-by's of Mimi Gorman and Ranger Mike Grayson. The parking area is at an angle to Park Road. That may explain Ms. Gorman's sighting of the car in a seemingly different position. It is possible that another car belonging to some tourist was also parked there blocking the view of Bill's car from from the road especially for someone just glancing in the area. Was Grayson a backcountry ranger or an office employee? He might not have been familiar with Juniper Flats and confused it with another spot. Or he was just "shockingly incompetent". With all due respect, the notion that the car was moved and then returned inside a U-Haul is a flight of fancy.

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Re: Story of missing hiker in Joshua Tree NP

Postby Myth » Wed May 23, 2018 8:11 pm

A bit of Googling reveals that a Mark Grayson started seasonal ranger work with JT in 1989, permanent employment in the early 1990’s. If the same person, he seems experienced.

JT does not allow commercial vehicles, not sure how a Uhaul would be classified. It would stick out like a sore thumb. But JT also has open access, you can drive in at night if you wanted.

But I doubt foul play was involved.
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Re: Story of missing hiker in Joshua Tree NP

Postby Perry » Wed May 23, 2018 11:52 pm

Myth, I did some Googling and Duckduckgoing and did not find that. But if that's his real name, then it calls into question the accuracy of the FOIA narrative. It also says "the dew point was 20%" even though dew point is not a percentage. And the FOIA narrative isn't clear whether Ranger Grayson informed Pritchett over the radio in real time or in person based on memory and whether he spoke up about Juniper Flats parking lot or if he was asked "by the way, did you look there also?" I don't think the radio log includes Saturday. If somebody can contact this Mark Grayson, he might have something to say about all this.

Adam, the U-Haul and private buildings might be some wild theories, but searching in an area that hasn't been searched yet that's near the ping radius is not far-fetched at all. It wouldn't surprise me if Bill is found in the area you suggested. Like drndr, I also just skimmed the article and looked for new things.

Does anybody know if a car can make it on Berdoo Canyon Road and Geology Tour Road? If that's laughable, please feel free to laugh. What about other dirt roads that enter/exit the park? I imagine it might need a carwash afterwards and maybe a new oil pan and transmission pan, if not a new engine and transmission.

Is there a place within the park where a car could be hidden? Besides the private buildings.

Regarding the foul play theory, I'm having trouble coming up with a reasonable explanation and timeline for the car disappearing before 1:30pm Fri and coming back after 9:00am Sat. Whether premeditated or a crime of opportunity, and even if things didn't go perfectly for criminals, anybody with half a brain would know that they shouldn't be driving around the victim's car 2 days after the crime, in the same general area. I know there are some dumb criminals out there, but that would be really dumb. The best I can come up with is that he was murdered somewhere else on Sat, the criminals found the driving directions to JF parking lot and thought it was a good idea to drive the car and leave it there, not knowing he was already missing. This assumes Bill forgot to call Mary on Thu evening. So yeah, early-stage dementia + murder is getting a little ridiculous.

Are mountain bikes allowed on dirt roads in JTNP? That could sure save a lot of time searching if people could bike the Juniper Flats Road.
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Re: Story of missing hiker in Joshua Tree NP

Postby Myth » Thu May 24, 2018 8:24 am

Perry - Oops! I got autocorrected and didn't realize. Mike, not Mark.

Spooky, though. I literally looked that up a couple of days ago, and now the link is broken.

Link: http://www.npshistory.com/publications/ ... s/1992.pdf

I can speak to Berdoo Canyon Road and Geology Tour Road. Car - no way on Berdoo, probably would even bog down on Geology Tour past Squaw Tank. It gets super sandy.

How I know: I went down Berdoo Canyon Road in late 2015 with my Wrangler, and at one point I thought I would have to leave it there! Of course, that was after heavy rains really washed out the road earlier in the year. But a car would not make it through. It isn't a road as much as it is a wash some people drive down, and there's some pretty big rocks in there you have to crawl over.

You might be able to hide a car in plain sight. One more nondescript sedan parked at Barker Dam, or Jumbo Rocks, or any of the other campgrounds in the Park during the day won't be specifically noticed. Once rangers started actively searching for it by tag it would be found, but until the search starts, you just move it to another backcountry board for overnight, or a busy tourist area for the day.

Mountain bikes are only allowed on roads that are also open to vehicular traffic. So that excludes trails and Juniper Flats Road.
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Re: Story of missing hiker in Joshua Tree NP

Postby RichardK » Thu May 24, 2018 9:57 am

The URL may have been mangled. I found the report here:

http://www.npshistory.com/publications/ ... r/1992.pdf

Mike Grayson may have had the title "ranger", but spent his time behind the counter in the visitor's center. I was once on a trail maintenance crew in a state park here in Florida. At the end of the day, the ranger driving us out got lost in his own park. He said that he rarely left the office.

I believe that Bill's car was found exactly where he left it and that it never moved. I just don't believe what the drive-by's said. One way or another, they were mistaken.
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Re: Story of missing hiker in Joshua Tree NP

Postby Myth » Thu May 24, 2018 11:51 am

Thanks RichardK! Google may have had an old URL cached.

I agree regarding Bill's car. I think it was sitting there all the time. Eyewitnesses are quite unreliable. I've seen people swear up and down on things that just weren't as they thought they saw it. Heck, I myself have formed very convincing ( to me ) false memories of things I thought I saw in the past, and had to eat humble pie.

As for Mike Grayson, I find his part in it puzzling. JTNP is not a complicated NP to drive through. I wonder whether he was not checking the correct trailhead, somehow. Maybe he was told "Juniper Flats" and he thought "Turkey Flats". Who knows. Maybe he didn't bother driving all the way out there to check. Both of those would be terrible.
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Re: Story of missing hiker in Joshua Tree NP

Postby OtherHand » Thu May 24, 2018 12:55 pm

A couple years after Bill vanished I spent some time digging around for related info, and I stumbled upon an online roster of all national park employees (these days it's long gone). It included the employee postings, phone and email addresses. So I looked up Grayson. To my surprise, he wasn't listed at JTNP. In fact, he wasn't listed anywhere within the NPS.

I've worked in governmental agencies all my life and there are some things that a "normal" person may not notice when agencies put things in writing. And something that always jumped out at me was the rather assertive wording in the Ewasko narrative regarding Grayson's reporting. It was extremely literal and detailed. While I thought it odd, I put it aside....until I was unable to find Grayson in the employee roster.

Having been involved in the termination of government employees, I know that it is a very hard thing to do, and requires a lot of documentation of the transgressions of that employee. To me, based upon my experience, that narrative wording sure sounds like it was part of a setup for some sort of termination proceeding or forced retirement. I have no idea if that was actually the case, but it's been my hunch for quite some time. Had Ewasko's vehicle been properly reported on the ranger's first pass, the search around Quail Mtn. would have started much sooner and a good argument could be made that Ewasko might still be alive today. But again, just an opinion.
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Re: Story of missing hiker in Joshua Tree NP

Postby sk43 » Thu May 24, 2018 8:07 pm

Here's a document that lists Mike Grayson as a park ranger for visitor protection, effective Nov 21, 1993:

https://web.archive.org/web/20170718165 ... s/1993.pdf
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Re: Story of missing hiker in Joshua Tree NP

Postby Perry » Thu May 24, 2018 11:12 pm

Okay, I'm starting to think that the car didn't move. A few years ago I thought you guys were nuts with all these searches for a guy who probably either disappeared or got murdered, but now I'm thinking you guys were right after all. Whether there was any slight dementia, any medications or drugs involved, senior moments, or even if the car moved, I think Bill is in the park regardless. I might join the fun and do some bushwhacking in Joshua Tree. It's becoming the fashionable thing to do.

Do you guys (or gals) wear snake gaiters for the mojave green snakes? I saw one many years ago at a party in the high desert and it seemed very aggressive and ready to fight. If I remember right I think it may have been facing me even as I walked around. This is in contrast to a speckled rattlesnake I saw on Skyline years ago that seemed like it couldn't even see me and just rattled and hoped I would go away. Same with the red pacifics. I haven't had that many snake encounters, but I rarely go through bushes and usually stick to the trails.
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Re: Story of missing hiker in Joshua Tree NP

Postby Ric Capucho » Fri May 25, 2018 4:04 am

Actually, it was my reading of Adam's epic blog post that reminded me to re-read the materials on Tom's Website that relate to the car.

1. The calls and pings recorded prior to Bill entering the park are consistent with a clockwise journey from Rancho Mirage, west along the I-10 around 8am, (and then presumably) north and past Big Morongo, east and past Yucca Valley along HW-62, and entering the park at the West Entrance Station (W2) at sometime before 9am. The lost one and a half hours may have occurred before or after entering the park, but either way that entrance would have been manned since 8am.

2. Why wasn't the car recorded at the entrance?

Look carefully at the dates on the extracted records shown in the appendix of the police Narrative. You'll see everything is dated Saturday 26th June. Bill entered the park on Thursday 24th June. Tom told me a few years ago he'd already noticed this and discounted it, but he couldn't recall why. I think I know why: whoever made the extract made a simple mistake and selected the wrong date, not something you'd do on the 25th which would be a forward dated mistake; so it was probably a backdated query later after the SAR had died down. And when the narrative was being written up, it got included without anyone noticing.

Did someone during the initial trawling of JTNP (25th and 26th) do a correctly dated search? Here I'm skeptical. The data for the Saturday traffic shows only about 60 cars the entire day... hardly a frenzied queue coming into JTNP. So I can't believe there was any more traffic on the Thursday morning, probably far less. Why wave anyone through?

The unkind amongst us may observe that providing a later extract for activity on the 26th would be an effective bit of smoke-screening, if Bill's car *had* been recorded at the West Entrance on the 24th but no one had properly checked the records on the 25th...

3. The car was incorrectly parked across the diagonally painted parking lines, and therefore far more noticeable than if it had been parked correctly. If my wife had seen such parking she would have wryly observed that someone must have run out of gas...

4. Mendoza would have noticed the car upon his arrival at 10:20am on the 24th as it would have stuck out like a sore thumb. He noticed it *after* he completed his hike, and noticed its orientation (facing west).

5. On Friday 25th the Hubers noticed the car, and noted its orientation (again, facing due west).

6. This was its due west orientation once it had been found by law enforcement late afternoon on Saturday 26th...

Nobody moved that car, IMHO.

So why didn't Ranger Grayson see Bill's car at 1:30pm Friday 25th and again when he returns from checking out Key's View? And again before 9am Saturday 26th when he rechecks Key's View? I have a strong suspicion that there was one or more cars *correctly* parked in the diagonals and these simply obscured Bill's car. The Huber's car on the 25th, for example (actually, scratch that. The Huber's were gone by around 10:30am, long before Grayson passed JF parking). Grayson didn't enter the car park (clearly) but did a drive by along Key's View road, and maybe only slowed to "properly" look when he was directly at the Juniper Flats parking entrance. Oops.

And Mimi Gordon's statement? I always assumed it to be brain-fade, but yes the dogleg alignment of the parking area to Key's View Road plus the further diagonals of the "correct" parking plus the patently incorrectly parked Chrysler Sebring all came together to give Mimi a very different view from the ground as to what she saw on the screen. Perspectives, basically.

I seem to remember someone somewhere somewhen noting that the diagonal stripes have been repainted after Bill's disappearance, and may have been indistinct at the time. But the photo of the car in the Narrative clearly shows a diagonal stripe.

I never thought of Bill as being the rebellious type, so perhaps the contrary parking (plus only taking a couple of bottles with him) was a strong indication of haste?

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