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 adamghost » Fri Jul 27, 2018 12:01 am

Weeellll....I'm sure you're aware that writers often use a certain flair to make the writing more interesting. So Sherlock Holmes might just be such a device, not to be taken quite this seriously. But as to the logical reasoning I'm quite serious...

So just to engage you here, because you raise some good points, but seem to misunderstand a few things, and it's fun:

"has the nasty habit of leaving you with an alternative that's equally improbable"

Well, yeah. The main thrust of the post wasn't Sherlock Holmes, the point is can't just say "it's improbable" have to compare apples to apples. The whole U-haul deal was improbable, but when you looked pretty close at the fact pattern, was it really all that more improbable than that Greyson AND Gorman, both park employees, were totally off their hat? That's why I gave full credit to the posters here - they addressed that problem fair and square and came up with answers that I thought were better than just dismissing them outright.

"Unfortunately the U-Haul theory in particular has the flavour of "If Officer Grayson is correct, then you inevitably come to a theory like the UHaul!" and this isn't really right."

No, it isn't, because Grayson's kind of irrelevant to the U-Haul. It would be closer to accurate to say if MIMI GORMAN is correct, then you inevitably come to a theory like the UHaul. Because Ms. Gorman insisted the car was the wrong way 'round. Grayson just said it wasn't there.

"If the ranger is correct, must there be foul play? Or is it merely likely that there is foul play?"

Well, again, let me correct the premise. When I was talking about eliminating foul play I specifically talked about THE INHOLDING. So to me, if you can eliminate a means by which Bill can encounter someone on his hike who does him harm and can get rid of his remains, you can pretty much eliminate foul play. Yes, it could have happened at the parking area, but one would expect there to be some evidence of that there, and there wasn't.

If the ranger AND GORMAN are both correct, yes, it increases the likelihood that there's foul play, but no, it doesn't directly infer that there WAS foul play (There's also self disappearance to contend with). I think I stated that, in pretty much those words.

"Could Bill have moved his car by himself while a search was underway for him"

Yup. Talked about that at some length too. I don't know if that could have happened "without realizing" but sure, maybe.

<<Sure, you can make a set of assumptions that seems reasonable to come to a possible conclusion, but who's to say one set of assumptions is better than any other?>>

Got into that at some length, too, on the first half of the blog. You compare and weigh objectively as best one can. Occam's Razor says, roughly, the hypothesis that requires the fewest assumptions is to be tested first.

I mean no disrespect, Osmanthus, but given the questions you raised I have to wonder if you actually read most of the blog. While I admit my reasoning and writing can be pretty dense at times, I did deal with most of them pretty clearly in the body of it, and for instance you keep talking about "the ranger" when there's a whole 'nuther park employee witness, Mimi Gorman, that directly inspired the U-Haul theory. If you are unfamiliar with her role in the case, and it would appear you are, yes, it would certainly seem like the U-Haul comes out of nowhere.

But to grapple with your central premise: it's simply not true that all assumptions are created equal and there's no way to assess them - nor that because we can't technically rule out any improbable scenario we can't rule out anything at all. Some things, such as UFO abductions, are technically possible but I think we can rule them out for the purposes of narrowing things down. Likewise to me if there's no way to deal with Bill's body logistically I don't see foul play as being very likely, even though there's a million scenarios you can come up with that are technically possible, but require too many leaps of faith to be true.

Some might say the U-Haul idea is up there with the UFO abduction, and all I can say to that is, I laid out my reasoning in favor of it, and when people came up with counterexplanations that explained those facts better, I agreed that they were more likely. I think that's pretty honest intellectually. YMMV, of course.

I'd be interested to hear your theory.
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Re: Story of missing hiker in Joshua Tree NP

Postby RichardK » Tue Jul 31, 2018 9:55 am

There is one person missing in these discussions: the Riverside County Sheriff along with his deputies and detectives.

Tom Mahood said it best:

I personally put little weight on the possibility of foul play being involved. I also discount the witness who claimed Bill’s vehicle was pointed in a different direction from when she saw it to when it was found by the CHP helicopter. If the vehicle really appeared and disappeared as some witnesses suggest, then something extremely criminal would have been going on. The Riverside Sheriff’s Office, the experts in such things, have not given the least inclination that they think it’s a criminal matter.

I can't arbitrarily ignore the opinion of trained, experienced law enforcement investigators. I would weight their conclusion over what someone saw or didn't see driving by.

I imagine that the park superintendent, a sheriff's investigator, and Ranger Grayson had a very interesting conversation at some point. I wish I had been a fly on the wall for that one. I bet they tore him a new one.
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Re: Story of missing hiker in Joshua Tree NP

Postby OtherHand » Fri Aug 10, 2018 4:40 am

I've posted something a bit different concerning Bill on my site. It's a Bayesian analysis of where he might be, based upon the cell ping, cell coverage and what areas have already been covered by searchers. While I did the writeup, the actual analysis was performed by people who know how to do this sort of stuff. It's an interesting technique and appeals to my geeky side. The writeup and analysis is here.
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Re: Story of missing hiker in Joshua Tree NP

Postby drndr » Fri Aug 10, 2018 8:16 am

More great ideas and love it when science attacks a problem. My only problem with the new data is the west boundary cuts off on the canyons heading down to Desert Hot Springs where I think he probably is.

Strictly going off that new map I like the little island of yellow by the canyons off of Upper Covington Flat Rd heading to Eureka Peak.

My theory would be that is what he passed through in his last ditch effort to get down to the lights of Desert Hot Springs. That was Rosenthal's idea. Follow the canyon til you hit civilization. It also reminds me of the people who are lost and rescued or whose remains are found in the San Jacintos. Always in some crazy dead end canyon. Under normal situations they probably wouldn't try it but in desperation they will do anything. And if you're in Upper Covington looking down to DHS that looks very doable compared to the view you'd see looking down from the San Jacinto trails to Palm Springs or Cabazon/10 Freeway. And plenty of lost and desperate people have tried to walk down from the SJ's.

My guess is his remains are long gone in one of the maze of washes to the west or south.

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Re: Story of missing hiker in Joshua Tree NP

Postby Perry » Fri Aug 10, 2018 8:55 am

The map shows a small hill in Quail Wash that a lot of people walked around but nobody wanted to climb.

I'm surprised it shows the double hill to the west of Samuelson's Rocks because Tom did a very thorough search of that area. The math assumes that he couldn't see very far. Perhaps an adjustment could include that looking downhill covers better than looking uphill.

It looks like there's a southern cutoff that is north of Quail Mountain.

I'm curious what it would show if we assume the ping radius is garbage but the cell coverage map is useful. I think the hills above Lost Horse Ranger Station would have the highest probability.
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Re: Story of missing hiker in Joshua Tree NP

Postby OtherHand » Fri Aug 10, 2018 11:44 am

I've been over the mountains westerly of Samuelson's a few times. That terrain is pretty open with good sight lines. The analysis assumes a cleared swath of 50' on each side of a searcher's GPS track, but I'd say it's a lot wider on these hills. The portions that get the best cell coverage are actually fairly barren and easy to see.

When I first got involved in this damn search, the assumption was that the ping distance was not likely accurate. As a result we concentrated on the areas that made the most sense, such as between the trailhead cross country to Quail Mountain. Turning up a fat zero there, we then started exploring ANY areas of cell coverage near Quail or Lang Canyon. I even checked out an area of cell coverage southeasterly of Ryan Mountain (not to mention the horror between Land Canyon and Lost Horse). It wasn't until after those areas were cleared that we started looking more closely at the Verizon distance measuring system and came up with scenarios that could have put Bill near the 10.6 mile mark. Field tests done by Melson show the system measured distances to be pretty accurate.

My guess at this point is he went up some random hill in an attempt to get cell coverage that made no sense to any searcher because why climb a small hill if you can go around it and it was never examined? Or he's in a hole/crevasse and we walked right by him.
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Re: Story of missing hiker in Joshua Tree NP

Postby Nostromo » Fri Aug 10, 2018 7:43 pm

Something I've wondered frequently and perhaps missed in all the discussion on Bill is why it was assumed he only had the water bottles missing from the pack in his car when he disappeared. It seems like a large facet of this case was his presumed lack of adequate water in the hot season and how it may have led to some of the proposed theories (e.g. descent into SWC) or his mental confusion in the midst of dehydration.

Is there any solid evidence suggesting that the 2-5 Safeway water bottles were the only source of water he had? Did his fiance make any statements regarding his gear or if he carried a nalgene, camelbak, or collapsabile water container? I know it is a pain to travel with a bunch of empty nalgenes, but Platypus makes a 2L folding water bottle that could pretty much fit in my back pocket, not to mention a small pocket in a backpack or carry on bag. Or did Bill even have a large bottle or two he bought in the airport before his flight that he refilled at the condo before departing?

If I missed this info somewhere, apologies, but it seems to me that there isn't any evidence that the water he took from his car was his only source which would make a lot of the speculation about his decision making, mental state, or the extent of his planned hike somewhat off base.
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Re: Story of missing hiker in Joshua Tree NP

Postby OtherHand » Sat Aug 11, 2018 7:55 pm

There is virtually no info on what sort of gear Ewasko had in his possession, and that includes hydration. The estimate as to how much water he was carrying was the Sheriff's deputies counting the missing bottles in the pack Ewasko purchased. But even if it's assumed he had double or even triple the water he was assumed to be carrying, it doesn't change much else. We still have a ping from a region he really shouldn't be in. I don't see any additional plausible scenarios if Ewasko had more water.
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Re: Story of missing hiker in Joshua Tree NP

Postby zippetydude » Sun Aug 12, 2018 8:28 am

I have no speculation but I do have a couple questions.

You don't think the radius of his possible wandering would expand if he had 2 or 3 times the amount of water?

Didn't the original searching use some approximation of a Bayesian search?

With the huge rock jumbles, almost no amount of searching even just one of these structures would ensure discovery even if he were in there. How could searchers deal with this seemingly intractable problem?

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Re: Story of missing hiker in Joshua Tree NP

Postby Ed » Sun Aug 12, 2018 9:16 am

With my limited knowledge of Joshua Tree, cell-phone pings, and SAR procedures, I have little or nothing to contribute to these very interesting discussions. But they all seem to be concerned with summer disappearances. Have there been winter disappearances? You would think foul play would be a more likely explanation in the winter. Bad people don't like hot weather any better than the rest of us.
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