Paul Miller - Strange disappearances from U.S. national Parks

Paul Miller, disappeared July 13th, 2018, Joshua Tree National Park, California

Paul Miller disappearance, Joshua tree national park

Paul Miller, 51, and his wife, Stephanie, from Ontario in Canada, were on vacation in California and Nevada including Las Vegas to celebrate their 26th wedding anniversary.

A typical vacation for them was camping in the backwoods, hiking and kayaking and they had hiked across Canada, North America and Mexico.

They were getting ready to leave their hotel room in Twentynine Palms on July 13, 2018, but Paul wanted to take one more short hike in the hope of  photographing some bighorn sheep as he was a keen hiker. He left the hotel alone at around 9am and drove to the 49 Palms Oasis trail in Joshua Tree National park and promised to be back later that morning. Stephanie was going to accompany her husband on the morning hike, but with time constraints pressuring them on the morning of their last day, she decided to stay at the hotel and pack.

The couple had both hiked in the park on the day before the solo excursion and July 13th was the last day of their trip. He hasn't been seen since. 

49 Palms Oasis Trail, Joshua Tree national park

According to the NPS "The 49 Palms Oasis Trail offers a three-mile round-trip hike to a fan palm oasis. It requires two to three hours and is rated moderately-strenuous, ascending about 300 feet each way. This well-maintained trail climbs to a ridge where large numbers of barrel cacti dot the landscape. After winding around the ridge top, the trail descends steeply to the oasis located in a rocky canyon. Towering palms create a canopy over clear pools of water. Large boulders provide a place to rest and enjoy the sights and sounds of this small ecosystem." George Land from the park said “It’s not a real difficult trail. You go in and come out the same way. However, it is a little bit of a rigorous trail.”

When he hadn’t returned by 11 am, his wife grew concerned, but decided to give him another hour and at noon, when she still had not heard from him, Stephanie called park officials who began a search by 12.30 pm. Paul's rental car was quickly found at the 49 Palms Oasis trailhead. His cellphone was left behind at the hotel, but apparently this was not unusual for him.

He was wearing dark shorts, dark grey, almost black Hi-Tec Altitude VI WP hiking boots, black hat and carrying sunglasses, CamelBak hydration pack and a Nikon D5300 camera.

Despite an extensive search involving 600 people putting in 6000 hours in total (90 people at peak), up to twenty dog teams, an ATV search team and a helicopter no sign of Paul has been located and no other evidence other than his car that he was in the park such as his camera has turned up. Park Superintendent David Smith said that "We have a witness who saw (Miller) at the trailhead that morning, but that’s all.” The San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department deputies, detectives, search and rescue and emergency services; California Rescue Dog Association; Nevada Search and Rescue; and the National Park Service with personnel from the Investigative Services Branch, Mojave National Preserve, Death Valley National Park, Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area and Joshua Tree National Park all participated in the search. Due to steep ravines and cliffs, technical specialists with high-angle rescue skills were also deployed.

Despite the large number of K9 teams, the dogs were unable to pick up a scent. The search was scaled back on July 18th after no sign was found.

Park Superintendent Smith said as of mid-August 2018 there were no new clues as to what happened to Paul Miller sating “I assure them, the park service will not forget about Mr. Miller. We are doing all that we can. The FBI is called in only if there is a murder or homicide and at this point, there is no indication that is the case ... nothing to indicate this was a planned disappearance.” 

Stephanie said during an interview "Maybe he finished the trail and came out and something happened. We really don’t know. But if they can’t find him in the park, then what’s to say he’s not out of the park?”

Another national park solo hike with a mysterious disappearance.


#findpaulmiller on Twitter

Thomas Mullarkey - Strange disappearances from U.S. mountains

Thomas Mullarkey, disappeared March 14th, 2018, Bear Valley Ski Resort, california

Thomas Mullarkey disappearance

UPDATE May 15th 2018: Body discovered May 2018: See link

Thomas Mullarkey, 65, went skiing March 14, 2018 in California's Bear Valley Ski Resort, south of Lake Tahoe. He failed to return from the trip, which he had made many times before. For Tom this was very unusual as he was an advanced skier, experienced outdoorsman and backcountry visitor. Bear Valley has been the scene of several strange disappearances and deaths including that of Dr. Katherine Wong in June 1999.

He was last seen boarding a chairlift up the mountain in the morning. At 11.30 pm that day, his wife, Jane Drummond-Mullarkey, informed authorities her husband failed to return to his Arnold cabin. He was last seen wearing a blue ski outfit with yellow and red details. Tom was considered to be in good health.

Teams were unable to search the area that night due to extreme avalanche conditions, but at around 7 am on  Thursday, March 15th, rescuers began searching for Mullarkey. 

Authorities located his vehicle at the resort with a cellphone inside shortly after the search began. Efforts were concentrated within the 1,700-acre ski resort. But no other clues emerged, including no sign of his gloves, ski poles or other equipment. He was not known to go off piste or into areas areas prone to avalanches and searchers believed he did not leave the resort area voluntarily.

Heavy snowfall hindered the initial search efforts and searchers were limited to using skis and snowshoes during daylight hours only. A Blackhawk helicopter from the National Guard and another helicopter volunteered by the California Highway Patrol were grounded for two days because of the weather.

Around 150 representatives from El Dorado, Tuolumne and Marin counties, the National Ski Patrol, Bay Area Mountain Rescue, the California Office of Emergency Services, Calaveras County Sheriff’s Office and others assisted in the search.

When the weather improved, a fixed-wing military RC-26 surveillance plane with infrared imagery was used to search the hillsides outside the boundaries that had been covered the day before.

Bear Valley Ski resort California

After five days the search was called off on Tuesday March 20th as a storm dumped heavy snow in the area.

The authorities thought it  was unlikely that Tom was hit by an undiscovered avalanche which may have occurred within the boundaries of Bear Valley, where ski patrollers clear likely avalanche spots on a regular basis.

Tom's nephew, Markus Mullarkey said "He's been at this mountain many times. We've been snow camping literally at Tamarack right around the corner here. So there's still that possibility that he can survive this, and build a snow cave and stay warm enough until we find him."

Thomas mullarkey disappearance Bear Valley

"A lot of people in the family have said, if there's anybody in the family who could figure out how to weather this and make it through, it would be him. But it's tough you know, obviously (for) the family. It's nice we have a very big family, so there's a lot of people up here kinda holding it together with each other as much as we can."

His niece, Andrea Mullarkey, says he was skiing alone and may have been in the backcountry. "There's a lot of country out there and it's really hard to get around in this weather but we're really hopeful because we know he's smart and has experience and there are lots of people out looking. He has a really good head on his shoulders. He knows a lot about being outdoors."

Alpine County Undersheriff Spencer Case said “Search and Rescue personnel have conducted a thorough and methodical search operation during periods of heavy snowfall, white-out conditions, and single-digit temperatures.” 

Following the end of the search on March 20th, Tom Mullarkey remains missing somewhere in the  Bear Valley resort. If not an avalanche, what caused the disappearance of this outdoors savvy guy in good health?


Jerry Lee McKoen - Strange disappearances from U.S. wilderness

Jerry Lee McKoen, disappeared 21 September 2002, Malin, Oregon.

Jerry Lee McKoen disappearance

Jerry McKoen, 48, was last seen at approximately 4.30am - 5:30 a.m. on September 21, 2002 at his home near the 24200 block of Old Malin Highway in Malin, Oregon, halfway between Merrill and Malin.

He drove away from the house in his brown and white 1986 GMC pickup truck which had a distinctive camper shell that runs the length of the bed, with a Honda 185XL motorcycle beside the canopy. He used the motorbike to explore wilderness areas.

McKoen, was no novice to the outdoors and was renowned in the area as an avid outdoorsman. He grew potatoes, alfalfa and grain on his family's farm, and lived with his parents, Clifford and Bertha McKoen. Jerry was single, very independent, and while he lived at home on the family farm, he would come and go as he pleased.

Jerry was planning a hunt with his usual a bow and arrows, preferring this method to firearms. But he never returned home and has never been heard from again.

Medicine lake, Siskiyou County

His truck was found two weeks later on October 8,  west of Medicine Lake Road in a heavily wooded area south of Door Knob Snowmobile Park in Siskiyou County, California, 40 miles south of Klamath Falls.  The area is in the shadow of Mount Shasta.

Some hunters had bought a box of potatoes from a packing shed in the valley, and it had a poster on the wall relating to Jerry's disappearance and a picture of the pickup. When they saw the pickup they knew immediately it belonged to McKoen.

Jerry's friends and family went to the place his truck was found. It didn't take them long to realise something was not right. The radio was off and the heater was on high. There was no sign of him at the scene with no evidence of foul play. 

Jerry's mother, Bertha McKoen, said  "It looked pretty much just like you'd think he'd leave it." Saying his disappearance was "hard to believe. We're doing all right. As good as can be expected, but there's a real puzzlement to it." 

Nearly 100 volunteers combed a portion of the Modoc National Forest with the Sherrif's office saying "No trace of the missing man, no clues whatsoever, were found". The search included dog teams, an air search by the California Highway Patrol helicopter. Searchers used global positioning system devices to make sure no areas were missed with eight to 10 square miles covered in the vicinity.

Bertha said she knew her son was in trouble as soon as she learned he was missing."He's a homebody, Plus, his dad's birthday was on Wednesday, and he definitely wouldn't have missed that." She believed something happened to her son, "I think he met up with foul play. We don't think he drove his pickup there." He would usually leave a note, and that day, he didn’t.

The family put up 2,500 posters across the area, including information about a $20,000 reward within the first week of their son’s disappearance.

McKoen's friends believed he went hunting either at the Klamath Marsh, 50 miles north of Klamath Fall, at the Gearhart or Christmas Valley areas or in the Beatty or Fort Klamath Seven-mile areas.

Friend Terry Guthrie who knew Jerry since he was six years old said, "I hunted with him 18 years and every time he left the pickup he never locked it and this time it was locked. It's just certain things like that that started making me believe there was a possibility foul play was involved." Bertha McKoen said, "It wasn't him that drove that pick up, that's why we think it was foul play."

Guthrie said, "We don't know whether Jerry went down there for a purpose, or that Jerry didn't even go down there, or someone was forcing him to go down there. There's no explanation for it."

Strange that no sign of Jerry was found in the area where his vehicle was discovered, with no evidence of his bow and arrows in an area of low timber and relatively accessible. To date, 15 years on, nothing has been found.


Laura Bradbury - Strange disappearances in U.S. National Parks

Laura Bradbury, disappeared October 18, 1984, Indian Cove Campground, Joshua Tree National Park, California.


Laura Bradley, Joshua Tree National Park disappearance

On October 18, 1984, three-and-a-half-year-old Laura Bradbury was on a camping trip with her family at the  Indian Cove Campground in the Joshua Tree National Park, California. They were a family of five, cramped in a two-bedroom condominium, so Joshua Tree offered a break, they were regular visitors with parents Patty and Michael.

Indian Cove Campground, Joshua Tree

She went with her 8-year-old brother, Travis, to the portable restrooms near the campground and left Laura outside while he used the facilities. When he came out, Laura had vanished. 

Over 250 people along with horses, dogs and helicopters searched for Laura in the Joshua Tree National Park. A dog followed her scent for about two miles before losing it. After only three days, the official search was called off.

The Bradbury family mobilised their own massive effort, distributing millions of flyers and T-shirts with Laura's likeness on them. They also appeared on radio and television talk shows and the disappearance was reenacted twice on national television. A hot line was established to gather tips and field inquiries.The search for her became a national story and Laura was one of the first missing children to be featured on milk cartons.

Patty and Mike Bradbury, November 1984

Patty and Mike Bradbury, November 1984

Witnesses claimed to have seen a man in his fifties with a metallic blue van at Indian Cove Campground just before Laura disappeared and a  similar-looking man was seen near Burns Canyon a few hours later. The sheriff’s department even brought in a hypnotist to try to coax out more details from campers who had seen the bearded, pot-bellied man and his van.

The San Bernardino County Sheriff's Department had investigated Laura's disappearance. But Mike had lost faith in the deputies and he'd mounted his own search. Mike grew increasingly contemptuous of sheriff's deputies for not doing enough about the many tips that flowed into the Laura Center. They were incompetent or lazy or both, he told reporters. He even speculated that someone inside the department knew that a kidnapper was involved and was covering it up. 

Mike heard the story of Clifford Leville and Toby Santangelo who were said to have told deputies they had solid information about a man they believed kidnapped Laura. But investigators checked it out and found it not credible. Not long afterward, Leville and Santangelo were found shot to death. 

Along with a private investigator, he combed the isolated communities near Joshua Tree, known for attracting drug dealers and oddballs. His hunt, too, came to nothing.

 In 1986, a skull believed to be that of Laura Bradbury was found by hikers near the parks west entrance, only two miles from the family's campsite (some reports say 5 miles). However, DNA tests were unable to conclusively prove that the skull was Laura's, not even blood type or gender, and the only certainty was that it was a child.

A sheriff's captain publicly speculated it was Laura's and had a theory. Maybe, he said, she meandered away from the toilet, stumbled and was somehow buried by collapsing sand. Only recently, he continued, coyotes or a mountain lion had dug up all that was left. 

In 1990, new DNA tests were said to prove the skull was Laura's with 99% likelihood of a match.

Laura's mother Patty died in 2001 and her father Michael wrote a book about his daughter's disappearance called "Laura Ann Bradbury: A Father's Search" in 2010. 

Michael Bradbury has been trying to have the skull transferred from the coroner’s facility to a mortuary since October 2009, but because the San Bernardino County coroner’s office has not issued a death certificate, he has been unable to claim his daughter’s remains.

In a 2010 interview he said he was  shown about 40 colour 35 mm slides of the skull, and was astonished to find out it is a full-sized skull, about seven inches by five inches, missing the teeth and lower jaw. He claimed that investigators showed him a much different skull shortly after hikers discovered the remains. “My wife and I were shown a smaller, three-inch skullcap in or around 1986-’87 that the sheriff’s claimed was Laura’s skull,” he said. “The two skulls are totally dissimilar; they looked nothing like each other. I wonder now, what or whose skull they showed me then. And why?”

He also had a report on tests that provided inconclusive results on whether the cranium was his daughter’s. According to the report, only one of four DNA tests performed on the skull matched DNA samples from Laura’s mother’s blood. Even hair taken from Laura’s hairbrush did not match DNA with the skull, he said. The two partial skull bones are the only remains Michael was aware of that are believed to be from his daughter. “I am very anxious to put closure to this terrible period of my life,” Bradbury said. “All I want is justice for my daughter. That’s all I care about.”

No arrests have ever been made and the case remains unsolved.


Maximillian "Max" L. Schweitzer - Strange disappearances in U.S. national parks

Maximillian "Max" L. Schweitzer, disappeared Jan 1-3, 2018, Yosemite National Park, California.

Maximillian "Max" L. Schweitzer yosemite

The disappearance of Max Schweitzer in Yosemite National Park in January 2018 is an interesting case because of the background of the man involved, of German extraction, in common with many cases. His LinkedIn profile claiming he was an Clandestine Analyst at the U.S. Department of Homeland security looks potentially suspect and he had various incidents with Police and the FBI reported.

Was this a classic disappearance caused by national causes, foul play or misadventure or did he intend to disappear?

Maximillian "Max" L. Schweitzer, 41 is believed to have gone to Yosemite National park around Jan 1-3, 2018.

camp 4 yosemite national park

His rental car was found at Camp 4 parking on January 5th after it was reported overdue by the rental company. Friends or family did not report him missing. 

He was last seen wearing a light-colored long-sleeve shirt or sweatshirt, light-colored shorts, and a dark-colored backpack.

Maximillian "Max" L. Schweitzer missing poster
Cafeteria in the Yosemite Lodge posted by NPS

Cafeteria in the Yosemite Lodge posted by NPS

Background to Max  Schweitzer

Max appears to have had several run-ins with the law over the years. Was he suffering from mental illness? There are reports he may have been homeless, but he didn't appear that way in the CCTV image captured near Camp 4 at Yosemite. 

In 2005 it was reported by SFGATE that a  31-year-old man was facing federal charges for allegedly trashing the FBI lobby in San Francisco by throwing a potted plant against a wall, breaking legs off chairs and damaging glass display cases.

Maximillian Lee Schweitzer of San Francisco insisted that he had to see FBI agents, then allegedly caused an estimated $7,491 in damage Wednesday at the Federal Building, Inspector John Tanabe of the Federal Protective Service wrote in an affidavit.

Then in 2016 there is a record of Threats of Violence etc. in Sacramento with an arrest date of 16th June 2016.

Maximillian Schweitzer arrest

Max's LinkedIn profile claims he was a Clandestine Analyst at the US Department of Homeland Security.

max schweiter San fran linked in

A reference to the minutes from June 2004 of the San Francisco Civil Service Commission shows his employment was terminated as a Transit Planner. 

Civil Service Commission  Minutes June 2004

Civil Service Commission Minutes June 2004


Arvin Nelson - Disturbing disappearances in U.S. forests

Arvin Nelson, Disappeared August 6th, 2014, Ventana wilderness, Los Padres National Forest, California

Arvin Nelson disappearance Los Padres National Forest

Arvin Nelson, 55,  began his solo backpacking trip to Big Sur Station in the Los Padres National Forest on August the 6th, 2014, starting his hike at the China Camp Trailhead.

Arvin was dropped off by a friend at China Camp near Tassajara Road and planned to hike the eastern side of the Ventana Wilderness, including the Pine Ridge Trail, an area he had never visited before. He was expected to arrive at the Big Sur Station on August 14 and when he didn’t arrive searchers were notified and they began Search and Rescue operations on August 16th in the area. Nelson was an experienced hiker and he told friends that if he didn’t make contact with them at the time agreed they should report him missing

Monterey County Sheriff’s deputies, the National Guard, the U.S. Forest Service, the California Highway Patrol and other agencies were all involved in the search with the help of three helicopters and approximately 30 foot searchers on the ground every day. 

Arvin Nelson search los padres national forest

The last known sighting of Arvin was on August 6th, when he met Jack English, who lived for 13 years in an isolated cabin in the Ventana Wilderness, and his son Dennis. When the father and son were picked up by helicopter two days later on the 8th, Arvin stayed and saw them off. He told them he was planning to stay and hike 11 miles to Sykes on August 10th.

Nelson had taken a lot of gear and food with him because of the length of time he had planned for this solo hike. For this reason, the authorities continued their search for longer than they normally would as his chance of survival were higher.

Arvin Nelson Los Padres disappearance

To this day, no sign of Arvin has been found. Another solo hiker lost in the American wilderness.