Joshua Tree National Park

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.

Sources

#findpaulmiller on Twitter

https://www.nps.gov/jotr/planyourvisit/upload/49siteMap.pdf

https://www.desertsun.com/story/news/local/2018/07/21/missing-without-trace-family-friends-canadian-hiker-paul-miller-hold-tight-hope-hes-alive-joshua-tre/813118002/

https://www.desertsun.com/story/news/local/2018/08/18/guelph-ontario-canada-resident-paul-miller-missing-hiker-joshua-tree-national-park/1032363002/

https://kitchener.ctvnews.ca/missing-guelph-man-s-family-urges-search-to-continue-1.4062417

https://www.guelphmercury.com/news-story/8854051-wife-of-missing-guelph-hiker-remaining-hopeful/

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.

Sources

http://unsolvedmysteries.wikia.com/wiki/Laura_Bradbury

http://www.hidesertstar.com/news/article_32b51599-2916-57d2-9dad-42a1d937c9f7.html

http://articles.latimes.com/2010/sep/19/local/la-me-0920-bradbury-second-20100918-58

http://articles.latimes.com/1990-12-16/news/mn-9244_1_bradbury-family

http://www.lacp.org/2010-Articles-Main/092010-TheMysteryOfLauraBradbury.htm