Janet Castrejon, disappeared June 19th, 2015, Rustler Park, Chiricahua Mountains, Southern Arizona
On June 19th, 2015, Janet Castrejon, 44, vanished from a camping trip in the Chiricahua Mountains in southern Arizona with her parents, Dr. Eduardo and Lydia Castrejon, all of Las Cruces.
Janet, the oldest of four siblings, suffered a traumatic brain injury in a car accident in 1988, when she was 18 years old causing memory problems and partial blindness. At the time of the crash, she had just completed her first semester at New Mexico State University, where she was studying computer science. She remained in a coma for three months.
Janet was last seen outside a campground bathroom in Rustler Park. It is is a wildflower-carpeted meadow high in the Chiricahua Mountains, rimmed with Douglas-fir and ponderosa pine. Campsites at Rustler Park are scattered along access roads that have been purposefully kept out of the meadow to avoid damaging fragile plants and soils. Larger animals, including black bear, are frequently spotted there and trails lead from the campground into the Chiricahua Wilderness and to other places of interest.
As planned, Janet and her parents left for the park from their Las Cruces home on Thursday, June 18. By that evening, the three had arrived in Deming, where they stopped at a church and stayed overnight in their motor home. The following day, June 19, they departed for Arizona after eating breakfast at an IHOP.
The family arrived at the Rustler Park campground between 1.30 and 2 pm and when they finished setting up their camp, Eduardo made lunch for his family of quesadillas, beans and rice around 4 pm.
About an hour later, after their meal, Lydia, who speaks mostly Spanish, said she wanted to go for a walk and asked Janet to join her. She initially declined but Eduardo told her to go to take the payment to the pay station and Janet agreed.
She and her mother then walked about 1,000 feet from their motor home, down a curved path, to the pay station, where Janet deposited the payment envelope. About 300 feet from the pay station, Lydia decided to go to the bathroom but Janet didn’t need the restroom. Janet was going to wait outside, but when her mother came out of the bathroom, she was gone. Lydia estimated that she was in the bathroom only for a few minutes and soon became worried when she returned to the motor home and discovered Janet was not there.
Eduardo said “My wife ran up to our camping spot to see if she had made it back up here, but I was here and never saw her. She never got back. We immediately started searching for her, asking other campers. On her way over there, she just disappeared."
Janet was never seen again. Janet was 5’3” tall, weighing 250 pounds. She was last seen wearing a white t-shirt with black lettering, blue jeans, and white tennis shoes with a red stripe on them.
There were no footprints leading off the main path, the family said. There were no signs of a struggle to suggest that Janet had been attacked or had attempted to fight off an attacker. No screams or cries for help.
By 8 pm, Janet's brother Oscar arrived and called 911 to report his missing sister. But help, he said, did not arrive until after midnight Saturday, June 20.
A search-and-rescue team with Cochise County Sheriff’s Office began searching for Janet around 12:30 am and the team searched until 6 am and resumed around 9 am. A search helicopter was dispatched later that day, but was unsuccessful in finding any signs of Janet. The search continued well into Sunday and over the next several days. But there was no sign of Janet and no evidence of clothing or blood which may have indicated a bear attack.
The family were convinced Janet was abducted.
Fabian Castrejon, Janet’s other brother said “There wasn’t enough effort to begin with,” referring to the search efforts by the Cochise County Sheriff’s Office. Soon after Janet disappeared, Fabian said a search team from New Mexico offered to assist the Cochise County authorities, but he said that offer was rejected.
Fabian took on a lead role in the search efforts, often finding tips and leads for the detectives assigned to the case. He spent about three weeks searching for Janet immediately after her disappearance and helped organise extensive search parties. He and his sister, Xochitl Castrejon, continued to search the area on a regular basis until the park closed for the season in late October.
Oscar, meanwhile, believes the search was largely hindered because authorities did not take into consideration Janet’s disabilities. “They assumed too quickly that she was a competent person,” he said. “They told us that she either left with someone or ran away. … We told them specifically she’s disabled, she isn’t capable of many, many things, and I don’t even think they took that into consideration.”. She was “completely dependent” on her parents, her brother said.
Detectives did not have any particular theory for Janet’s disappearance.“There’s no way she could have strayed too far. That campground is land-locked. The only way to get out of that campground is the same you came in,” Fabian said., adding, “There’s no real cliff you could fall off or river to drown in. We believe that somebody took her out or that she got into a car.”
A strange disappearance in the Chiricahua Mountains area where ranger, Paul Fugate, vanished in 1980 and has never been found.