MORE ABOUT JOHN by Theresa Sturkie
John was a loving son, husband and proud father of 4. He shared 20 years of marriage with his wife Theresa. He loved his family above all. He had a warm heart and made friends quickly. He was a member of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers for over 26 years. He was very proud of his children and loved spending free time with them surfing, hunting, skiing, off roading, camping and watching old movies. As a leader in the Federation of North American Explorers he mentored boys and organized camping trips. He especially connected with the more challenging youths. John shared a deep Faith with his wife and volunteered at The Miracle of Saint Joseph and at his children’s schools.
At 6’5″ John had very little fear of anything. He loved downhill ski racing as a young man and was proud of hiking to the top of San Jacinto and 14,278 ft to the top of Gray’s Peak the summer of 2018 with FNE. The weekend before he went missing, he was looking forward to another FNE trip he helped plan canoeing the Colorado river.
His family will always treasure the last Christmas they shared together hiking the Anza Borrego mud caves a week before he went missing. After spending Christmas with all the family John felt it was the “best Christmas ever”.
The night he went missing it snowed. Knowing the danger of the temperatures, John found the PCT trail in an attempt to hike to lower elevation. He didn’t make it. He lost the trail on a snow-covered switchback and was overcome by hypothermia. His body was found 400ft downhill of the PCT down a ravine.
Riverside Sheriff suspended the case after 2 months. I was referred to Cathy Tarr by a local (Jon King) who had originally found John’s abandoned truck. Cathy and her team have kind hearts and listen. They helped focus in on what was needed to find John. Their intimate knowledge of the PCT and missing hikers is invaluable. The team did endless research and we worked probable scenarios.
Searching for lost hikers provides a hefty set of challenges. Cathy was able to provide proper safety gear and direction for safe searches. In addition to smaller searches, 3 large public group searches were conducted. Evidence was gathered that authorities missed. Cathy found an overlooked sock that wound up being a key clue.
The direction that is given in a search is so important. The team was able to organize all the data from the volunteers efficiently. We focused on our primary scenario and sent several volunteers off trail. We eventually had to take volunteers off the primary scenario due to safety concerns. Plans were to return when conditions were more favorable. All information was shared with the authorities. With our persistence and the clue that was found, Riverside Sheriff decided to continue where we left off and conduct an official search. With all their resources John was found in a few short hours.
We are grateful the Sheriff found John. We had tracked our volunteers less than 30 feet of his body. Plans were to continue to search this area when the sheriff took over. We are confident we would have found him but are glad the authorities did instead.
Our children now know where their dad is and it gives them peace. We can focus on healing our grief and moving forward. I don’t know what our family would have done without Cathy and her team’s help.