“If there ever comes a day where we can’t be together, keep me in your heart, I’ll be there forever. ”

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Cases

Our foundation was created in honor of Kris Fowler and David O’Sullivan.
Learn more about them and other cases we have been involved with.

Kris Fowler: Missing

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Kris Fowler​

Last known picture taken of Kris

Last known picture taken of Kris

CIRCUMSTANCES: Still Missing

Kris Fowler was completing his NOBO thru-hike in Washington. On October 12, 2016, he was dropped off near the trailhead at White Pass. His last cell phone ping was in that area around 5 p.m. Considerable amounts of snow and rain were expected over the next few days. The authorities and volunteers have diligently searched much of the trail between White Pass and the Canadian Border. Yet Kris Fowler is still missing.

KRISTOPHER FOWLER

Age: 34. Last Seen: October 12, 2016. LKP: Mile 2294 (White Pass/Packwood, Washington)

Sally Fowler at White Pass Trailhead PCT Washington

Sally Fowler at White Pass Trailhead PCT Washington

Kris Fowler was born in 1982 in Norfolk, Virginia to Sue (Sattem) and Mike Fowler. Mike was stationed there in the Navy. They moved back to the Dayton, Ohio, area when Kris was about two. Kris was a happy young man that made friends easily, even from an early age. His parents later divorced but still raised him together. Kris’s Mom sadly passed away when Kris was 12. His Dad married Sally Guyton the following year, and they moved to Beavercreek, Ohio, where Kris went to school starting in the 7th Grade. Although Mike and Sally were no longer married, they stayed friends and both had a close relationship with Kris.  Kris stayed close with his Mom’s family, his Dad’s family and Sally’s family, too. He was loved by many.

Kris was a natural athlete. Just about anything he set out to do, he did it well. Kris never played on a football team, but one day when he was 12, he came home and wanted to go compete in the local Punt Pass and Kick competition.  He did and won in his age group two years in a row, and even went as far as the semifinals at the Cincinnati Bengals stadium. This was incredible because he never played football! He was just a natural athlete!

Kris loved the outdoors. He and his family camped and hiked whenever possible. Kris also loved photography, so the two went hand in hand. Kris’s love for camping and hiking continued as an adult, where he frequently would seek out new places to hike and photograph. He would travel outside of Ohio to find more challenging places to hike as well. In 2000, he graduated from Beavercreek High School where he played baseball all through school and was a very skilled pitcher. He played ball with the same group of guys all through school and ended up going to Wright State College with several of them. In College, along with some high school friends, he joined and was active in the Sigma Phi Epsilon Fraternity. He often had full-time jobs all through college and graduated in 2006 with a B.S. in Marketing. He made many friends along the way and stayed in touch with many of them after college.

Kris was very easy to be around and people liked him. He was laid back and intense at the same time! He had a great sense of humor, he loved to travel, loved the outdoors and loved to have fun. Kris got married in 2008 and moved to Cincinnati. He had a good marriage for many years, but sadly they divorced in 2015. Kris had a job with a logistics company and they moved his job to Florida, but the company was not stable. He left the company in 2015 and moved in with his Dad in Beavercreek, Ohio, where he was trying to decide what he wanted to do for work. An opportunity came up for him to do some hotel construction in Wyoming and make good money with no expenses, so he moved to Wyoming in February 2016.

Kris loved the outdoors and thought of this as a way to see a different part of the country and do more hiking. Over the years Kris had become an avid Disc golf player where he traveled to different states to play in tournaments. Once again, he made many friends and once again, he was very good at this sport, too. He made friends with a man named Colin Hurley who lived in Colorado. Even when Kris was married, he would visit Colin and they would go on hiking trips. Colin and Kris talked about doing the Pacific Crest Trail one day.

In 2016 Colin was preparing for the PCT. Kris decided that he had very few bills, a little money in the bank, and no permanent job to disrupt, so that was the time to do it. Kris left Wyoming at the end of March, moved to Colorado to stay with Colin, and started training and preparing for the PCT. I didn’t even know what that was! Kris told both his Dad and I about his plans, and once we saw how prepared he was, we supported him on his new adventure although we were nervous.

“He made a deal with his parents to check in every two weeks and he kept to that plan the entire trip.”

Kris and Colin set out on their journey on May 8, 2016. It was Mother’s Day. He sent me a text and picture saying, ” Happy Mother’s Day from the PCT. I love you,” and the journey began. Kris had mailed himself over 20 packages of food and supplies to locations along the trail. He sent his Dad and me a list of all of the locations in case we also wanted to send him packages and so that we could see his journey.

Soon into the hike Colin and Kris started hiking alone, which is normal, as each one had their own pace. They stayed in touch along the way. Kris had a little slower pace, and as an amateur photographer, he was spending a little longer in some areas, hiking off trail to take pictures of things he thought no one had seen or photographed before. As in all stages of his life, he was making friends and leaving lasting impressions along the way. Kris was taking longer on his journey than he planned because of these side trips and “stopping to smell the roses” along the way.

He made a deal with his parents to check in every two weeks and he kept to that plan the entire trip. Kris was also frequently in touch with some of his friends and cousins. Kris last spoke to his Stepmom on the phone on September 30, 2016, where he said he was doing good other than being tired. He told her he still planned on making it to Canada.

Two weeks later we had not heard from Kris and his dad grew a little worried. I reached out to a lady friend Kris had been hiking with, and although she had left the trail the first of October, she was still in touch with Kris. She said he had texted her on Oct 12. Kris told his friend that he was having phone trouble and was trying to get a new charger. Once we learned that we felt better since he had spoken to someone. After another week went by, we started worrying more.

Mike and I started contacting the authorities and all of the places where Kris had mailed his packages. By Oct 23, it was becoming clear Kris was missing, and now we had to convince authorities of that as well. Not easy to do from Ohio to Washington State. By Oct 31, after much self detective work, authorities agreed to list Kris as missing and began searching.  After a five county, two-week long search, the official search ended due to inclement weather. I even traveled to Washington with my boyfriend, John, and my brother, Rick, and spent 11 days following leads and tracing Kris’s last footsteps.  Still no Kris.  Sadly, Mike passed away in 2017, due to cancer, without ever knowing what happened to Kris. There have been many searches over the past 3 1/2 years, and so many amazing people volunteering to help find any sign of Kris, but nothing has been found yet.

Many of the 2016 PCT hikers that hiked with Kris said he was a strong hiker. He often liked to take his time and maybe not cover as many miles in one day as some hikers do, but if he wanted to, he could do 25 miles a day. One hiker even stated that they had never seen anyone plow through the snow as fast as Kris did and they could not keep up with him. By the time any hiker gets to Washington State, they are skilled at hiking. Kris was having the time of his life. He was already making plans to get a job to save money so that he could do another through hike the following year. Unfortunately, it was not meant to be.

Sally Fowler

Sally with two PCT thru-hikers who volunteered to help find Kris

Sally with two PCT thru-hikers who volunteered to help find Kris

David O’Sullivan: Missing

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David O’Sullivan​

Still Missing since April 7, 2017

Still Missing since April 7, 2017

CIRCUMSTANCES: Still Missing

DAVID O’SULLIVAN

Age: 25. Last Seen: April 07, 2017. LKP: Idyllwild Inn, Idyllwild, California

David was thru-hiking NOBO on the Pacific Crest Trail from Mexico to Canada. On April 6, 2017 he sent an email to his family from an Idyllwild library. O’Sullivan, who is from Ireland, intended to hike north into the San Jacinto Mountains the next day. He has not been seen since. There are several trails he could have taken to access the PCT from Idyllwild. We do not know which trail David took.

Cathy Tarr met with Con and Carmel O’Sullivan in November 2017. Since then Tarr has become the family advocate in the U.S. She pursues answers for the O’Sullivans using advanced aerial photography and drone image searching. She has organized many volunteer on-the-ground search efforts as well. We continue to look for David.

More about David by Carmel O’Sullivan

David was born on August 29, 1991 in Cork, Ireland. He was the second grandchild born to our family, preceded by his brother, Niall, nearly four years earlier. He and his brother were doted on by his grandparents and by their many Aunts and Uncles. It would be many years before more grandchildren arrived in Ireland to join them. They had one cousin born in London (in 1992) called Jeremy who became very close to David and who remained a constant in his life until David’s disappearance in 2017. 

David on trail.

David on trail.

David attended Saleen National School where many years ago my sister, brother, and I also attended. It was a small school (roll call 90) where he made friends for life. Some of these went on to become his best friends and who called regularly to our house over the years. While at national school he developed an interest in amateur drama and graced the stage on many occasions often bringing the house down with his acting. David went onto Secondary school in our local town attending Christian Brothers School. He was a good student excelling in English and Geography. He also did stand up comedy every year for the Christmas party and a few times he gave performances for local charity fund raisers. While at this school he did a sponsored head shave for Mary Mount, our local Hospice

David had a great interest in Media and did a one-year degree course in Media Studies. He then went to University College Cork to study where he received his Honors Degree in English and Philosophy. While attending UCC he did a weekly radio program and was interested in pursuing this line of work after gaining more life experience and seeing something of the world. He was an avid reader and his bedroom is lined with hundreds of books. He never came home from a shopping trip without some new author under his arm. His reading interests were varied and he could talk at length about his chosen subject. 

 

Volunteer Searchers with the Irish Outreach in San Diego

Volunteer Searchers with the Irish Outreach in San Diego

David’s interests included cycling, running, hiking, films, reading, drama and board games. Politics became an interest in his late teens. As a younger child, he did horse riding and obtained his black belt in Karate at the age of sixteen. He was a happy little boy, full of fun, and he had a great laugh.

“David liked to hike and he and his friends often went off on day trips to our local mountain hiking.”

— Carmel O’Sullivan

While he was attending University he got a weekend job in a local garage, and after finishing College, he stayed on in a full-time capacity to save some money for travelling and to buy a car. He had always liked to hike and he and his friends often went off on day trips to our local mountain hiking. On a few occasions he went with his dad and some friends.

Volunteer drone and ground searchers

Volunteer drone and ground searchers

David had travelled on family holidays to England, Scotland, Spain, Portugal, Tunisia, Canary Islands and New York. When he got older, he went on sightseeing trips with Con to Scotland, London and Washington.  He travelled to South Korea to visit Niall, and went to Thailand to visit Jeremy before embarking on his journey to hike the PCT.

Like I said, he was an avid reader, and some years ago he read the book by Cheryl Strayed about her journey on the PCT, and he decided to attempt it in 2017. He prepared as much as possible in our locality and set off full of enthusiasm, and the rest you know. 

David is a much loved member of our family and is greatly missed every day. Our world turned upside down in 2017 and will never again be the same. We have a new normal now and we would give anything to find David and know what happened to him on that fateful day in April 2017. We miss and love him.

Paul Miller: Found

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Paul Miller

FOUND!

FOUND!

CIRCUMSTANCES: Found

Read how members of the Fowler-O’Sullivan Foundation found Paul Miller months after he disappeared inside Joshua Tree National Park.

More about Paul and his case by Dawne Robinson (his sister)

Paul was born on May 24, 1967, in Kingston, Ontario. He was the youngest of 3 children. As a boy, Paul was always actively involved in sports, especially hockey, baseball and lacrosse. Growing up, he would spend hours down by our local creek. He was happiest when splashing through water and climbing around rocks. In university, Paul was a key member of the varsity lacrosse team and was affectionately known as “Rat,” perhaps because of the intensity with which he played. Paul always played hard & didn’t necessarily let the rules get in the way. After university he continued his love of sports by playing and coaching in several lacrosse, baseball and hockey leagues in the Guelph area. An avid outdoors man, he enjoyed white water kayaking, camping, hiking and travelling. In terms of his church involvement, he loved working with young people and was regularly involved with children’s and youth ministries. Paul was not a man to sit still! Paul’s devotion to his family and friends was immeasurable.

Paul and Stephanie

Paul and Stephanie

He met the love of his life, Stephanie Korbich, at university. Their relationship began as friendship and evolved to the point where he romantically proposed to her in a canoe. In true Paul and Steph fashion, they celebrated their upcoming nuptials by parachute-jumping the day before their wedding. Fortunately they both survived and were married for 26 wonderful years. Paul was a fantastic father. He was always actively involved in his children’s lives, making sure that they also developed a love of sports and outdoor pursuits. He raised Dryden and Tiana to appreciate and feel comfortable in nature. He also encouraged them to choose their own path in life. Paul and Dryden spent much of their leisure time together hiking and camping and Dryden followed in his father’s academic footsteps by choosing a career in the environmental field. Paul was very proud of Tiana’s non-traditional choice of studying in the tool and die area. He always enjoyed helping her fix her cars despite the fact that he himself was by no means mechanically inclined. Dryden and Tiana were definitely his pride and joy. Paul was one of those guys who had a ton of friends. Paul and Stephanie’s home was always a gathering place for entertaining. If the party did not come to Paul then he brought the party.

Paul was incredibly loyal and generous and would do anything to help a friend out. Many of them are still having a hard time dealing with his loss. His zest for life was contagious and he was always willing to try new things. In an apparent mid-life crisis, Paul decided to get a tattoo for his 50th birthday. The tattoo was the result of a dare with his friend who was also turning 50. He deliberated for quite some time about what he wanted inked on his body and finally designed a stylized wolf, reminiscent of the art of indigenous people of northern British Columbia. He chose his tattoo wisely. The symbol of the wolf was fitting for someone who absolutely loved the thrill of the hunt, especially on the sports field, who cherished both the peace and wildness of nature and who valued family & friends above all else. He couldn’t have predicted that his wolf tattoo would become a rallying symbol in the search to bring him home. In terms of his professional career, Paul obtained a Bachelor of Science in Physical Geography and Urban and Environmental Studies from Brock University in 1990.

For a time, he worked for the Royal Ontario Museum in Yoho National Park on the Burgess Shale where he was unearthing invertebrate fossils. This time of his life was documented in a ‘Nature of Things’ episode with David Suzuki. Later on, he worked as a Materials Manager at various places in Guelph, Ontario, the last being with Viqua, a company that develops UV water disinfection systems. Prior to his disappearance, he had begun to travel to various countries to promote their systems. He loved this aspect of his job.

Paul and Stephanie went down to the American southwest in July of 2018 in part to celebrate a number of events. Paul had recently turned 51 years old, they had just had their 26th anniversary and Stephanie had been successful in getting a full-time permanent teaching contract beginning in September. It was also their first holiday without the kids as both Dryden and Tiana were busy with co-op placements related to their programs at school.

Paul had always wanted to visit the Grand Canyon, Bryce Canyon, Zion National Park and Joshua Tree National Park so they flew to Las Vegas with their camping gear and set out from there. He was so excited about going to places he had dreamed of seeing. Joshua Tree was the last park they visited and ironically the one that Paul was most thrilled about visiting. Paul and Stephanie spent several days hiking trails in Joshua Tree.

Searching for Paul in Joshua Tree National Park

Searching for Paul in Joshua Tree National Park

On July 12, they grabbed a room at the Motel 6 in Twenty-nine Palms to get cleaned up and packed before heading to Vegas for their flight home the next day. After breakfast on the morning of July 13, Paul decided there was time for one last hike on the Forty-nine Palms Oasis trail as it is quite close to the motel. He reasoned that it was a fairly short trail that would only take a couple of hours. The Forty-nine Palms Oasis Trail is a 3 mile round trip hike with 350 feet of elevation gain. It passes through a variety of desert scenery and panoramic views and leads to a collection of palm trees wrapped around a spring. It is rated as somewhat strenuous but usually only requires an approximate time of 1 ½ hours to complete. Since Stephanie wanted to pack up, Paul set out for the trail alone. He was probably hoping to see some wildlife at the oasis so left in a hurry forgetting both his cell phone and wallet in the motel room. This was not unusual for Paul.

He took a backpack with 3 litres of water, some protein bars and his camera. He was wearing both hiking boots and a hat. Paul was in excellent physical condition with no medical issues so the hike should have been well within his abilities. Paul set off by 8:30 with strict instructions to be back before the 11:00 check-out time. Having hiked with Paul many times, I know that he is a fast hiker so it should not have been a problem. It was the last time, however, that Stephanie would see him alive. Knowing that Paul loved photography and could get easily distracted taking pictures, she did not panic immediately when he was not back within 2 hours. Just before 11 a.m., however, she experienced an awful feeling of dread and decided to contact the park office.

They took her concerns seriously, particularly since they knew Paul and Steph had a plane to catch. By roughly 1:00, rangers went out on the trail looking for him and when they saw no sign of him, they called in JOSAR volunteers to begin a more detailed search. Over the next few days, search and rescue volunteers were also called in from other counties to help. There were over 90 volunteers as well as a dog team and helicopter. The dog handler felt that her dog tracked Paul to the oasis and then lost interest. A homeless man had perished in the area near the oasis and some felt that the dog actually smelt his scent, not Paul’s. It’s hard to say.

The San Bernardino Sheriff’s Dept. was initially involved in searching the area bordering the park as well, primarily using ATVs. Some people who have become lost on that trail cut cross-country into those areas or follow the wash out of the oasis towards town. The town can be seen quite clearly from high spots on the trail. When word of Paul’s disappearance hit the news, a witness came forward to say he might have seen Paul on the trail. At that point, the Sheriff’s Dept. was no longer involved because it was deemed that Paul was in the park somewhere. The witness had already hiked into the oasis and was on his way back when he saw someone fitting Paul’s description at about 9 a.m. At the time, he was resting beside a large rock next to the trail that provided some shade. It is the only place on the trail where there is shade other than at the oasis itself. The location is about halfway in. He saw Paul as he came around a corner and down the trail towards him. Paul was hiking quickly and seemed to be ‘a man on a mission.’ This fits with the fact that Paul was in a hurry. He also said that Paul looked hot but in good shape. They spoke only briefly before Paul continued on.

The temperature at that time was probably about 25 degrees Celsius and it rose quickly after that. After 5 days of extreme heat, the search was called off due to safety concerns. The temperature had spiked and volunteers were beginning to suffer health issues despite only being allowed to stay out for 2 hours at a time. They would go out in the early morning before the sun came up and conclude the search each day by 11 a.m. The conditions were horrible and several were hospitalized with heat exhaustion.

What followed after that was akin to a waking nightmare. For a time, we felt that Paul had been abandoned, that we were on our own. I cannot begin to explain the horrible feeling of dread that one experiences when a loved one goes missing. It is on your mind when you wake up in the morning and it’s there when you try to go to sleep. My husband Dave and I were in the Arctic at the time Paul went missing and only found out about it when our canoe trip came to an end. Two weeks had passed at that point. Dave and I have been to the southwest before and being familiar with the conditions, we knew Paul was probably gone. I knew that the despair that I was feeling was amplified even more for Stephanie and the kids. Although there was no shortage of friends and family to support us, it was still a very lonely journey.

Paul was very well known in the community so there was a constant barrage of reporters calling for updates that we were unable to give. We became extremely frustrated by the lack of clues as to Paul’s whereabouts. As for official park directives to search at this point, they only went out when someone reported seeing something of interest, for example, a bone or a piece of fabric. This happened on average about once a month.

“I totally understand that park resources are limited but from our standpoint, it felt like Paul had been forgotten.”

uDta92yr.jpeg

 

Once things began to cool down in November, Dave and I made our first trip to Joshua Tree to search for him ourselves. Fortunately, the park offered to assist by lending us the support of JOSAR (Joshua Tree Search and Rescue). I can’t say enough about these people. We found out that although they couldn’t go in to search officially without a park directive, they had been going in as individuals whenever they could.

One of the team leaders has the same birthday as Paul, and because of this, had developed a passionate drive to find him. She was also the dog handler and had spent innumerable hours searching the area with her dog. Montana was the same dog who first caught a scent of Paul on the trail back in July and burned her paws so badly on the hot ground that she was out of commission for three months. Many of these volunteers came out with us again when we returned in May. We consider them to be very good friends.

Joshua Tree paul miller search.jpeg

 

The following May, we went to search for a second time with the help of several of Paul’s friends.

It was interesting to watch their impressions of the trail unfold. I think they went through what we did in November. When you see the terrain around the trail, the enormity of the task becomes clearer. We were able to get GPX tracks of areas already searched by JOSAR from both their technical support team and by using an American friend’s Freedom of Information request. This allowed us to concentrate on areas that had not been searched as thoroughly. Although the trail itself is relatively easy, once you get off it, it is difficult to find again. The area resembles a very rugged boulder field with a lot of elevation. We found it often took us several hours just to check one outcropping of rocks. 

If Paul fell somewhere, he could also have hit his head and slipped between rocks out of sight. Alternatively, if he hit his head or was affected by the heat, he might have wandered further afield beyond the search area before collapsing. There was, of course, also the theory of foul play. Although Dave and I did not think this likely, it was difficult for those back home to understand why Paul had not been found yet. He was such an experienced hiker that it was inconceivable for many of them to think otherwise. You have to actually see the topography to truly understand how difficult it is to search in that area.

It was so helpful to have Paul’s friends with us the second time. They looked at the area with fresh eyes and asked questions that we had not thought of. They delivered more posters, talked with pawn shops, and visited outdoor stores where hikers might shop. They looked into getting Crime Stoppers involved in case of the foul play scenario. They were also there to support us. It’s a lonely and depressing task to finish each day no closer to finding out the truth. It’s so much easier when you have friends to help you through it.

The media attention this time was awesome thanks to one of Paul’s friends who put a lot of time into getting the story back out there. The media campaign also brought out more searchers, some from quite far away and some with experience in search and rescue. Many had been searching on their own already. Also around that time, the Sheriff’s Department contacted me for a DNA sample to keep on file in case remains are found. The DNA that was collected went to the Nameus missing person’s site. Later on, Tiana would also send a sample there. 

“I believe that the media attention helped to keep Paul on the minds of the park administration. ”

The park allowed someone from British Columbia to come down to try out an experimental software program that uses high resolution photographs taken from a helicopter to analyze anomalies in the landscape. It was not very effective unfortunately. As it turned out, the program was designed for a forested landscape, not a boulder field. The camera was also inside the helicopter and therefore created distorted images that had to be analyzed manually in a very time intensive way. The poor resolution yielded no clues.

In the meantime, I contacted a journalist about doing a podcast about Paul’s case. The podcast is called ‘The Vanished’ and has quite a following. Paul’s Facebook site lit up with support once the podcast went live. Shortly after that, Eric told me that the Sierra Madre SAR team reached out to him about coming to Joshua Tree to use the search for Paul as a training exercise. We felt that the more trained searchers out in the field, the better. We continued to receive requests for interviews from the media. It seemed that interest in Paul’s case was still growing a year later. Throughout all of this, I had been pushing for the park to allow a drone search of the area, especially to reach places that were not very accessible. When I think now of the dangerously steep canyons and cliffs that we searched, I am amazed we were not injured.

“the fight to bring in drones was an uphill battle.”

— Dawne Robinson

Unfortunately, the fight to bring in drones was an uphill battle. As it turns out, it is against national park policy to allow drones in the parks. We were adamant that drones could be a vital tool in search situations. We finally made some headway once Eric came on the scene. Although he had just recently moved from the Grand Canyon National Park to JT, he had worked in Rocky Mountain National Park where his best friend went missing. His friend was eventually found amongst rocks with a fatal head injury. As a result, Eric was very invested in Paul’s case. I had found a team of experienced search and rescue drone operators from Western States Aerial Search (based out of Utah), who were willing to take on the task if approval was granted. Greg Nuckolls of the Western States Aerial Search organization applied for a Special Use Permit which Eric helped to expedite. The plan was to fly in search of Paul for 3 days with 3-4 fully autonomous UAVs which could cover a vast area with great detail. To this day, I can’t believe how fortunate we were to have found this team! In November of 2019, after finally receiving a special users’ permit, the Western States Aerial Search team went into the Forty-nine Palms Oasis Trail of Joshua Tree National Park with their drones.

Afterwards, they and other trained volunteers from an organization called the FOWLER-O’SULLIVAN FOUNDATION began to comb through over 10,000 high resolution photos. Just before Christmas, Morgan Clements of FOF found some anomalies and asked park staff to investigate the location in question. After an 18 month long search, Paul’s remains were finally found on December 20, 2019. His backpack was also located next to his remains. The camera inside his pack showed that Paul had indeed made it to the oasis and was on his way back when tragedy struck. There was still water in his dromedary. It was such a strange feeling to receive word that my brother had been found at last. The feeling alternated between elation and numbness. Most of us still feel that way at times. When you live in such a heightened state of despair for so long, it becomes part of you somehow. Christmas 2019 was so different from the one before. The family was still reeling from Paul’s loss but there was a sense of hope that we could begin the task of moving on with our lives again.

I don’t think we realized just how long we had been holding our breath for that phone call. Stephanie, along with Dryden and 4 other friends, went down to Joshua Tree in January to visit the spot where Paul was found and to bring him home. They had the chance to meet many of the people who had helped along the way. We had a Celebration of Life back home for Paul on February 1, and it was a wonderful evening of story-telling, memories and tears. Over 600 people attended in one of the worse snow storms of the season. Paul meant a lot to so many people. So what do we think happened to Paul on that terrible Friday the 13th in July 2018? How could something go so wrong for such an experienced outdoorsman? Paul’s camera showed that he had made it to the oasis and was on his way back when he went off the trail for some reason. When Dave and I went to search the first time, we had noticed several people leaving the oasis and accidentally following what is best described as an animal trail down the main wash. They always turned around once the trail petered out and returned to the hiking trail.

Volunteer searchers

Volunteer searchers

The trail is somewhat confusing at that point to be sure. Although one of Paul’s last photos showed that he was well past that section on the actual trail, maybe he went back to it. He was found hidden in the back of a crevice partway down the main wash leading from the oasis towards town. The coroner found no evidence that he had fallen from the cliff above. It appeared that he had sought shelter from the sun in the only shade available. There was still water in his pack so whatever happened did so quickly. Whatever the reason, we believe that he succumbed to either some sort of medical emergency like a cardiac event or more likely the heat within the first few hours. We’ll never know why Paul went off-trail after setting out on the return trip. Maybe he saw something of interest; maybe he was already experiencing confusion from hyperthermia. I myself have experienced that on several occasions and know how quickly it can affect your judgement. The desert can be an unforgiving place. The only reason the drone footage was able to locate him was because a scavenger had pulled some bones from the shaded crevice in which he sought shelter.

Dave and I, along with several search volunteers, had passed within 20m of that spot on numerous occasions. We were so close. Against my better judgement, I sometimes go down the dark road of ‘what if.’ What if Paul had taken his cell phone (there is cell coverage in many higher areas near the trail)? What if he had not hiked alone? What if he had taken a GPS or locator beacon? What if he had not gone to the park in the heat of July? What if there had been better trail signage at the oasis? What if he had simply stayed on the trail? I know this line of thought does not bring Paul back. I can only hope that the forensic analysis will help others to avoid his fate. Dave and I had planned to go back this past April to the place where Paul died, but the corona virus has meant a delay to those plans. Oddly enough, we both feel a special affinity to the place knowing that it meant so much to him. The desert of Joshua Tree is indeed spectacular in the rawness of its beauty. I felt Paul there.

There are simply too many people to thank but of special note we would like to mention: Greg Nuckolls of Western States Aerial Search and Wings of Mercy (through whose efforts Paul was located), Morgan Clements, Joshua Tree Search and Rescue, Joshua Tree Park staff, in particular David Smith and Eric Linaris, and all those other wonderful people who helped us in our quest to find Paul. I know that Paul would not want us to be sad but would wish for us the type of life that he lived, one full of love, friendship and of course, adventure. He would want us to go out there and taste new experiences but temper them with an awareness of potential dangers. I will always treasure the last time we were together. There was much laughter and anticipation about the journey ahead. It’s his laughter and teasing that I remember most. That, and his horrendously bad off-key singing. It never stopped him from trying though. Indeed, the world seems a much quieter and duller place without him.

“I know that Paul would not want us to be sad but would wish for us the type of life that he lived, one full of love, friendship and of course, adventure.”

— Dawne Robinson

Chris Sylvia: Missing

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Chris Sylvia

Still Missing

Still Missing

CIRCUMSTANCES: Still Missing

CHRISTOPER STEVENS SYLVIA

Age: 28. Last Seen: February 16, 2015

LKP: PCT Mile 127 (Near Warner Springs, California)

Chris Sylvia was hiking southbound from Anza to Campo. He left on February 12, 2015. On February 16, he called a friend and asked to be picked up the next day at the Buddhist Temple on Chihuahua Valley Road. Sylvia did not make it to his rendezvous point. On February 20, another hiker found Sylvia’s gear laid out alongside the PCT near mm 127, not far from Mike’s Place. Despite a large search effort, Sylvia is still missing.

Members of the Fowler-O’Sullivan Foundation tracked down a physical clue left behind by Sylvia, proving he had visited a hostel prior to his disappearance.

Chris Sylvia siddhartha.jpeg

 

The actual book Chris Sylvia was reading when he disappeared

found by Andrea Lankford

Kyle Crowden: Found

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Kyle Crowden

FOUND

FOUND

CIRCUMSTANCES: FOUND

Kyle Crowden, 27, set off on a day hike to the Dry Creek Trail, north of Boise Idaho on Feb. 9, 2019 but never returned. He knew this trail very well and often hiked it with friends and family. His car was found parked at the trailhead. Search crews scoured the area but were hindered by heavy snow and freezing temperatures. Crowden was described as an experienced hiker, but planned on a short day hike and had not brought supplies or equipment to spend a significant amount of time outdoors in the bitterly cold weather.

Cathy Tarr spoke with Kyle’s mother, Janet. Tarr was heavy hearted when she heard Kyle’s family were planning to search for Kyle within 2 weeks of that call. “No mother should see her son that way.”

A week after that call, and six weeks after he went missing, Kyle was found by a hunter 30 feet from the trail. He was five miles from his car in a ravine near a water source under a tree.

Kyle’s last picture was timestamped at 5:20 pm.  His Fitbit shows he stopped walking at 7:09 pm.

From Kyle’s mother

Kyle loved hiking and none of us ever dreamed he would be lost in his element.

Kyle’s day hike was personally photographed by him with no evidence of an issue. In such a short time, the weather turned and he was overcome by a severe snowstorm. As his mom, I would like to remind hikers to be prepared. Let someone know where you are going and when you should return. Take an emergency beacon/tracker to get help if an emergency occurs. Almost 2 years after my son passed, I am still in disbelief and crying daily. Kyle’s 2 brothers and sister are reeling from the loss of him. I certainly would encourage everyone to follow their passion, to include hiking. If Kyle’s story can save one life, or make a person choose to take weather more seriously, then God Bless that one who isn’t lost.

Janet Coupe

 
Kyle’s mother, brother’s and sister

Kyle’s mother, brother’s and sister

John Sturkie: Found

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John Sturkie

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CIRCUMSTANCES: FOUND!

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.

John Sturkie with his family

John Sturkie with his family

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”.

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John enjoyed the outdoors with his 4×4 Toyota Tundra.

The day he went missing he decided to take it for an impromptu off roading excursion on San Jacinto mountain. He enjoyed San Jacinto often with FNE scouts and felt safe. While on the trail his truck got stuck. He lacked preparations and was never heard from again. 

“Evidence was gathered that authorities missed. Cathy found an overlooked sock that wound up being a key clue.  ”

— Theresa Sturkie

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. 

Search Volunteers

Search Volunteers

“ Our children now know where their dad is and it gives them peace.”

— Theresa Sturkie

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.

John Sturkie in Yosemite National Park

John Sturkie in Yosemite National Park

Fern Baird - Missing

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Fern Baird

CIRCUMSTANCES: Still Missing

MORE ABOUT FERN BAIRD

On October 19th, 2020, 62-year-old Fern Baird signed the Prarie Creek trailhead register at 1:17 in the Sawtooth National Forest near Ketchum Idaho, but she never returned. Her Subaru Crosstrek was later located in the parking area.
 
Fern, from Park City, Utah had been visiting the area when she decided to go on a hike. She asked the hotel personnel if they had any suggestions and Prarie Creek was suggested as a nice hike on a fall day. Fern was an experienced hiker, fit and dressed appropriately for the cool seasonal weather. She was known by her friends to stick to the trails and not take any chances such as taking shortcuts. Prairie Creek Trail is a 10-mile loop that runs along Prairie Creek and crosses small waterfalls.
 
Baird was last seen in a hotel CCTV footage wearing a grey jacket, black pants, and carrying a black fanny pack. She is 5’5 and approximately 115 pounds.
 
It was on October 22, 2020, that Fern was reported missing after hotel staff saw she had failed to check out. It was on this day that Blaine County Sheriff’s Search and Rescue began their search efforts. A group of 40 personnel scoured Prairie Lake and other nearby lakes in the area using three K9 units, two drones, several Idaho National Guard helicopters, and officers on foot and horseback. The Sheriff’s Office searched for nine days without a clue before calling off their search on October 30th. It was not the outcome they had hoped for.
 
 
Back in Park City, Utah, Fern worked at Powder Beach Realty where she sold residential homes and managed Vacation rentals. She also founded the company YopaBag; she designed bags for carrying yoga equipment to class. She was very well-liked and had many friends that would gather together to go on hikes. Fern has one son Breck, that lives in California.

Brian Harris - Found

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Brian Harris

Brian Harris, 38, of Prescott Arizona, had two combat tours in Iraq and suffered from PTSD. 

He wanted some time away from the heat of Prescott, Arizona, deciding on a camping trip in higher elevations. Brian told his parents of his camping trip idea but did not specify the area he had in mind. That was July 11, 2022, and when he did not return 5 days later his mother reported him missing. Unfortunately, it took almost 3 months to locate his truck in Needles, California, a town near the Arizona border along the 40 interstate. 
FOF drone pilot, Kent Delbon, was invited on a drone mission by Western States Aerial States, a Utah-based nonprofit to locate Brain. As a 2-time combat hero, we knew we wanted to be part of locating Brian, for his family and his service. Our FOF Image viewers began the process of searching through thousands of images and it was then that Morgan Clemen, who also wanted to help locate Brian, found his remains on an image.
It took a lot of teamwork with everyone working towards bringing Brian home.
if you or someone you know suffers from PTSD, please call (use the logo here or write the information in from the logo)

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Funded by the Laher Family, the Fowler-O’Sullivan Foundation, Nomad Ventures and Kahtoola, all PCT Class of 2023 thru-hikers may purchase a new set of Kahtoola MICROspikes, while supplies last through Nomad Ventures at a 20% discount. This is our third annual participation. Your purchase will be waiting for you across the street from Paradise Valley Cafe when you arrive. There will be no shipping through this program. Orders can be made at https://nomadventures.com/trevor-spikes/ This program was formed in memory of Trevor “Microsoft” Laher who fell to his death last year while slipping on snow-covered ice while traversing Apache Peak. The Trevor Spikes discount program runs while supplies last. The Fowler-O’Sullivan is covering 10% of all microspike purchases through this program up to 200 orders.

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