Found Deceased CA - Paul Miller, 51, Canadian, Joshua Tree Natl Park, San Bernardino Co., 13 Jul 2018 #3

Discussion in 'Located Persons Discussion' started by cybervampira, Jul 16, 2018.

  1. j_in_c

    j_in_c Well-Known Member

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    I see what you are saying about the branches possibly being "arranged" but it is hard to determine if it is intentional or where the tumbleweed are trapped by the rocks when the wind blows.

    Thanks for sharing your finds and for getting out there to look for Paul!
     
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  2. zecats

    zecats Well-Known Member

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    There was a witness who saw him on the trail..corroborated by his sister who spoke to the witness. There was also a dog who tracked Paul's scent to the Oasis and had to stop because of burned paws...also corroborated by his sister. I'm not sure how much more evidence you need.
     
  3. 10ofRods

    10ofRods Verified Anthropologist

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    I carry a pocket knife almost everywhere. It has come in handy several times (not in the desert, but still). My husband carries a pocket knife everywhere too. I have a buck knife in the car. This is just training from our childhoods, but we only give them up when we get on airplanes, ha.

    I use mine to open things all the time. The tweezers would come in handy if I encountered pokey plants though (and we've used it to pry out yucca barbs at Grand Canyon). If I had to make a makeshift splint (and someone did break a leg on a hike I was on...fortunately real medics could be called), I'd be able to do it in most places.

    Obviously, if a person can go completely missing in 2 hours, a lot of things can happen.
     
  4. musicaljoke

    musicaljoke Well-Known Member

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    Stunning pictures! Thanks for sharing. It makes one see how difficult it is to find human remains. I'm not sure if the sticks were placed there by human hands, or if they got there by natural means. How does one even begin to check down in the ravines, under piles of sticks?
    .
     
  5. rosesfromangels

    rosesfromangels Amateur speculations and opinion only

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    Finding remains outdoors is a daunting task. It is one of these crevices between the boulders where I hypothesize he will be found. Look up from under the boulders. Look carefully, time will have made the remains harder to spot. : (

    amateur opinion and speculation
     
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  6. AzPistonsGirl

    AzPistonsGirl Well-Known Member

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    The bunch of sticks in the photo look to me like they were blown there. I see stacks of sticks like that hiking sometimes. The brown stuff looks like excrement. IMO.

    I believed Neil and what he recalled seeing. I want to say this delicately: just because he knows what he saw does not make it Paul. We can't prove this 100% IMO.

    So, me too. I am also open to the idea that Paul did not hike that day.

    Sounds like we've got most angles covered in here so between all of us, we're bound to come up with something at some point. Bottom line is we all want to know what happened to Paul that day. I'm glad that it has never been about being right in this thread, just about searching for Paul.
     
  7. 10ofRods

    10ofRods Verified Anthropologist

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    I think the rocks and sticks look natural. I think the black stuff is animal scat (or maybe vomit, but probably scat). I think I can see some nut-like (pinon?) stuff in it.

    How small is "small" for the skull? Because it's roughly the shape of a cat's skull (if small, maybe bobcat? Immature cougar?) Here's a pic of a mountain lion/cougar skull:

    https://images.hideandfur.com/inventory/51419963.jpg

    A view of teeth would be helpful.

    Last time we were in JT, we saw mountain lion scat (put down in smaller piles than this, but very similar), also tracks. We were near a pretty famous feature, late in the day. There were a few other hikers (including a family with a 3 year old, which was nerve wracking to watch). The scat had rodent bones in it, from what I could tell.

    Anyway, this seems to show that big cats have been out there, although what the skull is doing there without other bones, I don't know - it would probably be because the body was scavenged and other bones were washed away.

    At this point, if there's a human body out there, the scenario would be similar (smaller bones would be gone, rodents would take them, etc). Skulls would be heavier and less likely to wash away.

    Looking in drainages, at any rate, seems the thing to do at this point.

    How tall was Paul?
     
  8. 10ofRods

    10ofRods Verified Anthropologist

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    I agree. The small bones that might wash out into the drainage/footpath area will be quickly collected by rodents. Other bones may be trapped in rocks. I think this happens more than we realize in wilderness missing person cases.

    A person can get scared and scramble up rocks, and all it takes is a misstep and the result can be a pretty good blow to the head (if what they were afraid of in the first place was a mountain lion, then it's pretty much not a good scene from that point on).
     
  9. Perry2

    Perry2 Active Member

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    Thanks for the opinions on the vegetation. That stood out as being different from the rest of that steep slope. I think maybe they blew down from the flat area above. Not sure if "tumbleweed" grows on steep slopes or changes color when it's ready to roll. The telephoto viewpoint takes away depth perception, making everything look more flat/2D-ish.

    It is a daunting task considering that Mr. Miller may not have worn any colors that contrast with the landscape. The north part of the western plateau has a lot of visibility of the ground and is fast travel, but when I was in the southern part of that area yesterday I was thinking how the vegetation made it difficult to see anything on the ground beyond 25 or 50 feet away. There's also a lot of unsearched rocks in the hills west of the parking lot. It seems that nobody has hiked up to whatever the helicopter pilot may have seen on the southern plateau, and the western ridge hasn't been searched in the upper areas.

    People may be underestimating his speed, and he may have had a little more time than originally reported, according to Neil's account. Even Neil may have underestimated his speed. Back in May when I went up the SE drainage, I left the trail near the oasis at about 23 minutes after jogging with a heavy load of water. I think a fast hiker could reach the oasis in a little over half-hour, and maybe he started jogging after catching his breath on the downhill and passing Neil.

    The skull was smaller than an adult's fist, larger than a kid's fist I think.

    The brown and black stuff seemed like more quantity than what could come out of a 70-lb. mountain lion in a single event, but maybe such an animal is capable of amazing things. I did notice mud underneath other boulders but not the black stuff. So maybe mud + scat/vomit?

    Yesterday I found my 3rd decent-sized cave in 4 search trips, not counting the usual spaces between boulders. I think there's a possibility that he took shelter in a cave. In a state of heat exhaustion and near heat-stroke he might not have been thinking about how people would find him. Or he may have thought that if he just recovers for a bit inside the cave, he could walk back and not need any help. A cave certainly helps with heat exposure but doesn't solve the issue of dehydration and risk of kidney failure (not sure how long that takes but read it's more likely with exertion). A cave also muffles sound. A fall in a crevice as mentioned by rosesfromangels is I believe another likely scenario, probably more likely. Muscle cramps from dehydration or low sodium could contribute to a fall.

    When people say look up from under the boulders, what does that mean? I know there is a risk of hitting your head if you don't look up, especially if wearing a hat with a brim or visor. Or maybe you mean crouching and looking up into a small cave?
     
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  10. rosesfromangels

    rosesfromangels Amateur speculations and opinion only

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    What i mean, is to literally crawl under large rock formations, and look upward to see if a body is lodged in a crevice of the large rock/boulder. Don’t do this alone, but with a safety spectator

    amateur opinion and speculation
     
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  11. Seajay

    Seajay Never pass up an opportunity to pee.

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    My whole family either carries a pocket knife or a buck knife. We started camping at an early age, and my father and brothers were into hunting. I ha e used my knife so many times, cutting down signs after a PTA drive, opening tightly wrapped gifts, cutting open those plastic containers many products are put in now. Having one is a habit. I would feel naked without it. I do have to part ways with it at airports though. They frown on knifes.

    To me a knife is an essential tool on a hike. So many uses when something is needed.
     
  12. Perry2

    Perry2 Active Member

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    According to Wikipedia, mountain lions can be a lot bigger than I thought:
    Cougar - Wikipedia
    But still, the largest mountain lion couldn't do what's in the photos at the bottom of this page:
    “Hidden In View” Pictographs

    It's worth mentioning that even though temps were only in the 90's in the morning of his hike, exertional heat stroke can happen in lower temps than classical heat stroke. Also, it takes about 2 weeks for an adult to acclimatize, and scrambling on dark rocks can be much hotter than walking along a trail. Theoretically possible. I don't know if he drank coffee, but even something as simple as caffeine can make the heat much more dangerous by reducing blood flow to the skin.
     
  13. zecats

    zecats Well-Known Member

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    His wife stated they did have breakfast together, she was supposed to go with him, and changed her mind to remain behind to pack. Could def have included coffee, or tea.
     
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  14. ispy4u

    ispy4u Well-Known Member

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  15. SpanishMossAntiques

    SpanishMossAntiques Well-Known Member

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    90-degrees is hot, even if you live in the Tropics. I used to live in Key West where it was 90 all the time (at night it would drop to 80-85), and I drank well over a gallon per day easily - if I was out swimming, kayaking, diving, bicycling, walking, etc I'd be drinking water constantly to stave off dehydration. I was in LE there, and helped many tourists who would get Heat Stroke or Sun Stroke. Up here in Illinois where I live now I worked as a park ranger for around 5 years, and on hot days my Lieutenant would have me on foot patrol (with an ATV as well) because he knew I could handle the heat, and because I knew how to help people who became sick from it. In this regard, most of our trails were gentle, with an elevation increase of no more than around 300'. And on a typical hot summer day I would easily provide first aid to an average of 5 people suffering from the heat... The day Paul went out it was very, very hot - that combined with a lack of shade, his limited water supply, and the challenging elevation increase of the trail he was on were the ingredients of a dangerous situation. I also suspect his body (bones) are somewhere among the rocks... (And yes, I too carry a knife with me all the time...)
     
  16. zecats

    zecats Well-Known Member

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  17. Choochoobella

    Choochoobella Well-Known Member

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    As noted by others, The Vanished Podcast did a Paul Miller episode today. This podcast is one of my favorites.

    If you don't have a chance to listen to it, I've summarized key information from The Vanished Podcast into a few posts, divided up by topic. This will recap many points other posters have made in the Paul Miller threads. The majority of the interview was conducted with Paul's sister, Dawn Robinson, but Paul's wife, Stephanie, a couple of Paul's friends, and David Smith, Park Superintendent at Joshua Tree National Park, were all interviewed.

    Background on Paul and Stephanie

    Paul worked in the higher ranks of a company that made water filtration systems. His degree was in environmental science. In his current job, Paul traveled a lot to discuss bringing filtration systems to new areas.

    Stephanie said that Paul always wanted to see something new, go somewhere new. By all accounts, Stephanie and Paul had a wonderful marriage. Ken, one of Paul’s closest friends for 30 years, said Paul was a very strong family man, shared many interests/time with his wife and children, loved outdoor activities (hiking and camping) and sports (Paul coached his children's teams).

    Stephanie has always been very family-oriented and passionate and dedicated to her jobs. She used to conduct recreational activities with seniors in a seniors' home. Later, she went back to school to become a full-time kindergarten teacher. Both Paul and Stephanie were described as very loving and caring people.

    Paul had a ton of friends, many of whom considered him their best friend. Paul was very active and played on a couple of hockey teams and a couple of lacrosse teams. Photography was a growing hobby for him. Paul had no history of medical problems, had just turned 51, and was in better condition than most people his age, probably because he was so active.

    Paul and Stephanie had just celebrated their 26 year wedding anniversary. They had moved to a new house 4 years ago that they had just finished renovating. Stephanie had just gotten a permanent teaching job, Paul just got a raise. They finally took their first vacation since they bought the house. It was their first vacation without the kids.
     
  18. Choochoobella

    Choochoobella Well-Known Member

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    The Morning Paul Disappeared

    On July 13, 2018, Paul and Stephanie were on the last morning of their vacation in southern California and were preparing to drive to Las Vegas later that day to board a flight to take them home to Ontario.


    As Paul and Stephanie ate breakfast at a Denny's restaurant, Paul was reading over a map of Joshua Tree National Park, a park he had always wanted to visit. During breakfast, Paul realized the 49 Palms Oasis trailhead was only 5 to 10 minutes from the Motel 6 he and Stephanie were staying in. (The couple had been camping during their trip, but stayed their last night at a Motel 6.)

    Breakfast took a little longer than expected. Paul decided he wanted to hike the 49 Palms Oasis trail before the drive to Las Vegas. Stephanie said she is a slower hiker than Paul and knew Paul could hike to the Oasis faster without her. Stephanie decided to go back to the hotel to continue packing. Paul wanted to photograph the 49 Palms Oasis area and maybe see some bighorn sheep. Paul expected the entire hike to take 2 to 3 hours. Paul was under a strict order from Stephanie: “Don’t be long.” Paul rushed out to hike, leaving his cell phone and wallet behind. Paul didn’t like taking his cell phone everywhere anyway. He hated being tied to his cell phone, especially on a holiday. If he had taken his cell phone, they might have been able to ping him to find his location.

    Stephanie got a bad feeling around 10 or 10:30am, the feeling getting worse with time. She thought she’d be laughed at if she reported her husband missing earlier so Stephanie waited and called the Park Service just before noon, telling them her husband was about 1.5 hours overdue. Stephanie emphasized she and Paul had a long drive to catch a plane home and that Paul was an experienced hiker, so she felt something had gone wrong.
     
  19. Choochoobella

    Choochoobella Well-Known Member

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    The Park Service Investigates


    The park service had two park rangers looking for Paul on the 49 Palms Oasis trail by 12:30pm. Paul's sister, Dawn, had estimated that Paul had started to hike the trail about 8:30am. From experience, Dawn said it should take about 45 minutes to get to the Oasis if one is hiking pretty quickly.


    David Smith, the Park Superintendent at Joshua Tree National Park, shared what was done in the initial search for Paul. The two rangers who were on the trail by 12:30pm immediately found Paul’s car in the parking lot at the trailhead and they looked at other cars in the lot too. The rangers hiked the trail to the Oasis and back doing a “hasty search”: calling Paul’s name, looking for any obvious signs of Paul, looking at logical places where Paul might be, and interviewing anyone they saw on the trail. There was no sign of Paul.


    By 4pm that day, the Park Service had a SAR crew out on the trail. SAR hiked above the Oasis to places where Paul might have been looking for bighorn sheep; they hiked the side canyons; and they hiked the washes. They also brought out canine units that day. The canines were given some of Paul’s clothing for scent. The family has talked with the dog handler many times. The dog handler is "pretty sure they tracked Paul as far as the Oasis," but could not pick up his scent beyond that. The handler said it is harder for dogs to track scent in extreme heat. One of the tracker dogs, Montana, burned the pads of her paws and was taken out of commission for a few months.


    The park service has the technology to look for heat signatures, but the rocks were hotter than a human would be in the days after Paul went missing, so they couldn’t use that technology.

    Helicopters were also used to scour the area.


    One of Paul’s best friends, John McQuinn, and Stephanie’s cousin, Leslie, flew to California to be with Stephanie. John, Leslie and Stephanie were not allowed to join the SAR. The rangers said they didn’t want to worry about anyone who wasn’t used to the trail and the climate.


    The intensive search lasted for five days, but there were searchers who were badly affected by the heat. David Smith said they couldn't sustain that level of search after the heat casualties. Also, the probability of Paul's survival after 5 days, if he was out there, was limited. SAR had checked all of the most likely areas. The park continued to send out SAR volunteers, mostly on weekends, to search more areas and to try to inspect the more difficult to search areas.


    Additionally, the park officers looked at CCTV footage from a grocery store that has a camera on the back of the store. If you do get off the trail, it is hard to find it again. If people lose the trail, they tend to hike down one particular wash because you can see the town from the top of that wash. Paul wasn’t seen on that camera footage.


    There are some houses along the road that leads to 49 Palms Oasis trail. One of the homes has an owner who will shoot at people if they come on his property. That homeowner was interviewed by the sheriff’s department and SAR volunteers were told to stay off his property.


    There is a homeless encampment on the edge of the park boundary. The sheriff’s department interviewed the homeless, showing them Paul's picture, to ask if they had seen Paul; no one had. Dawn asked the sheriff if the family should put up posters about Paul’s disappearance and his missing camera in the homeless camp. The sheriff said it was likely if a homeless person found Paul’s camera, they would just sell it on the street, not to a pawn shop, and there would be no way to track where the camera had gone.


    A witness came forward to the park service who said he saw Paul on the trail. The park service didn't share this information with the family. The witness reached out to the family later through the Find Paul Miller Facebook site and that's how the family found out about him. The man who saw Paul on the trail was visiting from England. He remembered seeing Paul at about 9am and said Paul definitely looked like "a man on a mission,” that he had been hiking fast. The witness said Paul had just hiked a steep portion of the trail and was resting in the shade of a rock. Dawn said she and her husband have confirmed exactly where the witness saw Paul. She said the trail goes up and down there and there is only one rock which can provide shade in that location.


    The park service thinks the most likely scenario is that Paul fell and is in a crevice somewhere. They think the least likely scenario is that some criminal activity occurred that resulted in Paul's disappearance. They also think it is unlikely that Paul left of his own volition to start a new life.


    There is a special investigative branch of the park service that does criminal investigations. Joshua Tree has a unit of criminal investigators, but they also brought in additional rangers from other parks that specialize in criminal investigations. They have found nothing to indicate there was criminal activity.
     
  20. Choochoobella

    Choochoobella Well-Known Member

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    Lost Opportunities and What Paul's Family and Friends Think Happened


    Paul knew he had to be back quickly from the hike. They don’t think Paul would have hiked up mountain washes where sheep typically come down.


    The only witness to Paul being on the trail said there was one other vehicle, a van, in the parking lot. As the witness was returning from his hike, he saw 4 people emerge from the van and head for the trail. They were in their twenties, were laughing and appeared to be friends. The witness didn’t notice their license plate. Since there is no CCTV at the 49 Palms Oasis trailhead, there was no footage of this vehicle or its license plate. These people have never come forward so we don't know if they saw Paul.


    The trail Paul was on isn’t too far from the main entrance to Joshua Park, but it is the only trail you don’t have to have a park permit to enter. It's in its own little separate area. All the more traveled areas of the park have cameras. The park now realizes that they need a camera there. This is the trail from which the park service has to rescue the most people, but there still isn’t a trailhead camera there today.


    There are other businesses along the highway that have CCTV cameras that capture footage of cars going into the road that leads to the trail. Those cameras might have shown the license plate of the van that parked at the trailhead after Paul left to hike the trail. The family sees these cameras as a missed opportunity since no investigator checked them.


    The family initially thought maybe Paul had fallen and injured himself and was waiting for rescue. One of Paul's friends who was in the park in May 2019 initially thought it was most likely that Paul could have fallen from a rock formation and hadn’t been found yet. But now that the area has been searched so well, he doesn't think there are many places Paul could be in the park and not have been found. Along with many of Paul's friends and Stephanie, the friend is leaning toward wondering if some criminal activity could have happened.


    Paul's sister, Dawn, thinks a medical issue is unlikely. There is shade at the Oasis. Paul was heading back from the Oasis, according to the witness, and it’s downhill from there. If he had collapsed due to heat or another medical issue, Dawn thinks Paul would have collapsed on the trail. Dawn thinks it is unlikely Paul would have gone much off the trail due to his time constraint. She acknowledged Paul may have gone a short distance off the trail for a photograph and got lost.


    If someone had tried to attack Paul on the trail, Dawn said he would have fought. Paul was not tall, but was one of the tougher players on his hockey and lacrosse teams. Park rangers could not find any blood or scuffle marks. However, when Dawn tried to mark the ground, she found she couldn’t scuffle the dry, hard ground. Dawn knew Paul was dressed appropriately and had the supplies he needed for a short hike. When she has come to JTNP since her brother's disappearance, she has noticed people entering that trail wearing flip-flops and only taking a small bottle of water, but most got in and out safely.


    If Paul’s in a dry crevice, he’ll dry out, almost mummify. If his body is in the open, scavengers would scatter the bones, but searchers should be able to find his backpack, leather boots and camera. Dawn said they are putting a lot of hope in drones that are seeking permission to search the area. Dawn has found there are definitely gaps in what has been searched, particularly some steep drop-off areas. Searchers have looked above and below most rock formations, but some of the steepest areas can only be seen with a drone.


    Since Paul’s family lives over 2000 miles away, the family is so grateful to those who keep searching the trail. The family receives emails and some photos from people that are doing this.


    At the time he disappeared, Paul was 5’5 and 160 pounds. You can follow Paul’s story on “Find Paul Miller” on Facebook. Dawn Robinson, Paul’s sister, and her husband plan to keep going back until something is found. The family is desperate for closure.


    The podcast ended with David Smith, JTNP superintendent, giving the phone number if anyone has any tips or finds any evidence. Please call 760-367-5500 and ask for the Chief Ranger’s office. There are still posters up inside the park and at the 49 Palms Oasis trailhead.
     
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