HOLBROOK — Beau Jordan Watnick remains missing though Springerville Police and the Navajo County Sheriff’s Office haven’t stopped looking for him.
Watnick, a 40-year old Springerville resident, left his home the evening of July 16 with about $500 in cash on him. His wife, Christina Cordova, said the couple’s white Ford F-150 truck was spotted by a jogger in the Wagon Wheel area of Navajo County, but apparently thinking nothing of it, the jogger didn’t report it that day. Cordova said that the same jogger noticed the truck still there the next day and called the police on July 19, three days after Watnick was last seen.
The investigation began with the truck as a suspicious vehicle. It was led by Navajo County Sheriff’s deputies but Cordova initially didn’t seem very concerned, telling investigators that her husband has disappeared for days on end at times in the past, according to NCSO Chief Deputy Brian Swanty.
The truck was parked in an out-of-the-way area along the fence line at Wagon Wheel Road and Rim Road on the White Mountain Apache Tribe boundary. Its windows were down and the keys to the truck were on the seat. The area is a well known party spot.
Swanty said Watnick left the couple’s residence in Springerville after they had a verbal disagreement. When a NCSO deputy located the vehicle on the morning of July 19, he noted the scene was suspicious as the windows were down and it was parked in an odd place.
“They reached out to the registered owner of the vehicle in the Springerville area. The deputy made contact with the wife or the mother of the registered owner,” Swanty said. “He was informed that Beau had left the residence on the 16th and he sometimes does this after an argument. He will kind of leave for a couple days and then he will come back. They weren’t seeing anything out of the ordinary at that point and time.”
Swanty said the deputy at the scene searched the area looking for any evidence, including footprints. Four deputies returned to grid-search the area on July 20. It also rained heavily as the deputies searched on July 20, according to Swanty.
The NCSO arranged for the vehicle to be returned to the family and they picked up the vehicle that day. Swanty said the investigating deputy kept in contact with Cordova to see if Watnick had returned.
“The Navajo County Sheriff’s Deputy initiated a missing person’s flyer to be distributed in the area and on social media — that was on the 22nd. On the 23rd, Navajo County reached out to Springerville Police to a missing persons investigation to be initiated. This individual was last seen in Springerville. The person also resided in Springerville. So it is the jurisdiction of the Springerville Police Department,” Swanty said.
The family did not file a missing persons report on Watnick until July 24.
Navajo County Sheriff’s Office turned the case over to Springerville Police because Watnick was last seen in that town.
While Springerville remains the lead investigation agency in the case, the NCSO leads the investigation into the scene where Watnick’s truck was found.
“We have to gather as much information as we can so we can search with intelligence,” Swanty said.
The Navajo County Search and Rescue Unit and the White Mountain Apache Tribal Game Rangers were briefed on Watnick’s disappearance on July 24 and descended on the area July 25 in a joint operation to search for him.
In the initial day of searching, Swanty said they searched with a drone and had 14 people on foot, including a certified “human remains” K-9 officer.
“The Game Rangers really know that country very well — probably better than our search and rescue folks,” Swanty said.
During the search the only evidence located was a “flip-flop” shoe which is believe to have belonged to Watnick.
“If this flip-flop was his, he’s not going to get real far. Some people have very rough feet and they can trek out across the country with no bother. I don’t suspect that he was able to get very far with the clothing and the lack of equipment we suspect that he had,” Swanty said.
Searchers found no other sign of Watnick but investigators did receive an eye-witness report of an older model red and white Suburban that was seen parked next to Watnick’s truck the day before deputies arrived at the scene.
“We don’t know who’s Suburban that is,” Swanty said adding the search was hindered by “significant rainfall” in the area the day before the search began. The heavy rain eliminated footprints in the soil and hindered searchers.
“The Navajo County Sheriff’s Office has conducted about four different searches out there — two of them with full-on search and rescue missions by the search and rescue unit. We have lots of documentation — mapping and GPS coordinates. Where the truck was. Where the flip-flop was found. The trackers carried GPS units on them that documented their track. That is all put onto a map,” Swanty said.
Another search is planned in the area for Watnick, said Swanty.
“This o ne will likely focus more down off of the canyon. That rim drops off down into this very primitive area where there is no populaces out there whatsoever. It is very rugged and primitive country. That will be a much slower search,” Swanty said.
He added that much of the search will likely be performed with drones and dogs due to the rough terrain.
“There has been substantial investigation gone into this. Both by Springerville Police and by the Navajo County Search and Rescue. They have interviewed the family no less than four times, clarifying information. Nobody has had any sighting and there’s been no activity to link up to Beau,” Swanty said, adding Watnick does not have a cell phone, which could help searchers find him if the phone is powered up.
Typically people also leave a trail of debit or credit card usage if they were fleeing and “just trying to get away” for a while. Swanty said there has been no banking trail left that could be linked to Watnick’s disappearance.
“We’ve got nothing to follow up on. A red and white Suburban was seen near the vehicle and then it was gone,” Swanty said. “As far as foul play — we really don’t have anything to go on there. Foul play is always on the forefront of our thinking when it comes to these things. There is nothing to say that we need to launch a criminal investigation on this. There is no evidence directing us anywhere. We are still just blindly going out there and conducting searches in the area.”
With the investigation seeming to go nowhere, his wife Cordova consulted a “medium” in Payson. The medium asked for a picture of Watnick and told Cordova that she sensed that Watnick had “met bad people who took something from him.” Cordova then went to the scene of where the truck had been found, took pictures and sent them to the medium for a second consultation. That’s when the psychic said that she believes that Watnick is deceased, that he was hurt by others who dropped him over a cliff or bluff.
Watnick is a white male, 5’10” tall and weighs 170 pounds. He has brown hair and hazel eyes. The Springerville police can be reached at (928) 333-4240; the NCSO at (928) 524-4040.