Case of Missing Ranger Was 'One That I Felt Was Solvable'

At 'Outside Online,' Brendan Borrell digs deep into the case of Paul Fugate
By Kate Seamons,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 10, 2021 11:49 AM CDT
Only One Park Service Ranger Has Vanished, Not Been Found
US Park Ranger Paul Fugate went for a hike and vanished without a trace on January 13, 1980. He was wearing his NPS uniform with the official NPS Arrowhead patch and a gold-colored NPS ranger badge.   (National Park Service)

Paul Fugate is the only National Park Service ranger to vanish and never be found. It happened in January 1980, when the then-41-year-old Chiricahua National Monument ranger set out on one of the southeastern Arizona monument's trails and was never seen again. Writing for Outside Online, Brendan Borrell dives deep into the case, connecting with the investigators who worked the case then (and still) and parsing Fugate's unconventional marriage. He met with Craig Emanuel, an investigator with the Cochise County Sheriff's Office who worked the case while in his 30s and then started probing it anew seven years ago after retiring. "This was the one that I felt was solvable," he told Borrell. Borrell is extremely thorough in recounting the theories and leads that have been chased down over the years.

Among them: That Fugate, a known pot smoker, was the victim of a drug deal gone wrong. That something awful befell him at the Faraway Ranch, which is on the monument's property (a clairvoyant at the time claimed to have a vision of Fugate coming upon two men and an unconscious woman and being murdered). That Fugate simply fled his life, the theory espoused by the Park Service investigator who was put on the case. Borrell tracks down leads involving anonymous letters, a Tucson shop called Auto World, boasts about the murder, and a suspicious land buy the month after Fugate vanished. And then there's this other theory: that Fugate's wife, Dody, was in on it. The two had an open marriage; she lived in Tucson, and the seasonal employee Fugate was dating was pregnant. "I found ... inconsistencies in the stories she told me ... [and] gaps in the original investigation made it impossible to dismiss [the idea] entirely," he writes of Dody. (Read the fascinating full story for much more.)

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