Search for missing Mesa man mired in setbacks - East Valley Tribune: Mesa

Search for missing Mesa man mired in setbacks

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Posted: Tuesday, January 18, 2011 2:11 pm | Updated: 4:04 pm, Tue Feb 22, 2011.

It’s been more than three weeks since 85-year-old Hugh Turner left his home in east Mesa’s Red Mountain Ranch neighborhood, and an ongoing search for the missing man has been filled with quagmires, faulty video surveillance and erased footage.

Turner went missing from his home in the 700 block of Sugarloaf Street, off of Power Road, about noon on Dec. 24 when went for a walk. His daughter, responding to recent reports of dementia, said she believes he may have had a stroke that has caused him to become confused and disoriented.

In the past few weeks, Turner’s family and the nonprofit Arizona Search Track and Rescue have passed out 16,000 fliers with his photograph, searched the desert areas near Red Mountain Ranch on horseback and on ATV and have investigated many reported sightings. The focused area of the search has included Higley Road to the west, Ellsworth Road to the east, north to Thomas Road and south to Brown Road. There also were eight reported sightings of Turner walking in the Las Sendas neighborhood across from the Red Mountain Ranch neighborhood.

After all of that, the search remains at square one.

“It’s frustrating,” said Turner’s daughter, Janice McCaffrey. “To date, we have nothing. We need more people to tell us if they’ve seen him. Did he take a ride with someone? Is he outside the Mesa area? Perhaps he has had a stroke and doesn’t know who he is. Has someone taken him in? Has he fallen in a secluded area? We do not know.”

However, a woman believes she saw Turner on a Valley Metro bus traveling on North 44th Street near Thomas Road in Phoenix about 4:45 p.m. on Dec. 30, but it likely will not be known whether that man she saw sitting across the aisle from her was the missing man. The video surveillance that Mesa police reviewed was not Turner, and McCaffrey said the footage did not show the area of the bus where she was sitting.

Valley Metro erases video surveillance footage after three days because there is not enough data storage capacity to keep it all, according to Susan Tierney, a Valley Metro spokeswoman.

McCaffrey also said that a Circle K convenience store clerk told her that the video surveillance cameras were not working inside the store on the corner of Power and McDowell roads between 7 to 10 p.m. Dec. 25, when he said he saw Turner come into the store to ask to use the phone.

“The clerk said he would call the police for my dad, but my dad said he was lost and would just call a friend. He didn’t get through to anyone and walked back out of the store,” McCaffrey said. “We just want more people to know that Hugh Turner is still missing and that we need everyone’s help. He would not have any reason not to come home.”

Turner and his wife have been married for 60 years, she said.

Turner is 5 feet 6 inches tall, weighs 150 pounds and is balding with white hair and blue eyes. He was wearing a tan hat, navy blue jacket and tan pants. He has a heart condition and requires medication. Anyone who thinks they have seen him can call Mesa police at (480) 644-2211. Arizona Search Track and Rescue can be reached at (623) 878-9149 or (623) 695-3926. For more information about the organization, visit www.azstar.org.

Mesa police confirmed the family’s account of a false report of Turner’s whereabouts by a prison inmate. The family told the Tribune the inmate wrote them a letter early in the investigation and said Turner was kidnapped to Mexico.

The inmate, Christopher Sallard, 40, who is serving a 12 1/2 year sentence for armed robbery, said he wrote the letter to Turner’s family after he saw his address while watching the television news in prison. Sallard told the family he would reveal Turner’s location for $6,000, but police said they found no basis to what Sallard wrote in the letter. Extortion-related charges are pending against Sallard for writing the letter, according to Sgt. Ed Wessing, a Mesa police spokesman.

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