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Human remains found near a trail at Joshua Tree National Park this week may belong to a man who went missing more than a decade ago, authorities said on Friday.
Hikers found the body on Tuesday in the park’s northwest corner, near the Panorama Loop Trail. Park rangers and deputies from the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department secured the scene overnight, with a crime scene investigation team arriving at daybreak on Wednesday.
Along with the body, investigators found a wallet with identification belonging to Bill Ewasko, a 66-year-old man from the Atlanta suburbs who went missing in June 2010, a report from local radio station KCDZ said. According to a 2018 New York Times article, Ewasko, a Vietnam veteran and accomplished hiker, drove to southern California on a hiking vacation and left a detailed itinerary with his girlfriend, Mary Winston.
When Ewasko failed to check in after his first hike on June 24, Winston alerted rangers, who began a search; Two days later, a California Highway Patrol helicopter located his car at the Juniper Flats trailhead, a 90-minute drive from where Ewasko had originally planned to hike. Authorities called off the official search 11 days later, with amateur efforts continuing sporadically for years after that. Searcher Tom Mahood, a former volunteer with California’s Riverside Mountain Rescue Unit, documented his own efforts to find Ewasko on a personal blog with dozens of related posts.
Speaking to the Palm Springs Desert Sun, Joshua Tree National Park Superintendent David A. Smith said that the sheriff’s department was currently investigating the remains as a possible homicide as a matter of course, due to the unnatural nature of the death.