An automotive journalist took a motorcycle for a test drive, and that was the last anyone heard from him…
Davey G. Johnson, a journalist missing on assignment, was on an extended test-drive of a motorcycle in California last week when he fell out of touch with his fiancé on the evening of Tuesday, June 4, 2019. He contacted his fiancé around 2AM on June 5th, apologizing for his radio silence, citing a dead cell phone and hazardous roads. “That part of the Sierra is just stupidly spectacular. Anyway, I’m so sorry I worried you. Yes, I am okay and alive, but I am WIPED.” By 8:30 that morning, he had contacted a friend, saying he was on his way home from the motorcycle test drive. That was the last anyone has heard from Davey G. Johnson.
A journalist missing in action is not unheard of in their profession, but it is odd that it would happen to an automotive journalist. Davey is a seasoned automotive writer, and a regular contributor to auto publications. The assignment he was on when he disappeared was a piece for Motorcyclist magazine. He was test-driving a Honda CB1000R motorcycle. During the search for the missing journalist, investigators were able to locate the motorcycle at a rest stop off California’s Route 49, near Mokelumne Hill. Davey’s helmet, and gloves were found neatly stored with the bike. The Mokelumne River is located near the rest stop, which is consistent with Davey’s message to a friend that morning stating he was near a creek. That’s where authorities located his backpack, including his phone and laptop. The river was searched with the help of boats and drone air support, but swift currents in the river forced the team to halt the search.
Davey was beloved throughout the automotive media sector, with publications like Jalopnik, AutoWeek, Car and Driver, and Roadshow all publicizing his disappearance in the hope it will unearth leads for investigators from the public. Davey’s fiancé, Jaclyn Trop, is also an automotive journalist. She told CBS News, “”He is so full of life and I’ve just never met anyone like him. There’s just so many questions that we have.”
When people go missing in rural or unpopulated areas, it can be difficult to piece together their last movement before they went missing. There is usually a lack of reliable external security systems that might have shown the journalist’s activity at the rest stop, as well as what direction he headed when he left his riding gear and bike parked. Witnesses are difficult to track down, especially in a transient area like a rest stop where individuals come and go with frequency. Authorities run into similar issues when searching for an individual in a national park.
FA journalist missing is a journalist lost. amily and loved ones of Davey are holding out hope he will be found soon. No evidence of foul play has been reported by authorities. A GoFundMe page has been set up to benefit Calaveras County Search and Rescue, a volunteer division of the Sheriff’s Department, for those wishing to donate. Anyone with information that could help in the search and rescue efforts is urged to contact the Calaveras County Sheriff at 209–754–6500.
Last week, Tawana, the mother of Jabez Spann, received the closure she’d been chasing since September 4, 2017. That Labor Day weekend was the last time she saw her son alive. The Sarasota teen went missing from his own front yard after having attended a candlelight vigil being held two blocks from his home. After a torturous 18 months without answers, she finally received the news she dreaded. Two men were checking a fence in a pasture in Manatee County when they made a grisly discovery: A human skull. They called 911. The remains of Jabez Spann identified from dental records. Sarasota Police Deputy Chief Pat Robinson said in a press conference, “Today, I am sad to report that we were not able to recover Mr. Spann living and return him to his family.”
To tell the full story of Jabez’s disappearance, you have to go all the way back to August, 2017, and the death of another man in Jabez’s life. In late August of 2017, Travis Combs, 31, was fatally shot and killed, with law enforcement investigating his death as a homicide. When the news broke about Jabez’s disappearance, one of the dominating bylines denoted him as a witness to a murder, having been named in a probable cause affidavit for a suspect. Reginald Parker, 55, claimed to have witnessed the shooting of Travis Combs, and allegedly told several individuals that he had witnessed it in November of 2017. These individuals were interviewed by police, corroborating what Parker had told them. Prior to Parker’s arrest on 2017, Jabez’s presence at the crime scene was merely a neighborhood rumor. The publishing of the arrest probable cause affidavit confirmed his presence at the crime scene that night.
Combs’ case eventually became overshadowed by the
disappearance of Jabez Spann in media coverage, as he went missing less than a
week later. The facts of the case as we know it read more like an edgy police
procedural—a teenage boy, having already allegedly witnessed a violent crime,
disappears without a trace, and police find themselves stymied. He disappeared
less than 200 yards away from where Combs’ body was discovered. After Jabez’s
remains were found, Police Deputy Chief Pat Robinson claimed that “hundreds
upon hundreds” of hours have been logged in this investigation, citing that Jabez’s
family has been a valuable asset to investigators. He also noted in a
press conference that this case is personal for law enforcement, like many
cases involving teens or young children, “Many of our detectives…have children
of their own. I’m a father, as the sheriff. I can’t imagine having that
information broken to me about my son. There’s been highs and lows in this
investigation where there’ve been sightings and tips and things we’ve followed
up on. And every time it’s a peak and a valley, [the family] stood with us, and
our investigation team, every step of the way.” At that same press conference, police noted
that they did not believe Jabez left Sarasota of his own volition.
The two men who called 911 told the dispatcher they did not see signs of a weapon at the site—just the skull and “some bones.” It was the break that came after 18 months of following over 100 tips reported to law enforcement that proved to be dead ends. Members of the community have found the news of the discovery bittersweet, like activist Wayne Washington, “You can’t just hurt a child in our community and think that you can live life and everything is going to be sweet. The emotions are very high because I wish that he was alive, but by the family finally finding him they can get the closure they need as a family.” Over the course of the investigation, the reward sum for any information leading to the whereabouts of Jabez Spann had grown to $50,000. Police have yet to say if or how the funds will be disbursed.
Despite the heartbreaking news in her son’s case, his mother
remains steadfast in looking towards the future. Since the time her son
disappeared, she believed he witnessed a brutal murder, and the person
responsible had a hand in making him disappear. She now wants to see that
person answer for their actions, “We’re going to move forward in the hopes that
they can find whoever did this. Those last moments that you caused him, that
you did to him when he was helpless and couldn’t call on anybody…that’s what I
want to see justice for. We got some closure. We’re going to put him in peace
and lay him to rest. We’re not done.”
Jayme Closs’s harrowing story of survival has captured the attention of the entire nation. The 13-year-old Wisconsin teen went missing almost three months ago on October 15,2018, after a cryptic phone call to 911 triggered a call from police to the Closs home where officers made a grisly discovery. Jayme’s parents, James and Denise Closs, were found shot dead and their 13-year-old daughter was nowhere to be found.
The slaying of her parents and evidence of a home invasion qualified the missing teenager for an Amber Alert by authorities, and search efforts immediately began for Jayme as investigators began to piece together what had happened in those fateful moments. 87 days passed as Jayme’s anxious family and concerned friends waited for updates in her case. Then on January 10, 2019, Jayme showed up on the street in the remote neighborhood of Gordon approximately 70 miles away, asking a passing dog walker for help. The woman grabbed Jayme and took her to a neighbor’s door, where she told the neighbor, “This is Jayme Closs, call 911!” Not too long after her reappearance, police were able to apprehend Jayme’s captor, 21-year-old Jake Thomas Patterson, who was found wandering the nearby neighborhood—likely searching for Jayme.
Investigators say Jayme’s escape was one of the luckiest breaks they’ve ever seen in a missing person case. Jayme’s case is already being analyzed as atypical, due to the surfacing information that has investigators completely floored. When Jayme reappeared last week and told law enforcement about the details of her abduction and escape, many officials were surprised. Investigators told NBC 26, “Most abductions are committed by perpetrators who live within a couple miles of the victim.” Despite the distance from the Closs home, Barron County Sheriff Christopher Fitzgerald said he does not believe her kidnapper took her across state lines. With over 88 days’ worth of evidence to comb through, investigators will be attempting to track their movements since Jayme’s disappearance.
When asked about this gigantic body of evidence, Fitzgerald told CNN, “…we’re looking for receipts, where the suspect may have been over the last 88 days. Did he take things with her? Did she go with him to the store? Did he buy clothes for her? Did he buy food?” Investigators also told NBC only about 1% of abductions are committed by someone who is not a member of the victim’s family, nor geographically located near the victim. Much of the most pertinent information in any missing persons case is collected within the first 48 hours of the investigation. Captain David Poteat of the Brown County Sheriff’s Department said when it comes to the abduction of children, the window of time is even smaller. Because of the atypicality of her case, investigators are already proffering Jayme’s case will be studied by current and future members of law enforcement for “years to come.”
As they continue to sort through evidence, Fitzgerald said Patterson likely hid her from friends and visitors, offering no further explanation. “All I know is that she was able to get out of that house and get help and the people recognized her as Jayme Closs right away.” What Jayme eventually described to investigators was a crudely constructed makeshift cell. When Patterson was expecting friends or relatives, he forced Jayme to hide under his twin-sized bed in his room. He would stack laundry baskets and plastic totes around the bed with barbells sitting against them so Jayme could not get out. He also left music blaring in his room so Jayme could not hear what was going on throughout the house. One of the people who made a number of visits while Jayme was being held captive in the Gordon cabin where Jayme was held was Patterson’s father, Patrick Patterson. He told Jean Casarez of CNN, “All I care about right now is Jayme’s family. I want to get them a note.”
Investigators have also stated when it comes to questioning Jayme about her traumatic experience, they are taking it one day at a time, “When she wants information, we’ll give it to her; and when she wants to tell us things, we’ll take it from her.”
There were many theories about the circumstances behind Jayme’s disappearance in the weeks right after she went missing. Law enforcement and citizens alike proffered it might have been a home invasion gone terribly wrong, but as of this week, Fitzgerald has stated Jayme was the only target in this crime. Once questioned by police following his arrest, it became clear Patterson had been watching Jayme for a number of weeks before he took her, but was scared off on both prior occasions. Patterson targeted Jayme and took great pains to ensure he would not be found out. He shaved his head to avoid leaving his DNA at the crime scene. Once he abducted Jayme, he took her clothes and destroyed the evidence. The criminal complaint filed by the Barron County District Attorney said Patterson first saw Jayme getting on the bus to school when he was passing by on his way to work. Sections of the complaint are enough to make one’s arm hair stand at attention, “The defendant states when he saw (Jayme) he knew that was the girl he was going to take.” Jayme also told investigators after Patterson placed her in the trunk of his car, she heard police sirens close by not long after Patterson began driving. After Jayme was found alive, the responding officers noted on their way to the Closs home on October 15th, they passed only one vehicle.
The bottom line for investigators is this: If Jayme had not possessed the courage and fortitude to escape her captor, they would never have found her. On January 10th, she managed to push aside the totes and squeeze out of her makeshift cage. Jeanne Nutter was the dog walker she approached on the street, wearing no coat in the cold weather. Nutter took her to the door of her neighbors, Peter and Kristin Kasinskas. Law enforcement now has to decide what happens to the combined reward amount of $50,000—$25K from the FBI, and another $25K from the Jennie-O Turkey Store, where Jayme’s parents worked. Nutter helped Jayme to safety, and the Kasinskas called 911 to get her help, but they are saying they don’t want the reward. Peter Kasinskas was quoted in an interview by the Associated Press earlier this week saying the reward money should go to Jayme, “She got herself out.”
Dalton Jack was at his construction job in Dubuque, Montana on the night of July 18th, 2018. He was working almost 100 miles away from his home in Brooklyn, Iowa. There, he had a sweetheart who was missing him—anxiously waiting for him to return so they could soon travel to the Dominican Republic to watch Jack’s older brother get married. Her name is Mollie, and Jack is just one of many who love and adore her for being “the sweetest, kindest, most caring person.” Now Jack, along with family and friends, police, and even the FBI, are conducting a furious search to find Mollie Tibbetts in the days following her mysterious disappearance from a rural Iowa farming community.
Later that evening of July 18th, around 10 PM, Jack opened a SnapChat message from Mollie. She was at his house, watching his dogs for him while he worked. “It was just a selfie with a caption, and I don’t remember what the caption said,” he said. “It looked like she was inside.” The next afternoon, Jack got a call from Mollie’s coworker, saying that Mollie did not call into work that day and never showed up to work her shift. That’s when Jack noticed that Mollie had not opened any of the messages he’d sent her since he received her snap the night before. Jack began contacting her family and close friends to see if anyone had heard from her. No one had. They called the local hospital, but Mollie wasn’t there either, prompting Jack to make a lengthy drive back to Brooklyn.
Misinformation in the media has reported that Mollie was snatched while on a regular evening jog. Jack told authorities that it was unclear what time Mollie’s last snap chat was sent, but it was a few hours before Jack actually opened it—around the time Mollie would have regularly gone out for a jog, as the weather was starting to cool off. “I read somewhere that she was running in a cornfield. That’s obviously not true,” said Mollie’s aunt, Kim Calderwood. “The run happened and then she was at the house as far as we know. I don’t think she would’ve run in the dark,” Calderwood said.
The investigation into Mollie’s disappearance has left local law enforcement mystified. Brooklyn, Iowa is a close, friendly farming community, where no one is a stranger to their neighbors. Poweshiek County Sheriff Thomas Kriegel cannot remember anyone in the community ever being missing for this long in the past, but the geography of Brooklyn is making the search difficult. “We’re surrounded by farm ground — corn and soy beans. Right now, the corn is probably eight, nine feet tall. The only way you can search it is basically walk down every other row,” he said. “It’s difficult. Even the planes flying over have a difficulty looking down in the corn rows.” The police at this time have named no suspects, having cleared Dalton Jack after validating his alibi in Dubuque. They have not yet ruled out abduction. They hope to utilize the data from Mollie’s cell phone and her fitness tracker to answer some questions about what happened that night. According to the New York Post, “Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation spokesman Mitch Mortvedt said Wednesday that investigators believe they’ve ‘put together a pretty solid timeline’ of what 20-year-old Mollie Tibbetts was doing before she was last seen jogging in her hometown of Brooklyn, Iowa.” The article goes on to say investigators only wish they could comb the information faster in the interest of finding Mollie.
In just a week, the search party has ballooned from dozens to hundreds, with the FBI recently joining the effort. In the first days of her disappearance, friends and family tweeted to celebrities with Iowan roots who might use their fame to spread Mollie’s face and name across the country, in the hopes that someone has seen her. Celebrities who participated in this effort, including Adam Devine, Brandon Routh, American Idol winner Maddie Poppe, Kurt Warner, and comedian Tom Arnold.
In the meantime, her family agonizes over their missing daughter, but they have not given up hope that Mollie will soon return to them, safe and unharmed. “We know that Mollie knows how much we love her and how important she is to her entire family,” a cousin told PEOPLE. “We want her to know that we will never stop looking for her.”
This is a developing story…
Carie McMichael is the Communications and Media Specialist for Lauth Investigations International, writing about investigative topics such as missing persons and corporate investigations. For more information on missing persons topics, please visit our website.