Remains of missing Alberta man found nearly a decade after he 'vanished' in Arizona

The remains of an Alberta man who went for a walk in Arizona on Christmas Eve in 2010 and never returned have been found.

85-year-old Hugh Turner went for a walk at noon on Christmas Eve 2010 and disappeared

Hugh Turner's remains were found in the Red Mountain area, kilometres from where he went missing in Mesa, Arizona. (Mesa police, Google Maps)

The remains of an Alberta man who went for a walk in Arizona on Christmas Eve in 2010 and never returned have been found.

Hugh Turner, 85, left his Mesa home around noon that day. There was an exhaustive search for years, involving local police, search and rescue teams, hundreds of volunteers and even psychics, but no evidence as to where he had gone was ever found, police said.

Remains found on remote mountain

Turner's daughter Janice McCaffrey, a Calgary resident and former Olympic race-walker, said on Monday night her family was informed that her father's remains had been found on Red Mountain. McCaffrey's husband Bill is the former CEO and founder of oil giant MEG Energy.

The mountain, located north of the city just beyond city limits and the community where Turner and his wife Joyce lived in the winter, is located on the Salt River Pima Maricopa Indian Community. Only band members are permitted on the land.

Mesa police said a hiker found Turner's remains on Jan. 5 and some personal effects that allowed the medical examiner to positively ID him a few days later.

"I don't think any of us had thought we were ever going to know what happened to our father. And I've kind of figured, that as sad as it is, we just won the cold case missing persons lottery and someone found him — and that in itself is a miracle," McCaffrey said. "It was just like he vanished."

His remains were found in a remote area, kilometres north of his home near Redmont and Sugarloaf in East Mesa, across a canal, and up steep terrain, McCaffrey said. The area wasn't part of the ground covered in the initial search.

Hugh Turner's remains were found on Red Mountain, roughly eight kilometres north of the neighbourhood where he lived in Mesa, Arizona, during the winter months. (Google Maps)

She joked that her father never had a great sense of direction, and wouldn't have wanted to cause so much trouble.

"He was such a humble guy."

His missing persons report notes that he was showing early signs of dementia, and exhibiting some short-term memory loss, but McCaffrey said he was still very much in touch with what was going on and stayed active.

When he went missing she still came back there every winter.- Janice McCaffrey, speaking about her mother Joyce Turner.

Turner's wife of 60 years, Joyce, was in the same home in Arizona where her husband went missing when she heard the news. She's 90 years old now; Turner would have been 94.

"When he went missing she still came back there every winter. She needs a lot of support, but she's a real feisty lady and she misses him so much," McCaffrey said. 

"We're sad that he wasn't there to be with her, but it's certainly made us realize how invaluable our family is and how we cope under duress. And I'm proud to say that we held together and many, many kind people held us up and supported us."

Police thanked the volunteers who were involved in the initial search effort.

"This information although sad, will hopefully provide some closure to the family and friends. We again want to thank the many family, friends, other agencies and volunteers who helped search for Mr. Turner nearly a decade ago," Mesa police said in a release.

Turner is survived by his wife and four children.


To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.