A cadaver dog search for a Gila Valley man missing since July 4 had to be called off Friday, but Graham County Sheriff’s Office officials hope to reschedule it.
GSCO Lt. Tommy Whitmire said the a U.S. Border Patrol canine handler and his dog were scheduled to help the Search and Rescue team search for Ramon Ruiz Cruz, but they ended up having an emergency mission.
Cruz was reported missing by a friend in mid-July after realizing he hadn’t seen the homeless man since July 4.
Cruz, who is in his early 80s, likes to camp out near the Gila River by the Eden Bridge and he often makes money by taking a chain saw into washes, cutting wood and making fence stays for local ranchers, Whitmire said.
Two weeks before Cruz was reported missing, his truck had been found broken down near a ranch he used to work at, nine miles from the Old Thomas Bridge near River Road, Whitmire said.
“It’s possible he was out looking for work at the Diamond Bar Ranch; we’d heard from friends that he’d worked there before,” he said.
After he was reported missing, searchers went to the truck and discovered it infested with bees, Whitmire said. Once the bees cleared way, they discovered a chainsaw, food and inside.
Searchers, who feared Cruz had been attacked by the bees, performed a grid search starting at the truck, but were unable to find him on any of the routes he would’ve taken to get back to the roadway, he said. They went back out with the Greenlee County Search and Rescue team three days later to the river and still had no luck.
During an earlier search with the cadaver dog they did a grid search through the wash and an area above the river, but they didn’t turn anything up, Whitmire said.
Once the dog is available again, Whitmire said, “we’re going to try to go down toward the river and across the river to a burned area that’s near there and then we’re going to go back to his camp. We’re going to try to clear all of those areas with the dog.”
The search area is a big one and the river has thick vegetation, Whitmire said.
Cruz’s friends say they are positive he would’ve reached out to them by now if he were able to, Whitmire said.