More than a week ago, an Indiana couple set off in their RV to meet up with friends in Tucson, Arizona.
But they never arrived, setting off a search effort. We’ve now learned that Ronnie Barker has been found dead and his wife Beverly was taken to a hospital.
Here’s what we know about the case so far.
When did they disappear?
On March 27, Ronnie and Beverly Barker set off from a California campground across the Nevada desert. Seven hours later, their trail went cold. They essentially vanished without a trace, with their RV, car and a host of electronics gone.
The couple had expected to arrive in Tucson, Arizona, on March 29. But friends and family worried once the date came and went.
The only indication of their location was a single ping from an isolated stretch of road. Family members had no idea what happened to them.
Beverly planned to celebrate her 70th birthday in just a few days, on April 9.
When was the last time anyone heard from them?
According to the couple’s daughters, the Barkers left Albany, Oregon, around 9:30 a.m. on March 26 after visiting their grandchildren. They headed south on their way to Arizona.
Beverly Barker called a friend around 12 p.m. that day. As far as the family knows, no one spoke to the couple after that. Since March 28, every phone call made to them went straight to voicemail.
Lynn Bledsoe, their daughter, said they wouldn’t have gone so long without returning calls unless something went wrong.
“If they saw I had called, they would have called me back,” she said.
The couple departed the Mt. Shasta KOA Campground in California at 12 p.m. on March 27. Just before 4 p.m., they stopped in Stagecoach, Nevada, to get fuel. That was their last known purchase.
The last known sighting of the Barkers was a grainy image of their RV on a desert highway in Luning, Nevada. It was taken around 6:05 p.m. on Sunday, March 27.
The final known ping from their cell phone followed just over an hour later, at 7:16 p.m.
Why didn’t a Silver Alert come sooner?
Eight days after their disappearance, a Silver Alert was issued Monday night in Nevada. The delay frustrated family members, who believed there was too much red tape involved in activating the alert.
Jennifer Whaley, another daughter, said local authorities hesitated to issue a Silver Alert because her parents weren’t Nevada residents. Authorities eventually made an exception.
“They reason they weren’t going to give a Silver Alert is that they aren’t residents of Nevada. That, to me, is insane. What does that have to do with anything? They’re missing in your state. So… it’s frustrating,” Jennifer said.
What did the search effort involve?
Local police searched campgrounds and rest stops in the area. Online sleuths and local witnesses have also tried to help. Family members looked at just about everything, from stray photographs of the RV to statements detailing credit card purchases.
The family set up an email account specifically for tips about the missing couple: email@example.com.
The Nevada Civil Air Patrol (CAP) assisted in the search this week, although it was unclear if the group spotted the couple’s RV.
A spokesperson for the CAP told KLAS the group assisted with 24 personnel from Reno, Las Vegas and Hawthorne.
The CAP utilized four aircraft in search efforts Tuesday, with two additional aircraft on standby. The total aircrew time used for the search was approximately 12 hours, covering open desert, mountainous regions, highways, off-road trails and densely wooded areas.
Where were they found?
The Esmeralda County Sheriff’s Office said the RV was found in the remote mountain area of Esmeralda County near Silver Peak, Nevada shortly after 11:30 a.m. Tuesday. The Kia Soul was gone and the RV appeared to be stuck.
Search and rescue teams followed the Kia tire tracks and found it 2 miles away with Ronnie and Beverly inside. Ronnie died, but Beverly was alive. The office said she was in good spirits considering what took place.
Mineral County Undersheriff Bill Ferguson told The Associated Press said Beverly melted snow for water and stayed mostly in the car. Temperatures dipped into the 30s overnight.
Beverly was flown to a Reno Nevada hospital for treatment. a search of the motorhome determined foul play was not involved.
“It was just one bad decision after another,” said Ferguson. “I’m not sure what took them off course. They got the motor home stuck and then unfortunately they got the car stuck.”
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report