UPDATE: The nephew of Ronnie and Beverly Barker told KLAS-TV in Las Vegas that the couple had been found. He said there wasn’t much information at this time, only that his uncle was found dead and his aunt alive and taken to the hospital.
INDIANAPOLIS — It has been nine days since Ronnie and Beverly Barker departed from a campground in California, bound for a rendezvous with good friends in Tucson, Arizona. Nine days since family members have been left holding the pieces to a puzzle they can’t complete.
On March 27, the Indianapolis couple set off across the Nevada desert. Seven hours later, at 7:16 p.m., their trail went cold. An RV, a car, a host of electronics: vanished into thin air. All that was left was one last cellphone ping from a desolate stretch of desert road that cuts deep into a barren landscape where only abandoned mines and ghost towns await.
“What has happened to them?” their daughters ask, searching for answers one stray sighting at a time. Assembling the pieces from half a country away.
“They were driving a 32-foot RV and hauling a car behind it and just vanished. That is unheard of. That just doesn’t happen. So where are they?”
On April 9, Beverly Barker turns 70 years old. In Indiana, her daughters Jennifer Whaley and Lynn Bledsoe wait anxiously for their parents’ return. Wishing nothing more than to blow out candles and celebrate their mother’s milestone.
But instead of planning a party, the sisters have found themselves thrust into spearheading a desperate search for answers.
“We just want them found,” Jennifer said, both siblings committed to finding the parents who vanished without a trace.
Ronnie and Beverly were supposed to pull into a Tuscon, Arizona, campground on March 29 where their friends awaited them. But the day came and went, and the pair never showed. According to the daughters, their parents had been visiting grandchildren in Albany, Oregon. They’d left on March 26 at 9:30 in the morning heading south en route to Arizona.
Beverly called a friend around noon.
“From there, we don’t know of them communicating with anybody,” Lynn said, her mother never making or answering another call. Since March 28, every phone call made to either Ronnie or Beverly has gone straight to voicemail.
“They would have at least, at the very least, contacted their friends they were supposed to meet up with,” Jennifer said, adding it was completely out of their parents’ characters to go radio silent.
Lynn said she spoke with her parents often and stayed in their Indianapolis home. They would never go this long without returning her calls, she said.
“If they saw I had called, they would have called me back,” Lynn insisted.
Since going missing, Jennifer and Lynn have worked diligently with authorities and online communities to track down any sightings, witnesses, fragments of their parents’ passing. From stray photographs that captured their RV to bank statements that detailed credit card purchases.
“It’s very overwhelming at times,” said Jennifer. “You spend hours and days on your computer and phone. Our phones are nonstop. They constantly go off. There is not a lot of sleep… you don’t have an appetite. All you care about is finding your parents and bringing them home.”
“You’re afraid to turn off your phone. You don’t want to miss anything,” Lynn said, any little notification may be a clue. A piece. An answer. “You end up skipping meals all the time because you’re just consumed.”
Tips sent to the sisters’ email tipline — email@example.com — have helped create the timeline of the Barker’s last known whereabouts on Sunday, March 27, along with cellphone pings and clues found by police.
At noon, the couple departed Mt. Shasta KOA Campground in California. At 3:48 p.m. they topped off their fuel tank at Stagecoach Market in Stagecoach, Nevada. It was their last known purchase.
At 5:30 p.m., a cellphone ping puts them near Walker Lake, Nevada, on State Road 3. Five minutes later, their RV is sighted on a traffic camera. Another ping puts them in Hawthorne, Nevada, on U.S. 95, a town of less than 4,000 people. An image of the couple’s RV was caught just after 6 p.m. in Luning, Nevada.
It is the last known sighting of the Barkers, a blurry photo of their RV driving down the desert highway.
From there, cellphone pings track them further into the remote desert. To near a ghost town in Coaldale, toward Silver Peak and a dusty road called Nivloc that bends back toward the mountains where little awaits outside abandoned mines and towns long left to crumble beneath the blazing desert sun.
“No one has heard anything,” Jennifer said, the last ping at 7:16 p.m.
According to a report from KLAS, a nephew of Ronnie and Beverly told 8 News Now late Tuesday that the couple’s RV had been located “on the other side of red mountain” in the Silver Peak area. The nephew said he was told by a deputy the car was gone, the Ronnie and Beverly nowhere to be seen and the RV buried in mud.
However, 8 News Now called the Esmeralda Sheriff’s Office and was told the RV had not been found today.
WHERE COULD THEY BE?
Both Ronnie and Beverly deal with a host of medical ailments. The daughters said both are diabetic. Beverly has high blood pressure, amongst other conditions, and currently needs a wheelchair to get around. Ronnie is a cancer survivor and only has partial lungs.
“We kind of joke that he only has one lung left,” Lynn said.
While some have offered speculations that the couple may simply have gone off on an adventure into the myriad of ghost towns and abandoned mines or journeyed out into the desert, the daughters insist there is no way. It’s unlike their parents, who physically just aren’t capable of such a strenuous hike.
“We get a lot of people that have said, ‘Oh, maybe their phone just went dead and they can’t charge it,'” Jennifer said. But the couple is tech-savvy, according to their daughters, equipped not only with an RV and a car that could power charging their equipment, but with devices outside just their phones like Apple Watches, a laptop, and iPads.
“They are smart people,” Lynn said. “If they are still able to drive the RV and get to a town they’d call us on a landline. They’d find a restaurant, a gas station.”
Lynn said the idea of the couple deciding to go out and do some type of fun excursion over the last week just isn’t feasible.
“One, because they were supposed to go meet their friends and they wouldn’t not meet their friends without talking to them. And two, they wouldn’t be out of communication with their family this long. They just wouldn’t.”
“If the RV broke down they could’ve unloaded the Kia and gone for help,” Jennifer said. The fact every one of their devices have gone dark since March 27 and both their vehicles haven’t been spotted isn’t just unnerving to the sisters, it seems completely unheard of.
HOLDING TO HOPE
While the search consumes the sisters, the grief does not. Cannot. They have to keep looking. They have to hold on. They have to hope.
And they have support. A silver lining in all the gloom is the outpouring of community and support the sisters have found as people far and wide have taken up the case and joined in the search for the Barkers. The sisters said they’ve been contacted by people from Arizona and Nevada who have gone out in search parties trying to find the RV. The Kia. Anything.
“We just want to thank everyone who is helping,” Lynn said. “It’s not just an Indiana or a Nevada effort. We’ve had support across the country.”
Posters have been plastered from Tucson to Nevada. Along the path the Barkers were taking. Plastered at rest stops, at gas stations, at restaurants. It isn’t just family or friends who want answers. Who want the Barkers home. It’s more. Many, many more.
“It’s amazing to have that support behind you because you do have those weak moments,” Jennifer said. “Not every day is a good day. Not every morning is a good morning. There are a lot of tears. It’s hard sometimes but we’re trying really hard to hold onto our faith. Hold onto hope that they’re stuck somewhere and they’re self-contained and okay.”
On Monday night, a Silver Alert was at last issued for the missing Indianapolis couple. Eight days after they’d gone missing. While the sisters are thankful, they also expressed frustration at the delay.
“My biggest surprise is how much we have to do on our own,” Lynn said. Police have been out looking, have been searching campgrounds and rest stops, but the sisters have had to push for more. Have become tangled in bureaucratic red tape as they fought for a Silver Alert to be issued. Fought for Civil Air Patrol to do aerial searches.
“There is a lot of red tape,” Jennifer admitted. “We just got a Silver Alert last night and yesterday was day eight. It took them eight days to issue a Silver Alert and it was only from pressure. They weren’t going to give us a Silver Alert, they made an exception.
“The 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.”
But the sisters didn’t quit. Neither did they give up when they reached out to the Civil Air Patrol and found out they hadn’t been contacted about joining the search. The sisters found out the steps that had to be taken and on Tuesday, nine days after their parents’ disappearance, the Civil Air Patrol was finally able to take flight and join in the search.
So far, no sighting of the couple or their vehicles has been found in the vast desert. But the search continues.
HOW TO HELP
Anyone with information is asked to contact authorities. The Esmeralda County Sheriff’s Office in Nevada can be contacted at (775) 485-6370.
Jennifer and Lynn also ask anyone with tips, pictures or sightings to send them to their email tipline at firstname.lastname@example.org. The sisters aren’t able to follow every social media group and forum and ask people to send information to the email and not just leave it in a comment.
The Nevada Silver Alert asks anyone with information to call Nevada State Police at (775) 687-0400.