Mike Lopez of Missoula, Montana, who went missing as he traveled from Missoula, Montana, to Mission Viejo, California, via Caldwell was found dead Nov. 26.
Lopez passed through Challis on the trip and his phone pinged in the city on Nov. 10, prompting some local investigation into his whereabouts.
Lopez’s body was found Nov. 26 in Boise County, in a ravine off Idaho Highway 21 near Lowman. Idaho State Police officials said Lopez, 71, was traveling south when his pickup left the edge of the roadway and rolled down a steep embankment. He died at the scene. Boise County Sheriff’s Office personnel were helped by a private helicopter search in finding Lopez.
Lacy Lopez, Mike’s daughter, said her dad was on his way from Missoula to California to visit her for Thanksgiving. He missed a rendezvous with a friend in Caldwell and on Nov. 14 Lacy realized something must have happened. She began contacting law enforcement and search and rescue agencies along the route.
In a Nov. 26 interview, before searchers discovered the wreckage and body, Lacy said phone records acquired with a search warrant showed the last known location of her dad’s cellphone was near Lowman on Nov. 11.
Lacy said Monday morning she is “devastated. I’m taking it an hour at a time right now.” Idaho State Police officers continue investigating the crash.
According to Lacy, she contacted the Custer County Sheriff’s Office after a location ping from her dad’s cellphone put him near 11th Street in Challis on Nov. 10. Lacy was told by the Sheriff’s Office they searched the area and looked at video from nearby cameras on U.S. Highway 93, but couldn’t find evidence of what may have happened.
Despite assurances they were actively looking for her father, Lacy said she’s frustrated with how long it took Idaho agencies to find his body. She thinks law enforcement could have initiated a warrant for her dad’s phone records sooner. He dad was missing for more than a week before the Sheriff’s Office began the process to get the warrant, Lacy said.
Custer County Sheriff’s Deputy Theresa Marshall said the investigation was difficult because of the lack of physical evidence. Marshall went out to search for evidence of Mike’s whereabouts just before noon Nov. 14, but didn’t find anything in the Challis area. Without anything to indicate where he went after leaving Challis, Marshall said they couldn’t establish leads on his exact location.