MENDOCINO Co., 9/1/19 — The body of John Alan Baker, 81, who had been missing for about three weeks, was found yesterday in timber lands a few miles east of Fort Bragg. Baker, who had been traveling from Oregon back to his home in Southern California, was suffering from the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease, and his vehicle had been put on a list of vehicles flagged as belonging to “at risk” elderly people. The exact cause of death has not been released, and an autopsy is scheduled for later this week.
Baker had been traveling from Oregon back to his home of Lake Hughes, a town in the mountains between Los Angeles and Palmdale. His family had last heard from him on Aug. 8, when he had told him that he was in Fort Bragg, but looking for a way to get back to I-5 and continue south — they reported him missing the next day.
On Aug. 23 his vehicle, a Lincoln sedan, was found high-centered on a logging road about 9 miles east of Fort Bragg, off of Little Valley Rd, in forest land belonging to Lyme Timber. Search teams made several searches for him over the following days, eventually discovering his remains Friday. Baker’s body was found in a small creek, about 900 feet, in a straight-line, from his car, but in extremely steep and rugged terrain.
Here is the press release from the MCSO:
DATE: “September 1, 2019”
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
Incident Number: COR19-25895
Crime/Incident: Coroner’s Investigation
Location: Lyme Timber Property, Fort Bragg CA.
Approximately 9.0 Miles east of Highway 1, located off of Little Valley Road.
Date of Incident: August 30, 2019
Time: 11:30 AM
Victim(s): John Baker, 81 years of age, Lake Hughes CA
Written By: Lieutenant Shannon Barney
Synopsis: On 8/23/2019 around 10:56 PM the Mendocino County Sheriff’s Office was contacted regarding a suspicious vehicle located on Lyme Timber Company lands, approximately 9 air miles east of the town of Fort Bragg. The area is accessed off of Little Valley Road and the reporting party found the vehicle while cutting firewood. The reporting party indicated the vehicle appeared stuck alongside the road, on a ditch used to turn runoff water off of the logging road. The reporting party said the vehicle keys were still inside but no one was around. The area was described as a logging road that crossed the Redwood Creek Drainage.
A deputy responded and found the vehicle, a 2017 burgundy Lincoln MKZ, stuck on the edge of the logging road. The deputy checked the license number in the state wanted vehicle system to learn it was flagged as belonging to an “at risk” missing adult, 81 year old John Baker of Lake Hughes California. Baker had been reported missing on 8/9/2019 after he failed to return on a trip from Southern Oregon. Family last had contact with Baker on 8/8/2019 when he indicated he had returned via Highway 101 as he was fond of Redwood Trees. At the time he said he was in Fort Bragg but trying to find a road back to Interstate 5 so he could return to Southern California. The family described Baker as suffering the early stages of Alzheimer’s Disease. Deputes checked the vehicle but were unable to locate Baker.
On 8/24/2019 a Search and Rescue incident was started at the missing persons vehicle. Numerous SAR teams and resources responded as mutual aid resources were requested due to the extreme terrain and dense forest conditions. Over the following week a large search was conducted utilizing trained K9 teams, ground teams, and aerial searching.
On 8/30/2019 around 11:30 AM ground searchers discovered human remains in a small tributary of Redwood Creek. The tributary is very steep and wooded but was approximately 900 feet, by air, from the abandoned vehicle. Search and Rescue teams recovered the body and a Coroner’s Investigation was initiated. The remains were positively identified as that of John Baker.
The decedent’s cause of death is under investigation with a post mortem examination schedule for Tuesday 9/3/2019.
The Mendocino County Sheriff’s Office would like to thank the following agencies/groups for their assistance:
Lyme Timber Company
Marin County Search and Rescue
Lake County Search and Rescue
Napa County Search and Rescue
San Mateo County Search and Rescue
Contra Costa County Search and Rescue
Bay Area Mountain Rescue Unit
Wilderness Finders Search Dog Teams (WOOF)
California Rescue Dog Association (CARDA)
Approved by: Lieutenant Shannon Barney
I’m beside myself to think that it took a WEEK for this poor man to be found only 900 ft from his car by searchers on foot not the”trained”K-9s …
I know this area very well and frequent it often but can’t imagine how this man must have felt or for how long he survived..if only the K-9s were better trained for the area such as it is,he may have still been alive.
My condolences to the family.
It was two weeks between when he spoke to his family on 8-8 and when his car was spotted on 8-23. That is plenty of time for the trail to go cold for the search dogs. He could have wondered away from his car shortly after getting stuck looking for water. Blaming anyone does no good – just a tragic situation.
I’m a family member of the deceased, and in all honesty, that area had been searched previously. It appears what had happened, is an animal got a hold of some of his remains, and drug it to the spot that they found him. The reason it took so long as well, is because the first two weeks, we didn’t have a location to search. His vehicle was barely found, then his body about 6 days later. I want to thank search and rescue for all of their hard work. I’m glad he can be laid to rest soon. He is loved & will be terribly missed.
thanks for the update Alison, and we’re sorry for your family’s loss.