California - Big Bear Lake


About Big Bear Lake, CA

This is another missing persons case I discovered in David Paulide's book, Missing 411. David Gonzales was nine years old when he was camping with his family at the Hanna Flat campground near Big Bear Lake, California. On the morning of July 31st, 2004 at 8:00, David asked his parents if he could walk to the car to get some cookies. He was given the keys as he and his mother stepped out of their tent. David then started a short walk to the family car only 50 yards away. While his mother's back was turned, David vanished.

There was no noise, no scream, no sign of a struggle, and no blood. The search for David started almost instantly. Over the nextf 10 days, searchers scoured every square inch within 10 miles of the camp. No sign of David was ever found. His disappearance was explained as an abduction or animal attack. In May of 2005, after the snow thawed, hikers approximately 1 mile away from the camp discovered David's remains.

At the time, it was assumed David was the victim of a mountain lion. However, many questioned that conclusion. A mountain lion will leave signs of a struggle, blood, drag marks, and tracks. After the attack, a mountain lion will typically drag its victim no more that 100 yards before it feeds. At the feeding site, the remains of the victim show obvious signs of evisceration, blood, and teeth marks. None of this was found in David's case and the site of his remains was searched numerous times.

Pano # 1 shows the camping area where David vanished. Notice the distance a person would travel to reach a parked vehicle inside a campsite. Also notice the large trees and open spaces a predator would have to navigate in order to make an ambush attack. Keep in mind the entire park would have had campers almost everywhere.

Pano # 2 was taken on the trail leading away from the camp in the direction David's remains were discovered and about 400 to 500 feet higher in elevation. Notice the steep angle downward toward the park. It seems unlikely that a child who was headed to the car for cookies would stray away and go uphill from the camp.

Pano # 3 was taken in the approximate area where David's remains were discovered about 1 mile away from the camp. The area was sharply higher in elevation and it had a very different feeling to it. Notice all the areas a predator could have hidden.

While researching this case, I came across news reports about another young man, Jared Michael Negrete, who also vanished in the area and was never found. The incident happened less than 10 miles away, and 13 years earlier, almost to the exact day. Oddly, Jared's personal camera was found with strange close-up photos of him well after he went missing. Considering there are only 10 confirmed mountain lion attacks on record in the United States between 1990 and 2010, it would be highly improbable that both boys were attacked in such close proximity.

In David's case, if it wasn't a mountain lion, what was it? It seems unlikely he wandered away. If he did, where was he during the search? If he was abducted, why bring him back to a location so close to where he vanished? As with many of the cases in Missing 411, whatever or whoever did this had the ability to see David, silently get into position for an ambush, overpower him, move away without being seen, and avoid detection during the search.

After reviewing the cases in Missing 411, this one is a little unique in one other respect. David was inside a tent with his parents after having slept overnight around many other campers. Whatever took David either spotted him the evening before and waited all night to ambush him or David was a target of opportunity and he was targeted by the abductor in a very short period of time just as he was coming out of the tent.

This means the abductor had the ability to remain motionless and undetected the entire night in a crowded campground or it was passing through unseen and happened to spot David, get in position, and strike silently in a remarkably short amount of time. If the family's car keys were ever located, I think we would know a lot more about what happened to him. Maybe it's worth taking a second look at the area with a metal detector.

Wildlife Official Report Indicating a Mountain Lion Was Not The Cause of David's Death
http://www.mountainlion.org/newsstory.asp?news_id=258

Information on Jared Michael Negrete
http://www.charleyproject.org/cases/n/negrete_jared.html





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