June 23, 2015

Disabled Adventist Woman Goes Missing in Arizona

Updated at 9:50 p.m. ET

, news editor, Adventist Review

A worried Seventh-day Adventist family has asked for prayers for a 44-year-old disabled relative who went missing in remote mountains in the U.S. state of Arizona.

A three-day search and rescue operation has been suspended as police regroup to consider their next move in the case of Janet Castrejon, who disappeared while on a weekend camping trip with her parents in Rustler Park in the Chiricahua Mountains on June 19.

The missing hiker, Janet Castrejon. (Courtesy of Edye Campos)

Authorities elevated her status from “missing” to “missing and endangered” on Monday.

“We are convinced that there was an abduction,” her father, Eduardo A. Castrejon, a family physician in Las Cruces, New Mexico, told the Las Cruces Sun-News. “They don’t think she’s in the area anymore — dead or alive.”

Janet Castrejon’s cousin, Edye Campos, pastor of the Gurnee Seventh-day Adventist Church in Gurnee, Illinois, earlier told the Adventist Review that she went missing while hiking with her brother. News reports, citing local police, contained similar information.

But the father provided a new timeline of events. He said he, his wife, and daughter arrived in a motor home at the Rustler Park campgrounds around 1:30 p.m. Friday for their third visit to the park. His wife and daughter took a short walk later in the day and his daughter decided to walk back to the motor home alone when her mother stopped in a restroom. She never reached the motor home.

After searching the area and talking with other campers for some time, the parents grew increasingly worried as night fell and contacted their son. He, in turn, called the police.

Police dispatched a full search and rescue team complete with sniffer dogs, according to the Tucson News Now website.

But they called off the search after 72 hours on Sunday evening, concluding that the missing woman was no longer in the area. They entered her name into a missing persons list in the FBI’s National Crime Information Center, the Sun-News said. 

Janet Castrejon, who is 5 feet 2 inches (158 centimeters) tall and weighs 250 pounds (113 kilograms), was last seen wearing a white T-shirt with black words on it, blue jeans, and white tennis shoes with a red stripe, Tucson News Now said.

Castrejon was left partially blind and with short-term memory loss after sustaining a traumatic brain injury in a car crash when she was 16, said Campos, her cousin. She has the mental capacity of a 9 or 10 year old.

“She can add and subtract and talk just fine, but because of the brain damage her survival skills are not where the would be for you or I,” Campos said.

He asked for prayers for Castrejon’s well-being and for success in the search.

The family has created a Facebook page called Find Janet Castrejon.

People have gotten lost while hiking in the U.S. West before. In November, a group of 15 young Adventists camped overnight in a remote California canyon after getting lost during a weekend hike. They were rescued by helicopter the next day.

Read “15 Adventist Hikers Rescued in California”