By Jennifer Kocher, Cowboy State Daily
As a teen, B.J. Meador’s dad Terry warned him never to leave his vehicle if it broke down or got stuck in the mud. This happened more than once to BJ, who did exactly as he was told and was rescued every time.
But Terry broke his own rules when his truck got high-centered while he was out scouting for deer in the Pine Mountain area, about 40 miles south of Rock Springs. And while the 74-year-old man’s pickup truck was found several days after he was reported missing October 2018, he never was.
Nobody has seen or heard from Terry since, despite numerous searches by foot, all-terrain vehicles and air in the vast, heavily treed and rugged terrain.
Won’t Give Up
But Terry’s son refuses to give up the search and continues to think about what might have happened that day and where his dad could have gone. He’s confident that the searches were thorough, including one involving more than 200 people along with fixed-wing aircraft and helicopters.
For almost two weeks before the big search party was organized by Sweetwater County Search and Rescue, people were out there and probably walked 100 miles up and down the canyons looking for him, BJ said.
“Either he’s not out there or we’re looking in the wrong place,” he said.
Terry, a former junior high school history teacher and restaurant owner, was an avid hunter and sportsman, knew his way around the woods, his son said. He’d grown up on a mountain ranch between Moab, Utah, and Grand Junction, Colorado, and had lived in Rock Springs for the past 48 years.
According to BJ, his dad had been out spotting for an upcoming deer hunt he was going to take with Terry and Terry’s son, Jackie, who had just turned 12 and drawn a highly coveted tag for the area 102.
All three were excited to hunt that region, which they hadn’t been able to hunt since Wyoming implemented the limited quota system decades ago.
When BJ didn’t hear from his dad after a couple days, he called his dad’s friends to ask if they would look around for him. When Terry was not found at home, a group of about six of Terry and BJ’s friends began searching in the area that he would have gone.
Found the Truck
Searching in the dark until after midnight on the first day of the search, Bobby Hammer finally located Terry’s abandoned truck.
It was found high-centered in a large rut with Terry’s rifle, binoculars, hunting license and small cooler containing a couple bottles of water and a can of soda along with some other snacks still inside, according to the report from the Sweetwater County Sheriff.
The driver’s window was rolled down to allow Terry to presumably climb out of the vehicle given the steep angle of the truck.
BJ filed a missing person report on Oct. 26, which prompted another hunter from Rock Springs to report that he had seen the abandoned truck six days earlier, the day after Terry left home. After searching the area, that hunter followed boot tracks leading from the truck and traveling west about a mile down an access road to where the tracks disappeared, but he didn’t report it to police at that time.
A partially smoked cigarette of the brand Terry smoked was also located about 200 yards west of the truck, according to the sheriff’s report.
A glove that BJ didn’t recognize was also found in the area and was sent off for DNA testing but the results were inconclusive.
Dried mud inside the vehicle and on a shovel tossed in the back of the truck indicated that Terry had attempted – and failed – to dig his truck out of the rut.
Short of a pizza order to a family friend made in Meador’s name that was ultimately determined to be a prank from some school girls, the only other clue to the disappearance the sheriff investigated was a random call to a local hotel from Terry’s phone that might have been a misdial. From what BJ knew, his dad would have no reason for calling anyone at that hotel.
Unfortunately, BJ said, his dad had no use for a cell phone that law enforcement could ping. Likely, if he had his phone, it would have been turned off, BJ said, which would explain why repeated calls to it went straight to voicemail.
That cell phone might have saved his life, BJ noted. That, and taking his own advice to stick with the vehicle.
Otherwise, there were no clues to where Terry might have gone.
This behavior was not typical of his dad, BJ said, and he has no indication of similar behavior in the past aside form one incident that occurred years ago when his dad had disappeared for two days in 2015.
The incident occurred when Terry was moving his mother into an assisted living home in Arizona. Terry, who managed his own bipolar disorder wth medication, hadn’t been taking his meds during that time and ended up having a nervous breakdown and being taken to a psychiatric facility in Phoenix.
According to BJ, his dad had been taking his medication regularly at the time he disappeared and BJ saw no indications that his dad “was on the edge,” though he speculated getting his truck stuck might have exacerbated Terry’s anxiety, leading his judgment to be clouded.
BJ also does not believe his dad was suicidal and there was no indication from other people he interviewed that his father was contemplating taking his own life.
Going to Church
In the past, Terry had told friends when he died he wanted it to be on his own terms, but BJ took that as something an independent guy like his dad, who loves the outdoors, would say. Regardless of his mental state, his dad loved hunting and being outside and would likely feel at peace there more than anything.
“He would say that it was his church,” BJ said. “Outdoors and hunting was his place to feel his connection with something bigger.”
BJ has no idea where Terry might have gone. He theorizes his father might have tried to walk back to Rock Springs and made it to the highway, where he was picked up by a driver.
Terry wouldn’t have left his pickup truck if BJ or one of his grandchildren had been with him, BJ said, but without anyone else to watch over, Terry might have risked finding his way home.
Regardless, BJ would like to have answers to the question of what happened to his dad. He’s not under the impression that Terry is still alive, but it would be nice to know, he said, though even finding his body will likely not solve the mystery.
“Even if we find him, we will never have all the answers,” BJ said. “We will never know that story.”
At the time Terry went missing he was described as 5 feet, 10 inches tall and weighing approximately 180 pounds with gray hair and blue eyes. He may have been wearing an orange coat and carrying a rifle.
Anyone with information is asked to contact the Sweetwater County Sheriff’s Office (307) 922-5300 (reference case # S18-18536 & R18-32089) or the toll-free hotline at National Missing and Unidentified Persons System (833) 872-5176 (case # MP53670)