Fugate Disappeared in 1980, Chiricahua National Monument
Early in 1980, law enforcement ranger Paul Fugate left his residence for a foot patrol in the Chiricahua backcountry and didn’t come back.
When Paul did not return from this patrol, the park and then the NPS and the Cochise County Sheriff’s Department mounted extensive SAR efforts to find him, but these efforts turned up nothing. Searching in Chiricahua is certainly no picnic. The park sprawls over 12,000 acres and has complex terrain with numerous canyons, arroyos, and barrancas.
The same kinds of questions that dogged searchers in the Randy Morgenson case troubled the people trying to figure out what happened to Paul Fugate. Did rumors of marriage problems have anything to do with this disappearance? Had Paul been killed after stumbling onto a drug smuggling or illegal immigration operation? Had he decided that the NPS was too conservative for him and just walked away?
The latter notion was born of the fact that Paul had been known as a bit of a non-conformist. He was, for example, one of the first rangers who pushed the boundaries on the Park Service's conservative grooming standards.
Howard Chapman, then-Western Regional Director, was driven to distraction by this disappearance. These kinds of mysteries were not supposed to occur on his watch! In 1986, Chapman commissioned Pete Nigh, one of the NPS's top criminal investigators, and an Arizona Department of Public Safety investigator to review the files and determine if there was anything else that needed to be done.
Meanwhile, the NPS refused to certify that Fugate was dead. Among other things, this meant that Paul’s widow Dotty could not collect survivor’s benefits. .......