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Fugate was last seen at the Chiricahua National Monument Park in Arizona on January 13, 1980. He worked as a ranger for the park. It was in the off season, and so that day he was the only permanent staff member on duty. The only other person was a seasonal employee who worked as a clerk. At 2:00 p.m., Fugate left his office to do a foot patrol on a nature trail. He told the clerk to shut down the visitor's center alone if he didn't return by 4:30 p.m. He was last seen walking towards the park's entrance. He has never been heard from again. He forgot his radio and didn't take anything with him besides his keys.
An extensive search of the park turned up no sign of Fugate. The park covers 12,000 acres and the terrain is very rugged, with numerous canyons and arroyos. There were rumors that he had left voluntarily or that he had been killed after stumbling across an illegal drug or illegal immigrant smuggling operation in the park. One park employee reportedly saw him in a pickup truck at 4:00 p.m., slumped between two other men.
For six years after Fugate's disappearance, the National Park Service (NPS) refused to list him as deceased and his wife could not collect survivor's benefits. In 1986, however, an NPS investigator and an Arizona Department of Public Safety investigator, working together, examined the records of the search and investigation and concluded there was no reason to believe Fugate had left on his own and was still alive somewhere. His wife's application for NPS benefits was then approved.
Fugate has never been located.
Cochise County Sheriff’s Department