Missing Indiana couple found in Nevada, 1 of them dead

(WXIN) – More than a week ago, an Indiana couple set off in their RV to meet up with friends in Tucson, Arizona.

But they never arrived, setting off a search effort. We’ve now learned that Ronnie Barker has been found dead and his wife Beverly was taken to a hospital.

Here’s what we know about the case so far.

When did they disappear?

On March 27, Ronnie and Beverly Barker set off from a California campground across the Nevada desert. Seven hours later, their trail went cold. They essentially vanished without a trace, with their RV, car and a host of electronics gone.

The couple had expected to arrive in Tucson, Arizona, on March 29. But friends and family worried once the date came and went.

Photos courtesy of Lynn Bledsoe, Jennifer Whaley

The only indication of their location was a single ping from an isolated stretch of road.

Beverly planned to celebrate her 70th birthday in just a few days, on April 9.

When was the last time anyone heard from them?

According to the couple’s daughters, the Barkers left Albany, Oregon, around 9:30 am on March 26 after visiting their grandchildren. They headed south on their way to Arizona.

Beverly Barker called a friend around 12 pm that day. As far as the family knows, not one spoke to the couple after that. Since March 28, every phone call made to them went straight to voicemail.

Lynn Bledsoe, their daughter, said they wouldn’t have gone so long without returning calls unless something went wrong.

“If they saw I had called, they would have called me back,” she said.

The couple departed the Mt. Shasta KOA Campground in California at 12 pm on March 27. Just before 4 pm, they stopped in Stagecoach, Nevada, to get fuel. That was their last known purchase.

The last known sighting of the Barkers was a grainy image of their RV on a desert highway in Luning, Nevada. It was taken around 6:05 pm on Sunday, March 27.

The final known ping from their cell phone followed just over an hour later, at 7:16 pm

Photo shows the last known sighting of the couple on a highway in Luning, Nevada. (Lynn Bledsoe, Jennifer Whaley)

Why didn’t a Silver Alert come sooner?

Eight days after their disappearance, a Silver Alert was issued Monday night in Nevada. The delay frustrated family members, who believed there was too much red tape involved in activating the alert.

Jennifer Whaley, another daughter, said local authorities hesitated to issue a Silver Alert because her parents weren’t Nevada residents. Authorities eventually made an exception.

“The reason they weren’t going to give a Silver Alert is that they aren’t residents of Nevada. That, to me, is insane. What does that have to do with anything? They’re missing in your state. So…it’s frustrating,” Jennifer said.

A poster appealing for help in finding the missing couple

What did the search effort involve?

Local police searched campgrounds and rest stops in the area. Online sleuths and local witnesses also tried to help. Family members looked at just about everything, from stray photographs of the RV to statements detailing credit card purchases.

The family set up an email account specifically for tips about the missing couple: [email protected]

The Nevada Civil Air Patrol (CAP) assisted in the search this week, although it was unclear if the group spotted the couple’s RV. A spokesperson for the CAP told KLAS the group assisted with 24 personnel from Reno, Las Vegas and Hawthorne.

The CAP utilized four aircraft in search efforts Tuesday, with two additional aircraft on standby. The total aircrew time used for the search was approximately 12 hours, covering open desert, mountainous regions, highways, off-road trails and densely wooded areas.

Where were they found?

While specific information regarding how they were found remains elusive, the couple’s nephew, Travis Peters, told KLAS their RV was located in Silver Peak, a small, unincorporated area in Esmeralda County that’s one of Nevada’s oldest mining communities. Neither Ronnie nor Beverly was with the RV and their car, a Kia Soul, was gone.

Ronnie Barker had died, Peters said. Beverly was alive and airlifted to a Reno hospital. Details about Ronnie’s death were not immediately available.

Mineral County Undersheriff Bill Ferguson told The Associated Press that the Barkers were found with their car late Tuesday afternoon. Rescue personnel from Mineral County had located them.

According to Ferguson, searchers found the couple and their car in forested mountains about 2 miles from the RV.

“It was just one bad decision after another,” he said. “I’m not sure what took them off course. They got the motor home stuck and then unfortunately they got the car stuck.”

Ferguson said Beverly Barker melted snow for water and stayed mostly in the car. Temperatures dipped into the 30s overnight.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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