Months-long search for missing Hemet woman, 73, ends in tragedy

MOUNTAIN CENTER, Calif. — Authorities today announced that the seven-month search for a missing Hemet woman tragically ended with the discovery of what was believed to be her remains in the Mountain Center area near Idyllwild earlier this month.

Riverside County Sheriff-Coroner officials have since confirmed that the discovered remains were that of 73-year-old, Rosario Garcia, who was reported missing on July 7, 2020.


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The Sheriff’s months-long investigation, which included several wide-scale searched began early last July when family members reported that Garcia had gone missing after leaving their residence in Hemet, according to Riverside Sheriff’s Sergeant James Burton.

She was last seen driving her silver 2016 Nissan Altima away from the residence.

Coroner officials have confirmed that human remains found in the Mountain Center earlier this month were those of Rosario Garcia, 73, who had been missing since July of last year.

Two days later, on Thursday, July 9, deputies from the Palm Desert Station responded to the 70100 block of Hwy 74, in Mountain Center after Garcia’s vehicle was located in the area.

“The vehicle was located and it appeared to have become high centered on the rough road,” explained Burton; who added that Garcia was not located in or around the vehicle at the time.

“A search by Desert Sheriff’s Search and Rescue (DSSAR), Riverside Mountain Rescue Unit (RMRU), bloodhounds and Riverside County Sheriff’s Aviation Unit was conducted, however, Garcia was not located,” said Burton.

An additional, larger scale search of the mountainous area was conducted the following day; however, RMRU and Hemet Station personnel were again unsuccessful in locating Garcia.

Since her disappearance last July, family members and people throughout the Hemet and San Jacinto valley and surrounding communities have shared missing person’s flyers, in the hopes that the missing 73-year-old Hemet woman would be found.

As their investigation continued over the next several months, on Friday, Feb. 5 possible human remains were discovered in the Mountain Center area.

Based on the new information, personnel from RMRU, Riverside County Search Dogs, Riverside County Coroner’s Bureau, Riverside County Forensics, Sheriff’s Emergency Response Team, and personnel from the Hemet Station responded and conducted a search in the area where the possible human remains had been seen.

During that search, human remains consistent with an adult female were located in the area, according to Burton; who added that items believed to have belonged to Garcia were also located.

“Our Coroner’s Bureau was able to obtain a positive identification that the remains belonged to Rosario Garcia,” said Burton.

“No evidence of foul play was located,” added Burton.


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Anyone with information regarding this investigation can contact Inv. Negrete at the Hemet Station at (951) 791-3400. Callers can refer to incident file number D201890039 and can remain anonymous.

Anyone wishing to contact or support the volunteers from the Riverside Mountain Rescue Unit can contact them by email. Desert Sheriff Search and Rescue can be contacted at (760) 836-1600, and the Fowler-O’Sullivan Foundation can be contacted by email.

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Contact the writer:

Trevor Montgomery, 49, moved in 2017 to the Intermountain area of Shasta County from Riverside County and runs Riverside County News Source (RCNS) and Shasta County News Source (SCNS).

Additionally, he writes or has written for several other news organizations; including Riverside County-based newspapers Valley News, Valley Chronicle, Anza Valley Outlook, and Hemet & San Jacinto Chronicle; the Bonsall/Fallbrook Village News in San Diego County; and Mountain Echo in Shasta County. He is also a regular contributor to Thin Blue Line TV and Law Enforcement News Network and has had his stories featured on news stations throughout the Southern California and North State regions.

Trevor spent 10 years in the U.S. Army as an Orthopedic Specialist before joining the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department in 1998. He was medically retired after losing his leg, breaking his back, and suffering both spinal cord and brain injuries in an off-duty accident. (Click here to see segment of Discovery Channel documentary of Trevor’s accident.)

During his time with the sheriff’s department, Trevor worked at several different stations; including Robert Presley Detention Center, Southwest Station in Temecula, Hemet/Valle Vista Station, Ben Clark Public Safety Training Center, and Lake Elsinore Station; along with other locations.

Trevor’s assignments included Corrections, Patrol, DUI Enforcement, Boat and Personal Water-Craft based Lake Patrol, Off-Road Vehicle Enforcement, Problem Oriented Policing Team, and Personnel/Background Investigations. He finished his career while working as a Sex Crimes and Child Abuse Investigator and was a court-designated expert in child abuse and child sex-related crimes.

Trevor has been married for more than 30 years and was a foster parent to more than 60 children over 13 years. He is now an adoptive parent and his “fluid family” includes 13 children and 18 grandchildren.