Missing East Anchorage hiker found dead; no foul play suspected

A man in a red vest outside
Anchorage Search Team member John Gomes prepares a crew to look for 28-year-old Juan Toscano on Thursday, June 1, 2023. (Matt Faubion/Alaska Public Media)

A hiker missing near Campbell Airstrip Road was found dead Friday night, two days after another man was found dead in the same area. Police say there are no initial signs of foul play in 28-year-old Juan Toscano’s death.

Juan Toscano
Anchorage police say Toscano was last reported taking a walk from the Basher Trailhead on Wednesday, May 31, 2023. (From APD)

Anchorage Police Department spokeswoman Sunny Guerin said in an email Monday that a volunteer had found Toscano’s body in the Campbell Creek Gorge, with word reaching police dispatchers just before 9 p.m. Friday. Toscano had last been heard from Wednesday afternoon, when he told family he planned to take a hike from the Basher trailhead in the area.

The search has drawn heightened public interest due to the discovery Wednesday morning of 35-year-old Juan Wright’s body at the Campbell Airstrip Trailhead, about two miles northwest along the road. His remains were spotted by a passerby just hours before Toscano was reported missing.

Police have deemed Wright’s death a homicide and have asked anyone who saw anything suspicious on Campbell Airstrip Road overnight Tuesday to contact investigators. No further details on the case were available Monday morning, police said.

A brief update late Friday to the police department’s missing-persons post for Toscano on its Facebook page, saying only that he had been “located,” drew more than 100 comments. Some people blamed police for prematurely calling off an official search Thursday evening, while others claimed they were trying to hide the presence of a serial killer.

Asked about the online backlash, Guerin said that police initiate investigations and searches in missing-persons cases, while following up on known leads for their location. In cases where a person is still missing in a “general area” with no known public-safety threat, Guerin said police contact Alaska State Troopers who then determine whether to activate volunteer search teams.

“The search team is made up of volunteers, who often (put) themselves in perilous situations to help look for missing people and ultimately they called off the search in this case,” Guerin said. “While APD personnel are not part of the search team, APD does follow the case and will follow up on any additional details received.”

Members of the Alaska Search and Rescue Team were on hand Thursday morning at the Basher trailhead, looking for Toscano. Members of his family declined comment at the time and didn’t immediately return a request for comment Monday.

Police said the rescue team called off efforts to find Toscano as of 9 p.m. Thursday. After his body was found Friday, Guerin said officers responded to recover the remains, which were sent to the state medical examiner’s office for an autopsy. She refused to speculate on how his body ended up in the gorge.

“At this time (p)olice have found nothing to indicate that the death is criminal in nature or that there is any connection to the homicide,” Guerin said. “While the homicide is still under investigation, police have NO indication that there is a serial killer.”

Police also said Monday that there is no ongoing public-safety threat along trails off Campbell Airstrip Road.

Chris Klint is a web producer and breaking news reporter at Alaska Public Media. Reach him at cklint@alaskapublic.org. Read more about Chris here.

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