On a Friday morning in December 2018, I joined Anderson at the Cochise County Sheriff’s Office for a meeting of the Paul Fugate Task Force. The office, founded in 1881, is located about 30 minutes south of Tombstone. When I arrived, eight investigators from various agencies were seated around a long table, with a box of doughnuts open in front of them, which led to the requisite cop-doughnut jokes and a test of willpower to see who could hold out longest.
It was my first time meeting Emanuel, a lanky lawman with swept-back gray hair who had been in his thirties when Fugate first went missing. Emanuel had followed up on some 400 leads, but the investigation fell by the wayside in 1985 when he took a job as a campus cop. He kept in touch with Dody and gave depositions to support her fight for widows’ benefits from the government. Fugate’s case was never far from his mind. “This was the one that I felt was solvable,” he told me.
Anderson briefed the team on two recent leads he’d received, both “goose eggs.” The first, that Fugate was killed while hand-feeding a jaguar, was quickly discounted. The second, that he was killed by a poacher, led Anderson to follow up with an old man in the town of St. David. “He answered the door in his chonies, with a walker and a .357,” Anderson recalled with a chuckle. “After we put our guns away, the guy sat down and talked to me for an hour and a half.” The poacher story didn’t hold up, he said.
Some of the older leads seemed more promising. In October 1980, Emanuel had received a block-print letter telling him to “ask Ernest Goff in the county jail in PHX about Mr. Fugate.” A year later, another letter in the same style pointed the finger at a guy named Tex Carpenter. Both were postmarked Bloomington, Illinois.
Around the time the letters were sent, Goff was acquitted in a high-profile prison-gang slaying, and a couple of weeks after Paul vanished, Goff and Carpenter stole a pickup at the Phoenix airport and crashed it into an orange tree, a story reported in the Arizona Republic.
Carpenter agreed to take a polygraph test in October 1981 but bailed during the pretest interview after three hours of rambling digressions. During that interview, Carpenter said he’d seen Goff and another, unnamed individual shoot Fugate and had helped bury him south of Tucson, “in a wash in Santa Cruz County.” Carpenter’s life had evidently been threatened in prison by the Aryan Brotherhood, and he seemed willing to tell authorities anything, true or not. Two weeks later, he went through with the polygraph test and recanted the story entirely. Interviewed by the FBI the following year, Carpenter said he might know something about Fugate but wouldn’t talk unless he got some kind of deal. Goff denied any involvement. Both men have since died.
In November 1982, Emanuel got a call from the police department in Racine, Wisconsin. According to police reports, a man in his twenties—I’ll call him David, since he was never charged with anything—had been telling friends he’d been to “the place where Cochise is buried” and boasted about killing a police or Border Patrol officer in Arizona. Fugate wasn’t a police officer, but he did carry a badge.
At the time of Fugate’s disappearance, David had apparently been working as a mechanic at a shop in Tucson called Auto World. Emanuel drove to the place and introduced himself to the owner, Frank Youngquist. He was taken aback when Youngquist casually asked him how Dody was doing, though it wasn’t clear how the two knew each other. Then Youngquist made a comment that felt like a taunt. “Missing persons are sure hard to work,” he said.
“That ran deep,” Emanuel told the group. The interview had got more hostile after that. “He ran me out of the garage,” Emanuel said. When he tried to subpoena Youngquist’s records, Youngquist appealed to an assistant DA, who quashed the request.
Emanuel interviewed David in Wisconsin to ask about his comments. He said he’d been puffing himself up at a party. “I’m a bullshitter,” he said. Emanuel offered to fly him to Tucson so he could take a polygraph to clear his name. David eventually agreed, but the night before the test, according to the polygrapher’s report, he was so frazzled that he popped several sleeping pills. He failed the test, insisting afterward that because “people” had accused him of Fugate’s murder, he sometimes thinks that he did it.
Paul didn’t like being bossed around by the monument’s superintendent, who he derided as “Smokey Pig.” He and another employee would plink bottles with their rifles and joke about sending the superintendent tumbling off a cliff on a horse.
The problem for Emanuel was that no other evidence connected David to any crime. Nevertheless, in 1983, the detective told the Associated Press that he expected to charge “persons with the homicide of Paul Fugate” in the “not so distant future.” When that didn’t pan out, someone leaked David’s name to the media, and David has been a hermit ever since, working in an unnamed auto shop without so much as a mail slot. Emanuel’s certainty about his guilt hasn’t waned. “If he didn’t do it, he knew exactly how it was done,” he told me.
At the task-force meeting, Emanuel described a shaky chain of relationships that led from Bonnie to a fugitive pot grower in Cochise County to a woman in Tucson who took her car to Youngquist for repairs.
“Once you’ve made that link, you’ve cracked the case,” said Brian Miers, a former Drug Enforcement Administration investigator, who was there, he said, because he just liked to “solve shit” in his free time.
Things got convoluted at this point. Emanuel’s primary theory was that Fugate either had come face to face with drug smugglers or was himself involved in a botched drug deal. Youngquist, who died in 2016, owned a plane that he frequently flew to Mexico.
“If he’s flying to Mexico, it’s almost surely to pick up dope,” Miers proposed. He then noted a police report indicating that the woman in Tucson had been at a party with a cocaine trafficker named Kenneth Klink. Klink later died by suicide in room 103 of the Lookout Lodge in Tombstone—or at least that’s what the report said.
“Look at the ‘suicide’ picture in that motel,” Anderson said. “It didn’t happen that way.” Klink was slumped on the couch with a .38 Special at his side. His eyelids were swollen and blue, brains on the couch behind him.
“That’s the common way they do it in Tombstone. In the back of the head,” a sheriff’s detective named Erik Jamka joked. According to a police report, a person named Joseph Decicco, who was believed to be a mob hit man from Chicago, had checked out of the motel that very morning.
“The good news is it sounds super simple,” Anderson said sarcastically.
It was easy to get lost in all the names, yet there was one straightforward theory that placed David in the Chiricahuas: he owned a dune buggy that he liked to drive out in the desert with a friend from Auto World. Maybe something happened on one of those trips? About a month after Paul disappeared, the friend’s father, who was also Youngquist’s business partner, bought a 40-acre parcel west of the monument at an inflated price. The property was sold two years later, which everyone found suspicious. Pictures of it passed around at the meeting showed a dilapidated shed and a No Trespassing sign. Anderson planned to narrow down a probable search area and bring out an FBI cadaver dog to hunt for bones.