A New Mexico man who went missing while headed to Peoria for a job in early July was recently found dead, according to authorities.
And the men who used his credit cards multiple times over the weekend following his disappearance have been identified, but eliminated as suspects. Now, two other suspects are being considered.
Coconino and Navajo county detectives located the body of Craig Cavanaugh, 44, in a wooded area just off Highway 260 outside Heber on August 5, according to the Coconino County Sheriff’s Office. His body wasn’t identified until fingerprints could be completed more than three weeks later.
“It is with extreme sadness and heartbreak that we announce to you that Craig Cavanaugh was found deceased,” his family wrote in a statement posted to Help Find Craig Cavanaugh, a Facebook page set up in the wake of his disappearance.
“He was a beloved father of two daughters, Micaylah and Gracie, a loving son, devoted fiancé, nephew, cousin and friend. Since he went missing on July 4th, we prayed everyday for a different ending and we are completely devastated to learn this news.”
Cavanaugh was last seen in Farmington on July 4, according to CCSO. He was headed to Peoria for a job but never arrived. He was reported missing the following day.
The Facebook page dedicated to his search reported that his iPhone’s last known location had been traced to the Mazatzal Hotel and Casino parking lot in Payson at 1:39 p.m. July 4.
“After this, all communication ended, which is extremely out of the ordinary for him,” a moderator posted July 9. “He was supposed to be home Thursday night/early Friday morning to leave for a Fourth of July vacation for the weekend.”
Farmington, New Mexico, police said a witness reported seeing Cavanaugh in Payson, but no evidence backed up the claim.
Following Cavanaugh’s Fourth of July disappearance, three men used his credit cards to purchase numerous items at several Valley stores between July 5 and July 7, according to CCSO. Previous reports stated it was two men.
Farmington police spokeswoman Georgette Allen previously told Peoria Times the cards were used at a Home Depot and a Dillard’s in Glendale. The men also attempted to use them at a Maverik in Payson and a QuikTrip in Peoria, she added.
The men were eventually identified, but they were eliminated as suspects, according to CCSO. Their identities have not been revealed publicly.
On July 12 authorities in New Mexico located the 2012 Toyota Tacoma Cavanaugh had been driving.
According to CCSO, Farmington detectives later received a “vague” tip that Cavanaugh might be in the Woods Canyon Lake area outside Forest Lakes. Detectives notified CCSO, whose deputies alongside a search-and-rescue unit combed the area. Cavanaugh was not found.
CCSO detectives ultimately joined Farmington’s investigation with the support of several Phoenix-area law enforcement agencies and the Gila County Sheriff’s Office.
After the three men who used Cavanaugh’s cards were identified and eliminated as suspects, detectives then identified two suspects who they believed to be with Cavanaugh in Payson the day of his disappearance. CCSO detectives found and interviewed one suspect, who provided information that ultimately helped them find Cavanaugh’s body outside Heber.
Farmington detectives have turned the case over to the Coconino and Navajo county sheriff’s offices, both of which assisted in the search.
On Facebook his family wrote, “Our family has been thankful for your outpouring of support, love and prayers from all over, and now humbly asks for help with Craig’s existing and continuing expenses … We want to thank every person that has followed this case, prayed with and for us, helped search or simply just reached out to send their thoughts. We know you share in our sadness of this news. Your loyal support and kind words have helped us through this.”
For more information on the case or to provide tips, contact the Coconino County Sheriff’s Office at 928-774-4523.
A GoFundMe has been set up to assist with various expenses at https://bit.ly/2ZrGdRQ.
“Craig was truly one of the most generous people to walk this earth,” the GoFundMe campaign’s organizer wrote. “His smile and laugh were contagious and he loved life and those he shared it with. To those who knew him, his big heart and jokes will be missed dearly everyday.”