BOONEVILLE, Ark. (KNWA/KFTA) — Sugar Grove, Arkansas is home to several trails and swimming holes. It’s also where Booneville Police are searching for Jamie Valdez.
Police Chief Benjamin Villarreal says Valdez’s wife reported him missing on June 20, 2021, one day after Jamie’s blue Chevy Equinox was found near a bluff hole off Dry Creek Rd.
“The back seats were laid down like someone had been laying in the vehicle,” Chief Villarreal said. “The next odd thing was the motor engine compartment. Someone had dismantled the computer system and unhooked the battery, in the engine area.”
The car, locked and disabled, was found with a message written on the back: “He is near. Help me.”
“I saw the writing on the back window and I was like, that’s strange,” said Shawn Claiborne, Valdez’s sister. “I just got a really bad feeling.”
Valdez’s family was in disbelief. Claiborne said she talked to him often but suddenly communication stopped.
“He’s very close to us,” she said. “We have a very strong family bond.”
Claiborne says Valdez’s wife told her they got into an argument and he said he was heading to Ozark.
“She said when she got off work she drove around Ozark looking for him and couldn’t find him,” Claiborne said. But it would be another week and a half before Jamie was reported missing.
“It was a little delay on the investigation, that time frame,” Villarreal said. “At the time, she thought he just took off.”
Valdez’s sister says the timing of his disappearance didn’t make sense to her. She says he had a good relationship with his daughter, a job, was recently married, and had been clean from drugs for a year.
“Even when he was at his lowest point in his addiction, he was still talking to us, his siblings,” Shawn said. Now, it’s been almost two years since she has heard from her brother.
“It’s frustrating and I feel like I keep hitting this brick wall,” Claiborne said.
Investigators have searched Logan County several times and followed up on numerous tips, reviewing security footage to check on possible sightings.
One tipster even asked officers to examine a used wood chipper, thinking it contained human remains.
“He thought there were some bones in it and we sent that wood chipper to the crime lab and they have ruled that out,” Chief Villarreal said. “We’ve had more false leads investigated than positive leads.”
But they did find an answer regarding the mysterious message written on Valdez’s car.
“During our investigation, we found out some kids went swimming in that local bluff hole and they’re the ones that wrote that message,” the chief said.
“I was glad to know that that really had nothing to do with his disappearance, but on the other hand, I was also glad because it made me go into action,” Claiborne said.
She says Valdez’s family will not stop trying to find more answers. She plans to organize additional searches in Sugar Grove, trying her best to retrace her brother’s steps.
“We are not going to give up because he wouldn’t give up if it was one of us,” she said. KNWA/KFTA reached out to Valdez’s wife, but she declined to talk to us.
Chief Villarreal says that they do not suspect foul play in Valdez’s disappearance. He notes that the car may have been locked and disabled by the driver.
Still, police want anyone who may have information about Valdez’s disappearance to give their office a call at (479) 675-3508.