Sheriff SUV

Undated file photo.

In response to a Patterson Irrigator request for comment on a Modesto Bee article indicating that the family of Luis Angel Navarro Soto, the missing Patterson man whose body was found in the Mokelumne River last Saturday, Sept. 21, believes Patterson Police Services has not done enough to investigate the disappearance and subsequent death of their loved one, the Stanislaus County Sheriff’s Dept. has released a timeline of the events in the case. (That department provides police services here by contract.)

Navarro Soto, 30, was reported missing to the Lodi police on Sunday, Aug., 18, after reportedly calling his wife the night before to tell her that he’d been a crash. Navarro Soto’s phone reportedly went dead during the conversation.

His body was found Saturday, Sept. 21, reportedly by two family members and the missing man’s boss. (Editor’s note: the article indicates Navarro Soto’s body was found by his boss, cousin, an uncle; the timeline indicates two cousins and another man, whom the Irrigator is not naming out of respect for his privacy, found the body.)

Navarro Soto is survived by his wife and five-year-old daughter.

The report indicates that the man's disappearance was originally reported to the Lodi Police Department. The San Joaquin Sheriff's Department, the Stanislaus County Sheriff's Department and the CHP participated in the search, which was conducted both on the ground and in the air. Two helicopters and a drone were used in the initial phase.

Multiple jurisdictions, agencies

Patterson Police Chief Marc Nuno said yesterday (Thursday, Sept. 26) that the case is complicated by the fact that two jurisdictions, the San Joaquin County Sheriff’s Dept., where the missing man’s body was found, and the Stanislaus County Sheriff’s Dept., where he lived, are involved. (The Lodi Police Department ultimately wasn't responsible, because the incident did not occur within city limits.)

The original jurisdiction “has 30 days to do as much as they can,” Nuno said. “Lodi did as much as they could at the time, and then handed it to us. Since we didn’t know where he actually was, we took the lead.”

Because the body was found in San Joaquin County, he said, “now the investigation falls under the jurisdiction of where the body was located,” which means that the San Joaquin Sheriff’s Dept. is now responsible for the case. “So now they investigate… because (the man’s death) probably happened there. Based on what we have, we believe that whatever happened to him happened in that area, so that’s why it’s San Joaquin’s jurisdiction and case.”

The timeline (times of events are included where listed):

Sunday, Aug. 18: A missing person report for Luis Angel Navarro Soto, 30, was filed with the Lodi Police Department.

Aug. 20, 2:26 p.m.: Patterson Police Services (PPS) received a faxed copy of the missing person report. The timeline indicates that the Lodi PD report didn’t include any documented follow-up beyond issuing a “be on the lookout” advisory.

Aug. 21: A Patterson Police Services (PPS) Community Service Officer took a report from the family and re-entered Navarro Soto’s case into the Missing and Unidentified Persons System (MUPS) that afternoon, Nuno said.

Aug. 22: Detectives began by checking with the coroner’s offices in the surrounding areas to see if any had an unidentified male matching Navarro Soto’s description, and then checked their surveillance system to see when Navarro Soto’s vehicle was last recorded on one of the system’s cameras.

Patterson Police Chief Marc Nuno explained that law enforcement cameras are placed in various locations throughout the county, and are used in investigations such as this one into Navarro Soto’s disappearance. The lack of a photo since that date doesn’t mean that Navarro Soto wasn’t in the area, Nuno explained – just that he hadn’t driven past a camera in the system.

The last photo record of the man’s vehicle was captured on July 24, in Patterson.

Detectives obtained a search warrant for a 48-hour cell phone ping: the cell service provider set the phone up to ping every 15 minutes, for two days. It was monitored continuously during the 48-hour ping, the report says. The warrant was signed at 4:12 p.m.; the first ping occurred at 5:15 p.m. During those two days, the phone never returned anything other than an Absent Subscriber message, which the service provider indicated meant “the cell phone was off, broken or had a dead battery.”

The last known location of the phone was in a field in Acampo.

Det. Cooper requested that the San Joaquin County Sheriff’s Department conduct an area check at 5:56 p.m. At 7:28 p.m., he received word that the department had been unable to locate Navarro Soto.

Aug. 23: A detective from the San Joaquin County Sheriff’s Department searched the area by drone, but was unable to locate the missing man. The Stanislaus County Sheriff’s Department used its own helicopter to continue the search, covering a radius of eight to 10 miles from the phone’s last known location, but was unable to locate Navarro Soto.

Aug. 24: Detectives received additional information from Navarro Soto’s cousin. The last cell phone ping occurred at 5 p.m. that day, with no change in status.

Aug. 25: Det. Cooper conducted further investigation, including following up on a tip, which turned out to be false, that the man’s vehicle had been seen under a tarp in the vicinity of El Paisano Market on Highway 33 in Westley. Detectives also conducted a security check of the missing man’s home. At about 9:10 p.m., Det. Cooper requested that the San Joaquin County Sheriff’s Department check an address on Curry Ave. in Lodi.

Aug. 26: Det. Cooper spoke again with the man’s cousin, as well as a fellow band member (Navarro Soto was reportedly on his way to retrieve equipment needed for an event the group was playing that night). Cooper also requested that an address on Cherry Road in Lodi be checked.

Aug. 27: Det. Cooper met with the family at the Police Station in Patterson to “gather additional information and create an accurate timeline,” of the sequence of events leading up to the man’s disappearance, according to the report.

Aug. 28: Detectives met with the family at the man’s home in Patterson, and located a cell phone belonging to the man. Detectives obtained search warrants for the phone, as well as for the man’s social media accounts.

Aug. 29: Detectives drove the route the man may have traveled, as well as to the cell phone ping locations, as well as others he may have “traveled near,” the report says, but were unable to locate the man or his vehicle.

Aug. 30: No investigation activity listed.

Aug. 31: The CHP located the man’s vehicle, but were unable to locate the man.

Sept. 1: The CHP notified PPS that the vehicle had been found in a vineyard on Woodbridge/Dustin Road in Acampo.  Detective Cooper left a message for Detective Dugas of the San Joaquin County Sheriff’s Department with the updated information.

Sept. 2: Detectives went to Woodbridge/Dustin Road area in Acampo, where the vehicle was discovered, to continue the investigation, speaking with those knowledgeable about the area and requesting camera footage. They also visited the tow yard in Lodi, where the tow truck driver “stated vehicle was found in Drive, with no keys or electronic items inside,” per the report.

Sept. 3: Detectives received encrypted content from one of the man’s social media accounts, which was forwarded to the Sheriff’s Department computer analysts. Det. Cooper contacted the Department of Justice (DOJ) for assistance, and to request a review of the case.

Sept. 4: Det. Cooper received a search warrant for Navarro Soto’s previous cell phone.

Sept. 5: No investigation activity listed.

Sept. 6: The man’s family visited the Police Station and spoke to Sgt. Osmondson. Det. Cooper spoke with the family via phone.

Sept. 9: Det. Cooper spoke with a family member regarding the investigation.

Sept. 10: Det. Cooper again contacted DOJ and was advised that agency was still reviewing the case file.

Sept. 11: Det. Cooper again met with the family at the Police Station to update them on the investigation, and was advised that they had located Navarro Soto’s cell phone “from the tow truck driver, along with the car keys.” Editor’s note: This entry contradicts the statement made on Sept. 2 by the truck driver that there were no keys or electronics found in the vehicle when it was towed.

Sept. 12: Investigators went through the missing man’s cell phone.

Sept. 13: The family told detectives they would be searching the area where Navarro Soto’s vehicle was found, and asked if it was legal for them to search for the missing man themselves.

Saturday, Sept. 14 and Sunday, Sept. 15: No investigation activity listed.

Sept. 16: The family “located what they believe to be Luis Angel Navarro Soto’s knife and money near where the vehicle” was found “on a beach area.” The knife had a possible fingerprint on it, which has been processed for evidence.

Sept. 17: Detectives obtained a search warrant for another cell phone at 5:42 p.m.

Sept. 20: Det. Cooper spoke to Thompson regarding “a follow up search being conducted by the family on Sept. 21.”

Sept. 21: Luis Angel Navarro Soto’s body is found by 2 cousins and another man (whom the Irrigator is not naming out of respect for his privacy).

The Irrigator will post updates as they are available.

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