Missing East Anchorage hiker found dead; foul play is not suspected

A man in a red vest outside
Anchorage search team member John Gomes prepares a team to search for Juan Toscano, 28, on Thursday, June 1, 2023. (Matt Faubion/Alaska Public Media)

A missing hiker 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 the death of 28-year-old Juan Toscano.

john tuscano
Anchorage police say Toscano was last reported hiking 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 Campbell Creek Gorge, and word reached police dispatchers just before 9 p.m. Friday. . Toscano was last heard from Wednesday afternoon, when she told his family that he planned to hike from the Basher trailhead in the area.

The search has sparked increased public interest due to the discovery Wednesday morning of the body of Juan Wright, 35, at the Campbell Airstrip Trailhead, about two miles northwest along the highway. His remains were seen by a passerby just hours before Toscano was reported missing.

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

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

When asked about the reaction online, Guerin said that police launch investigations and searches in missing person cases, while following known leads to their location. In cases where a person remains missing in a “general area” with no known threat to public safety, 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 dangerous situations to help search for missing persons and ultimately called off the search in this case,” Guerin said. “While APD personnel are not part of the search team, APD is following 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, searching for Toscano. His family members declined to comment at the time and did not immediately return a request for comment on Monday.

Police said the rescue team called off efforts to find Toscano as of 9:00 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 declined to speculate on how her body ended up in the gorge.

“At this time (the police) have not found anything 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 of a serial killer.”

Police also said Monday there is no ongoing threat to public safety along the Campbell Airstrip Road trails.