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Campsite Cold Case: the murder mystery of Estevan Montano

Posted at 7:34 AM, Nov 14, 2019
and last updated 2019-11-14 19:04:22-05

PIMA COUNTY, Ariz. — It was the summer of 2004, miles into the Santa Rita Mountains. The only thing anyone could hear is the sound of the wind blowing against the trees. This was Estevan Montano's favorite place to hunt.

His daughter Jessica Montano said any chance he could go up to the mountains "and hunt for something, he would do it."

Estevan made the Santa Rita Mountains an annual camping and hunting trip for him and his family.

On August 26, 2004, Estevan went up to the mountains for his annual trip, but this time alone. Jessica said everyone was too busy to join him, but he still wanted to stick to the tradition.

"He said latest would be Sunday. If i'm not home by noon, you're going to have to come for me because most likely the truck broke down," Jessica said.

Sunday came, everyone's phones remained silent. Growing worried, Jessica, her mom and some other family members got in the family truck and drove up the mountain.

"The road up there is scary, so I'm in the back and I'm having my head down," Jessica said. "Then, I hear my mother hitting the steer wheeling saying 'My husband! My husband! That's not my husband.' So, by that time she stopped, and I stand up, and my dad's laying there."

The family found Estevan laying on the side of the road, not breathing.

Jessica tries to call 911 in panic, but had no service. Jessica wanted to wait with her dad while the rest of her family went to find help, but she said they said “there’s nothing to be done, we need to go.”

They were able to reach the Pima County Sheriff's Department and show them where Estevan was.

"On the way to the station, in the sheriff’s truck, we hear the 08, so we knew that he couldn’t be saved," Jessica said. "Me and my mom, driving to the station, we didn’t know what to do, what to say.”

The family first reported it as a bear attack, but with further investigation, PCSD found something different,

"We heard my mom yelling, and she was hitting the door like "no it's not murder! It's not murder!" Jessica said.

The police report said multiple gun shot wounds were found, ruling his death a homicide.

Months after his death, Jessica and her family went back up the mountain searching for answers. They thought they might find something link to his death at his favorite campsite, but 100 feet away, they found an abandon campsite.

Jessica said there was a tent, broken chairs, melted ice in a cooler and rifle ammunition. She said the family reported this to the sheriff's department, they tested it for DNA and found two matches, one belonged to her father and the other is a mystery.

"The DNA they found on this side, it's not coming back to anyone in the U.S., but they have it analyzed to where it's a Mexican national," Jessica said.

PCSD filed paperwork to Mexico looking for a match to the DNA, but Jessica feels like time is running out.

"Just this past May, my nana passed away, so she went 15 years not knowing who killed her son," Jessica said. "My son who is about to be 13 now when he was about eight he would hear us telling stories about my dad, and he would cry and be like 'Why can't I meet tata? I want to meet him just one time. I want to meet my tata.'"

The memory of Estevan Montano lives on in two memorials at his favorite campsite and the place they found him in the Santa Rita Mountains.

The family still doesn't know who is behind the death of Estevan.

"I wouldn't want this person to take anyone else," Jessica said. "I don't want them to take anyone at all. My family or anyone else is. It's a pain you don't need to go through and that person doesn't need to be on the streets."

Jessica said her and the family won't stop searching til they find the answers they've been looking for these past 15 years.

"Even now thinking about it, it's just not real," Jessica said. "One day he's here and the next he's not and it makes no sense. Who decided that he didn't need to live no more?"

There is an up to 2,000 dollar reward to anyone with information leading to the arrest of the person(s) responsible for the death of Estevan. Call 88-Crime with information.