Updated April 23, 2021 - 12:18 pm
Retired air traffic controller John Schultz worked his part-time job as a Las Vegas ride-hailing driver on the morning of March 8. No one has seen or heard from him since.
The 60-year-old’s loved ones said the Rhodes Ranch resident’s Toyota Prius was found by Las Vegas police four days after he vanished. The car was located miles down a bumpy, rugged road in a muddy, mountainous area west of Las Vegas near Wheeler Pass, deepening the mystery of what happened to Schultz.
“I know my husband,” his wife, Barbara Schultz, said. “He would never drive that road. He’s from Minnesota. He knows roads. He’s driven them all his life, and he lived in Ohio. He would never take his car up that road. I don’t even know how he would even know about that road.”
The Schultz family said police told them they are now leaning toward the possibility that Schultz had a medical episode that prompted him to drive into the rural Nevada landscape.
“They told me they don’t believe it is suicide,” Barbara Schultz said.
The family has become increasingly frustrated with what they see as a lack of communication from police in the investigation. Metropolitan Police Department spokesman Misael Parra said missing persons detectives are in the middle of a thorough inquiry.
“That investigation is ongoing,” Parra said this week.
Barbara Schultz met her husband in high school in a small Minnesota town near the border of South Dakota. The high school sweethearts married when they were 19. John Schultz worked for more than three decades as a federal air traffic controller. The couple moved to Las Vegas four years ago to be closer to their daughters, Nicole Doering of Las Vegas and Heather Gradisek of Denver.
“We haven’t ruled anything out because nothing makes sense,” Doering said this week of what happened to her missing father.
Schultz’s family said he worked mornings as a driver for Uber and Lyft. At about 5 a.m. on March 8, he left to work while his wife spent the day with their grandchildren.
By the end of the day, though, Barbara Schultz became concerned because her husband never came home. When she called him, the phone went straight to voicemail. She called his favorite watering holes, but no one had seen him.
“Now I’m flipping out,” she said. “He wasn’t at either favorite spot. His phone hasn’t answered all day, so I called all my friends.”
What followed were days of frantic worrying, searching and the filing of a missing persons report with police. Tears were shed as the family coped with the reality that something was very wrong.
“We do know that he drove someone from The Mirage to another location at 6:45 a.m.,” Doering said of information the family received from police. “That was the last confirmed ride that we personally know of.”
Four days after the disappearance, police used a ping on his cellphone to trace Schultz’s vehicle to the area of Wheeler Pass in the Spring Mountains, the family said. Schultz was a lifelong smoker, but his cigarettes were still in the car. His wallet, usually stashed in the center console, was not there.
Barbara Schultz said police are leaning toward the possibility that he had a medical episode.
“They keep going to that, that possibly he had a medical breakdown, maybe an aneurysm,” she said. “He was fine in the morning. He’d been fine all week. It would have had to have happened just that morning. … So, no, I don’t believe it was a medical breakdown.”
The area where the car was found has repeatedly been scanned by Red Rock Search & Rescue and police without success.
“We’ve shared (information) on social media groups, done our own searches up there, passed out so many flyers on the Strip, downtown, north and south of Vegas, every site we could think of online,” Doering said. “ We’ve gone to the ‘Jeepers,’ the hikers. We don’t know what else to do.”
Barbara Schultz and her daughters are pleading for the public’s help in finding John Schultz.
“Every day I wake up, and every night I say, ‘Where are you? How could this happen? This is not you,’ ” Barbara Schultz said. “None of this is him.”
Anyone with information about the case may call Metro at 702-828-3111 or missing persons detectives during business hours at 702-828-2907.