A Huntington Beach resident is one of two California men who are the subject of an FBI-assisted search that is being treated as a homicide investigation after the pair disappeared on the way to a concert in Washington state, according to friends and authorities.
Authorities are searching for Jon Cleary, 48, of Huntington Beach and Josiah Hilderbrand, 25, of Piercy in Mendocino County after the two didn’t arrive at their destination in Grant County, Wash., and the car they were traveling in was found abandoned in an orchard, the Yakima Herald reported.
On June 8, authorities received a call about an abandoned car on agricultural property near Wapato, Wash., according to Yakima County Sheriff’s Department spokesman Casey Schilperoort. They found a light-blue 2004 Honda Civic with California plates, the Sheriff’s Department said. The vehicle’s owner was contacted and said Cleary was buying the car from her and was in possession of it, Schilperoort said.
Cleary had been traveling to Washington to see Dead & Company, a band made up of former members of the Grateful Dead. He was traveling with Hilderbrand , a longtime friend and fellow fan, according to a friend of Cleary’s who was familiar with the trip.
What began as a missing-persons search has become a homicide investigation, the Sheriff’s Department said.
“It’s been a long time since anyone’s talked to them,” Schilperoort said. “As far as anyone knows, it’s not like they are trying to avoid anyone.”
The FBI would not comment on the investigation or when the agency joined it.
“The FBI routinely offers assistance to our law enforcement partners in order to provide additional personnel and specialized resources,” said FBI spokesman Steve Bernd.
Cleary had followed Dead & Company since the band kicked off a summer tour with a May 31 show at the Shoreline Amphitheatre in Mountain View in the Bay Area. He then headed to a show at the Hollywood Bowl a few days later, the friend said. Cleary and Hilderbrand were en route to the tour’s third stop in central Washington for a series of shows, the friend said, and Cleary planned to continue to the East Coast.
Cleary was last heard from late June 6 when he sent text messages to at least four people, the friend said.
The last message was that the two were about 90 minutes from Gorge Amphitheatre in Grant County, where other concert-goers were waiting to meet them, the friend said. It was sent around midnight the night before the June 7 concert.
It’s unclear whether anyone else was traveling with Cleary and Hilderbrand when the vehicle was abandoned, the Sheriff’s Department said.
A GoFundMe account was set up by friends of Cleary’s to help family members travel to Washington to be close to the search. Hilderbrand’s family is offering a $15,000 reward for information leading to his location and has set up a GoFundMe account to help fund the reward.