Joseph Michael Bushling

Bushling, circa 2011; Bushling's tattoo

  • Missing Since 05/08/2011
  • Missing From Dugway, Utah
  • Classification Lost/Injured Missing
  • Sex Male
  • Race White
  • Date of Birth 06/03/1984 (40)
  • Age 26 years old
  • Height and Weight 5'9, 190 pounds
  • Clothing/Jewelry Description Blue jeans or shorts, and a t-shirt wrapped around his feet.
  • Associated Vehicle(s) Black 2001 Mitsubishi Lancer (accounted for)
  • Distinguishing Characteristics Caucasian male. Brown hair, green eyes. Bushling's hair was in a buzz cut at the time of his disappearance. He has an appendectomy scar on his abdomen and a scar from gallbladder surgery. He has the following tattoos: an American flag on his right shoulder, a Celtic design on his neck, the words "Jeremy 88-00" on the left side of his chest, and a tribal design extending from his left shoulder down to his elbow. The tribal design tattoo is posted below this case summary. Bushling's nickname is Joe.

Details of Disappearance

Bushling, a soldier, was assigned to Fort Collins, Colorado and stationed at the Army base in Dugway, Utah in May 2011. He left the English Village area early in the morning on May 8 and drove out into the desert in a borrowed black 2001 Mitsubishi Lancer.

At 7:00 p.m., he called a friend in Dugway and left a message, saying he'd run out of gas and was going to try to walk back to the Dugway Proving Ground. He said he was very cold, he'd lost his flip-flops and was using his shirt as footwear, it was raining and he needed help. This was the last contact with him; he never arrived back in Dugway and has never been heard from again.

Six days later, Bushling's vehicle was found abandoned in a deep ravine off a gravel road in a very isolated area 64 miles from Dugway's main gate. Some of Bushling's belongings were inside the vehicle, but there weren't any clues to indicate his whereabouts. The keys were missing.

Two days later, Bushling's Arkansas Razorbacks hat was located in the desert six miles from the car. Searchers also found his flip-flops. The terrain where he disappeared is rough and desolate, with lots of caves, and cellular phone reception is poor to nonexistent. Dugway had once served as a chemical weapons testing facility and there are caches of munitions concealed in the desert around the base.

Bushling was born and raised in California, and moved with his family to Russellville, Arkansas in 2000. His parents still live there. After his disappearance, the Army automatically classified him as a deserter, although his supervisor didn't believe he had actually deserted. His family doesn't think he left of his own accord either; they stated he was happy in the Army and close to his parents, he has no history of mental illness, and nothing was missing from his room.

Bushling enlisted about two and a half years prior to his disappearance and had been deployed in South Korea. He had struggled following a divorce and his younger brother's suicide, but he was looking forward to a re-assignment to San Antonio, Texas and hoped to become a nurse. He worked as an emergency medical technician and ambulance driver at Dugway's medical clinic.

Authorities have ruled out suicide and foul play as possible explanations for Bushling's disappearance. A death certificate was issued for him in August 2014; the cause of death was given as exposure due to low temperatures and lack of protective clothing.

His family held a memorial service for him and, because the Army had changed his status from a deserter to a deceased person, a six-man Honor Guard was present at the service. His family will now be able to collect his life insurance and military benefits.

Investigating Agency

  • Tooele County Sheriff's Office 435-882-5600
  • Dugway Police Department 435-831-2929

Updated 2 times since October 12, 2004. Last updated April 14, 2015; details of disappearance updated.