Rangers found a man’s body Thursday at the Mokelumne River inlet to Pardee Reservoir, and Calaveras County sheriff’s detectives believe it’s 43-year-old automotive journalist David Gordon Johnson, originally reported missing from the Sacramento area June 5 by his fiancé, sheriff’s staff said Friday.
An autopsy is expected to confirm the man’s identity and reveal the cause of his death.
The body was located by East Bay Municipal Utilities District rangers, several miles downstream from where a motorcycle Johnson rode was found June 7 at the Big Bar launch area on the Calaveras County side of the Mokelumne River, off Highway 49, sheriff’s staff said.
Before the body was located Thursday, sheriff’s detectives put together circumstances and evidence that suggested Johnson may have entered the Mokelumne River and accidentally drowned. Johnson was on his way home after a long-distance motorcycle ride and presumably stopped to rest at Big Bar. Like all rivers draining from the Central Sierra right now, the Mokelumne River is full and moving fast with abundant snowmelt from this year’s late-season meltoff.
Earlier this month, the search for Johnson involved multiple agencies and volunteers, including Calaveras County Marine Safety, Tuolumne County Search-and-Rescue, Calaveras County Search-and-Rescue, Amador County Search-and-Rescue, a California Highway Patrol helicopter crew, more searchers from Stanislaus, Eldorado and Placer counties, state Fish and Wildlife, and handlers with specially-trained search dogs.
On June 7, two days after his fiancé reported him missing, Johnson’s motorcycle was located undisturbed at Big Bar with the key in the ignition and helmet and gloves on the seat.
Searchers in boats and on land with a scent-tracking dog went up and down the river and combed the banks on the Calaveras and Amador sides for several miles. Some of Johnson’s clothing and belongings, including his cell phone, laptop computer, a down jacket, a riding jacket, motorcycle riding pants, jeans, wallet, and camera were found by ground searchers on the Calaveras side of the Mokelumne River.
The location where Johnson’s clothing and belongings were found was confirmed as the same spot where he sent a selfie to a friend before he disappeared.
Contact Guy McCarthy at firstname.lastname@example.org or 588-4585. Follow him on Twitter at @GuyMcCarthy.