John Stivers, owner of the Lake Tulloch Campground in Jamestown who went missing for a month under mysterious circumstances, is in fragile condition, but safe, his wife told The Union Democrat on Wednesday.
"Right now we're getting him healthy, then we have to heal as a family," Michele Stivers said. "It's probably going to be a long road, but we're all in it together and, when you love somebody, that's what you do."
John Stivers, 52, of Copperopolis, went missing on Aug. 2 when his 15-person-passenger van was located on Campo Seco Road between Sonora and Jamestown. His disappearance sparked a widespread community search to locate him until he was physically contacted at 6:15 p.m. Saturday, according to the Tuolumne County Sheriff's Office.
Many of the circumstances regarding the nature of his disappearance and subsequent location were not released by the Sheriff's Office out of respect for the family.
Michele Stivers told The Union Democrat that John Stivers had attempted to call her on Saturday, but the call did not go through. He then called his mother, Janet Stivers, shared his whereabouts with her and asked if someone could come to him.
Michele Stivers declined to share where John Stivers was at the time of the call. She said it was in California, but outside of Tuolumne County.
Janet Stivers contacted a law enforcement agency who first made contact with John, Michele Stivers said, confirming information about the first contact provided by the Sheriff's Office on Saturday.
Michele Stivers said she and her daughter, Karlie, 14, visited John Stivers, and he was released to medical custody
"He is now currently safe and getting the help he needs," she said. "I want to thank everybody again, because the outpouring of love and support has been amazing. I also want people to consider the golden rule. Be careful what you say about others when you don't really know what you are talking about."
The contact with Stivers was made just days after a Sheriff's Office Facebook post which cleared the possibility of foul play or criminal activity as a factor in his disappearance.
Michele Stivers previously shared with The Union Democrat that late in the course of the investigation, she learned John Stivers had left voluntarily.
In the aftermath, Michele Stivers has sought to rebuke the speculation regarding the conditions of John Stivers' disappearance and accusations of her complicity. She said when he first disappeared, the family "100% believed there was foul play" due to his boots being found on the side of the road and the presence of blood in the van.
She maintained that the public messaging effort was motivated by finding a tip to his whereabouts and the conditions of his disappearance, not to generate emotional investments or financial gain from the community.
"When we found out he was missing on his own, he was still missing," she said. "Nobody knew where he was until Saturday."
As of Wednesday, a GoFundMe page set up to assist in the search of John Stivers and to supplement a $25,000 reward was closed to donations at an accrued $19,260.
Michele Stivers said she was working with GoFundMe to determine if donations could be reimbursed for those who wanted their money back. Any leftover money from people who did not want their money back, would be donated to suicide prevention and mental health, she said.
"I want it to stay local," she said, adding she was still seeking out specific organizations.
"Be kind, be aware of the people you're with. Pay attention, don't take a single thing for granted, because tomorrow is never guaranteed," she said. "If you see someone with stress, try to help, try to take the burden off them."
John Stivers still appeared on an online, publicly accessible Tuolumne County missing persons database as of Wednesday, though Tuolumne County Sheriff’s Deputy Niccoli Sandelin told The Union Democrat on Saturday that he would be removed.
The disappearance has prompted more widespread examination of missing persons within the county.
According to the Sheriff's Office database, there are seven unsolved missing persons reports from the past year, not including John Stivers.
Contact Giuseppe Ricapito at email@example.com or (209) 588-4526.