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The Devils PunchBowl

Jonathan Aujay was more than your average police officer; he was a K9- Unit dog handler that handled Swat operations for the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department with 18 years of experience and an intimidating frame. A stoic and dutiful man standing at 6 feet and built like a brick house, he wasn't the kind of guy you want to mess with, and he could handle himself in sticky situations. He has been a paratrooper in the special forces before becoming a deputy. His closest friends described him "as tough as nails" serving warrants, engaging in shootouts, and negotiating hostage situations with some truly volatile characters. He had once scared off a 500-pound black bear during a camping trip with his father-in-law. All that's to say; he was no pushover. It was June 11th, 1998. A Thursday. In 2 weeks, Johnathan would be taking part in the Western States 100-mile endurance run.

The run would take him around 20 hours to complete, and it was a long-held- dream of his to qualify and compete in it. As such, he had been going on daily runs to prepare. One of his favorite sports to trekking through was the Devil's Punchbowl In the Antelope Valley of California. Jonathan knew the area, having spent countless hours hiking and camping there over the years. He arrived there at 11:45 am, spread a sunshade across his truck's windshield, and set off. Early into his run, he came across a teacher and a group of students he had met before during a school visitation and talk. He told them he would run to the summit of the 9,400 foot Mount Baden-Powell and said he would be back around sunset. He wouldn't, in any case. During the fateful day, Jonathan was spotted by two local camp employees making his way to the top of the mountain. At around 6 pm, a third Employee spotted a man with a green backpack heading towards the parking lot where Jonathan's truck was parked. Not long after that, a resident told a park employee he heard a single gunshot come through from the PunchBowl. 11 Pm rolled around, and when Jonathan did not return home, his wife became increasingly worried. She contacted the authorities and told them her husband was missing. A search and rescue operation was underway by 11:30.

Jonathan's truck was found where he'd left it, and it didn't look like anyone had tampered with it. Everyone who knew Jonathan was confident he was fine. They figured he'd just sprained his ankle or something, and he would soon come limping back heroically like he always did. There was no question He could handle the harsh desert environment he was lost in. However, when 24 hours have passed with no trace of the guy, that certainty started to be replaced by doubt and worry. By the third day, even more officers joined the hunt for Jonathan and helicopters scouring the landscape from above. Horses, all terrain-vehicles, and thermal imaging equipment were brought in to help find him. The ravines and crevices were scoured with infrared technology. No expenses were spared. Still, even Al this human resources behind the rescue operation, Jonathan was nowhere to be found two weeks later. The day of the 100-mile endurance race came and went. We don't know what happened to Jonathan and his run that day in June. However, there are several compelling theories, ranging from someone taking Jonathan's life, Jonathan taking his own, and the potential that he vanished on his own accord to start a new life somewhere else. Let's examine all the possibilities.

Firstly, if someone did kill Jonathan- who and why? He's made some enemies during his years in the force, that's for sure, what officer has not? If someone took Jonathan's life, they certainly covered their tracks well as there haven't been official suspects to speak of since he disappeared. Still, the fact a resident heard a gunshot moments after someone matching Jonathan's description walked into the parking lot that's ominous. There were numerous meth-labs set up around the Antelope Valley area. A tip even came in from an informant who said Jonathan discovered something on his jog. He "was going to be a hero and was taken care of" before being put into a hole." The validity of that tip is unknown.

Several corrupt officers were later discovered to be connected with the labs. They were protecting the dealers in return for a share of the profits. Perhaps, noble officer Jonathan Aujay became aware that Darren Hager was even kicked out of the force to investigate if any corrupt officers were connected to his disappearance. Before heading out on his run that morning, Jonathan had said to his wife, "have a nice life. Tell our daughter Chloe. I love her." The couple's marriage was in disrepair. They had been married for 12 years and were privately discussing divorce.

At the time, Johnathan's wife assumed those words meant he was officially checking out of the marriage. Now she believes they may have meant something else in mind and was cryptically letting her know he was about to end his life. Jonathan's own family and Coworkers, however, do not believe that to be the case. They say he was a survivalist with a zest for life, and there's no way he would abandon his daughter like that. A few of his friends remain convinced he secretly returned to the military for a cover mission. However, others think he might have escaped to Alaska- a place he'd always dreamed of living. It's not like he had a happy home life with his wife anyway. Perhaps he had an Epiphany atop of the mountain and decided it was now or never. His sister is sure that was the case when she last saw her brother; he was miserable with living in California, and in her words, "Ready to go. Checked out. Done." She believes he planned his whole vanishing and stashed money away and built a new identity. It all culminated on that day when he was finally me. It seemed as if he had just gone missing. Maybe Jonathan is alive and well, Living Alaska. Mauve that gunshot out near the Punchbowl was a coincidence and nothing more. Maybe we'll never know


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