The body found snagged on branches in the Stanislaus River behind the Spring Creek Country Club on Tuesday afternoon is that of Gary Johnson, a 74-year-old who walked away from his Modesto home on April 1.
Johnson, who suffered dementia and short-term memory loss, had been the subject of an ongoing intensive search effort by volunteers including members of a senior softball league he and his older brother played in.
A Silver Alert had been issued. Law enforcement agencies throughout California were alerted through the TRAK (Technology to Recover Abducted Kids) system. And fliers were posted as far north as Lodi, said Johnson’s 83-year-old brother, Geno, who lived with and cared for him.
Tom Killian, a detective with the Stanislaus County Coroner’s Office, said Johnson had been tentatively identified Tuesday night. When he was positively ID’d by Modesto Police Department identification technicians, the family was notified. Killian said there was no foul play in Johnson’s death.
Ripon police and fire personnel responded to the dispatch at 1 p.m. Tuesday, said police Lt. Steve Merchant. When they arrived, they found and recovered the body of an elderly white male, Stanislaus County Sheriff’s Department spokesman Royjindar Singh said Wednesday.
Steve Hupe, general manager of the golf club, said staff got a call from a golfer on the fourth tee who saw what he believed to be a body stuck in the branches in the river. He said the recovery team pulled the body out of the river and onto a pontoon boat. The man appeared to have been in the water for some time, Hupe said.
“At this time, it is unknown how long Johnson was in the water or where he entered the river,” Modesto police said in a news release.
The Ripon Fire District boat landed on the north bank of the river beneath the Highway 99 and railroad bridges. Police, fire personnel and deputies from the Stanislaus and San Joaquin county sheriff’s departments gathered there.
The Stanislaus River is the border between the counties, so the two sheriff’s departments reviewed evidence to determine which would assume responsibility for the case, Merchant said. The investigation is being conducted by the Stanislaus department.
Deke Farrow: 209-578-2327