Foul play suspected in unsolved missing woman’s case

Kaylene Marie Gallegos

Kaylene Marie Gallegos

State: AZ
Location: Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest
Date Missing: 05-22-2010
DOB: 08-07-1988
Age: 22
Current Status: Unsolved

Gallegos left her father’s Lakeside, Arizona residence on May 20, 2010. She got into a vehicle with two men, one of whom was Jacob Mata, and they went to Phoenix, Arizona to purchase heroin.

After the group bought the heroin, one of the men left and another woman joined Gallegos and Mata. They were on the way to Show Low, Arizona on State Route 87, when they got lost and ended up on a Forest Service road in the White Mountain Apache Forest.

At 8:00 p.m. on May 22, the three people arrived at an open area and stopped to decide what to do next. Gallegos and Mata wanted to stay where they were and wait to be found, but the second woman wanted to continue. She took the car and drove away, and Mata and Gallegos built a fire and spent the night where they were.

According to Mata, the next morning, the pair began walking, about fifteen to thirty yards apart from each other. They entered a small canyon and began climbing the side, and Mata reached the top of the ridge and saw a road. This was shortly after 1:00 p.m.

He called down to Gallegos and she called back to him, but he never saw or heard from her again after that. Mata searched the area for about 40 minutes, calling her name, but couldn’t find her and decided to leave without her.

Three cars drove by, and he stopped them and asked for water, food and directions. He told the third vehicle’s driver that Gallegos was lost in the forest. Mata eventually made it out of the forest, but he saw the police and tried to run away from them because he had outstanding warrants and was carrying both heroin and methamphetamine.

He was arrested, and it was about a week before investigators asked him to show them the place where he had last seen Gallegos. By then he could no longer remember the exact spot.

Gallegos and Mata’s female companion backed up his story, but there have been rumors that Gallegos met with foul play and that her disappearance was drug-related. She’s missing under unclear circumstances and her case remains unsolved.

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