Time doesn’t always heal all wounds. Ask the family of Nita Mayo.
Eight years ago they received the tragic news that their beloved mother had gone missing on a road trip to Sonora, Calif. Instead of the family receiving postcards or photos from their mother, the family was notified that Mayo had not returned to Hawthorne.
Mayo, a nurse at Mt. Grant General Hospital, had decided to take a road trip over Sonora Pass with a friend. At the last minute, the friend had to cancel. Instead of canceling her plans, Mayo would set out on her own. This was not unusual for Mayo, who was known to go on backpacking trips by herself.
The last known sighting of the small English nurse was in Hawthorne at her home on the day she departed. Colleagues at Mt. Grant General Hospital immediately noticed her disappearance and reported her missing. The report touched off a two-state search for the missing motorist.
Mayo was described a five feet tall and about 140 pounds with hazel brown eyes. She spoke with an English accent and was believed to have been traveling alone. Those that knew her described her as always having a smile on her face and always ready to help.
Mineral County Search and Rescue began by combing over Lucky Boy to Bridgeport, Calif. in search of any possible sightings of Mayo. On August 8, 2005, a CalTrans worker in the vicinity of Donnell’s Vista Outlook on Sonora Pass reported a 1997 silver Mercury Sable station wagon at the outlook point that looked abandoned.
Investigators in Tuolomne County, California didn’t hear about the report until the next day. Found inside were Mayo’s purse; wallet; keys and cell phone. Mayo had also purchased souveniors at the Strawberry General Store. Everything was found just as Mayo had left it. The only things missing were Mayo and her camera.
The discovery of Mayo’s car focused the search efforts in California. But five days of searching turned up nothing, and the search was called off.
Earlier this year Mayo was legally declared dead in court, though the family still holds onto the glimmer of hope that someday their questions of “where” “how” and “why” will be answered.
Cindy Mayo, Nita Mayo’s daughter, said, “I think about her everyday and miss her so much. I will always have hope. She lives on in our hearts.”
Although the official search to find Mayo have long since ended, unofficial efforts continue.
A five week search effort in the Sonora area turned up no new clues; nor did a search spearheaded by Tim Miller of Equusearch. Miller spent hours on horseback looking for one small shred of evidence as to where the beloved mother and nurse may have disappeared to.
Some may believe that she will never be found, but residents of Mineral County who knew the nurse, do not want her name to go into the ‘cold case’ file. Co-worker Kristin Stinson, remembers each anniversary and reflects on her friend.
“I can’t believe it has been eight years since she went missing and there is no trace of her,” Stinson said. “She is always in my thoughts and she will forever be in my heart, as will her family.”
To date, there are still no answers, no suspects and no idea where Nita Mayo went but daughter Tracy O. Mayo wants those to know.
“We miss her dearly and she is constantly in our thoughts.” Tracy O. Mayo said. “If anyone has information as to her disappearance, please come forward so that our family can finally have the peace we need and pray for daily.”
The case leaves a haunting reminder on the desk of those who deal with missing persons cases. Former Mineral County Sheriff Edward Smith remembers the day clearly yet his thoughts go out to the family of Mayo.
“God bless her soul. I think of her often. Someday, someday…we will know what happened then her family and we all may have some closure,” he said. “She will never be forgotten. God bless.”
Scott Johnson from the Tuolumne County Sheriff’s Office, who is in charge of the case, gave a short statement during a phone call interview.
“I can’t believe it has been eight years,” he said. “I’ve spoken with the investigator on Nita’s case. Even though no new information has come forward, the file is open and active.”
As always, those that may have anything to contribute to the case, regardless of how small the piece of information may be, are urged to call the Tuolumne County Sheriff’s Office at 209-533-5815 or the Mineral County Sheriff’s Office at 775-945-2434.