Foul play feared as police search for music professor

By Kimberly Miller

Arizona Daily Wildcat

The search for a missing UA music professor whose car was found Wednesday night in a desert area southwest of Tucson continued yesterday.

Professor Roy Andrew Johnson, 58, was reported missing early Wednesday morning after he failed to return from a concert he was performing in at the Valley Presbyterian Church in Green Valley.

He was last seen leaving the church at 9:30 p.m. Tuesday in his silver, four-door Ford Taurus sedan. When he had not returned to his home on East 22nd Street by 2:30 a.m. Wednesday, his family called police.

A break in the case occurred at 10 p.m. Wednesday when a police officer from the Sells Police Department recognized Johnson's car while patrolling an area between Pima Mines Road and Campus Road, about 100 yards west of Mission Road. He followed the car into a desert area where he saw a man run from the vehicle.

About the same time a man and a woman drove up to the scene. After police investigated they found the couple knew the man running from the vehicle. As of Thursday afternoon, police were questioning a 28-year-old suspect they believe to be the man seen running from Johnson's vehicle.

Police began to suspect the worst after Johnson's vehicle was found. They initiated a search last night with help from volunteers from the Sheriff's Department, two helicopters from the Department of Public Safety, the Customs Service and Search and Rescue. Also, officers on horseback and canine units were called in to search the area where the car was left.

"Without question there was foul play," said Sgt. Michael O'Connor, a Pima County Sheriff's Department spokesman. "Right now we're looking into this matter but we're afraid that he could quite possibly be deceased."

O'Connor said when Johnson disappeared he was driving north on I-19 a few miles behind friends leaving the same concert. His friends reported seeing a woman on the highway about 20 minutes south of Tucson flagging down cars. They did not stop but O'Connor said police believe Johnson may have stopped to help the woman and fallen victim to foul play.

Also, Johnson's credit cards were used later that evening.

"We have records that within hours, his credit cards were used in an inconsistent way in which he would normally use them," O'Connor said.

O'Connor had no idea how long the search for Johnson would last, but said because they have such a large area of desert to cover and not much evidence, it could be a while.

"Finding somebody in the desert is like finding a needle in a haystack," O'Connor said.

University of Arizona Police Sgt. Salvatore Celi said he was contacted by the Sheriff's Department to see if he knew of anyone who might be angry with Johnson. But Celi said UAPD has no reason to believe that someone would want to harm Johnson.

Gary Cook, the acting director of the School of Music, said Johnson has a long history at the UA.

"He's been here since 1966," Cook said. "He's very well liked and respected. Everyone knows him."

Cook said Johnson's classes are being taken over by graduate students but that he did mostly private, one-on-one teaching.

Johnson's family was not available for comment.

Read Next Article