The Mystery of Pumpernickel Valley Exit

“I’ll never drive at night again,” 86-year-old Patrick Carnes is heard telling the Nevada Highway Patrol trooper who pulled him over after he passed by too close to him as he stood by a tractor-trailer he had stopped.

“I’m only following him because he’s going to Elko,” the elderly man is also heard to say.

He was talking about the big rig truck and trailer he was following westbound on I-80, a few miles east of Wells about 9 in the evening of April 13th. It would be the last time Carnes’ would be seen.

Interstate 80 is one of the nation’s most important freeways; it carries thousands of travelers each day. It’s most desolate part is the one that slices through northern Nevada.

At night, inky darkness swallows everything. Some call the road “The Big Lonely.”

Earlier in April, Carnes and his dog, Lucky drove to Ohio to visit family. The day before he was last seen, he packed up his dark green Subaru station wagon and head back towards Reno.

After the Trooper gave Carnes a traffic warning, the World War II veteran continued into the night.

The following day, Carnes car was found abandoned at the Pumpernickel Valley off-ramp, a three-hour drive from where the Trooper had talked with Carnes. There was no sign of foul play and the car had gas, but Carnes and the dog were nowhere to be found.

Investigators were quick to notice that Carnes’ vehicle was on the south side of the freeway. However, he was travelling west, which should have placed the vehicle on the north side of the interstate.

That told officers, someone had dumped the Subaru.

Despite their immediate findings, they searched the desert for Lucky and Carnes for several days. Nothing was found to show where they had gone.

Then the Trooper, who pulled Carnes over, heard about the man’s disappearance and decided to check his cruiser’s dash-cam. The video shows the two men talking and tractor-trailer speeding by.

Though the vehicle zipped by quickly, authorities were able to freeze-frame the trucks’ trailer, and zoom in on the upper left hand corner. There, a logo is visible, though so far , no one recognizes it.

Two years before Carnes’ disappearance, the FBI quietly created a task force to look into the possibility that a serial killer working as a truck driver, was operating along the I-80 corridor.

Three years earlier 62-year-old Judy Casida of Cold Springs, Nevada,  went missing along the same stretch of roadway. Furthermore her white, Mazda pickup was also found abandoned at the same off-ramp.

When investigations stall, good detectives are open to calling on unusual resources.  Seven months after Carnes disappeared, psychic Elaina Proffitt, a former Reno resident and a veteran of a number of high-profile criminal cases became involved.

While she confirmed many of the investigators suspicions, none of her findings are directly available to the public. Authorities did say she left then with other avenues to explore in the case.

One unsettling theory that can’t be dismissed is this might be the work of a pair of serial killers, working as a team. To the east, Utah authorities are looking for a young man who disappeared in May 2012 along I-80 near Dugway. To the west, an elderly hitchhiker vanished in April in California’s Humboldt County.

There is also the case of the skeletal remains found off of State Route 89 between Truckee and Calpine in 2003 in the central part of Sierra County. It took authorizes nine-years to identify the remains.

Charlene Rosser of Eureka, California, went missing in October 1998 after having last been seen in April 1998. She was also known to accept rides from truck drivers.

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