Heidi Johnson said she knew something was terribly wrong the moment she couldn’t get ahold of her mother, Jean Johnson.
Heidi last spoke to her 70-year-old mother on Sunday, May 26, 2019. Jean had been watching a friend’s dog at her home on Towhee Road in Capitan, New Mexico.
“She sent me a picture of her and the dog relaxing,” Heidi told Dateline. “My mother was my best friend. We were very close. We talked at least three times a day.”
Heidi said she worked all day Monday and her 10-year-old son had a friend spending the night, so she didn’t think about calling her mother until later that evening. But her mother didn’t answer her phone. She tried again on Tuesday, but again, no answer.
Right after that, the friend for whom Jean had been dog sitting, called Heidi.The friend told her Jean was supposed to have dropped the dog off Monday when they returned home from their trip. But she never did.
“That’s when I panicked,” Heidi said. “I just felt like something was terribly wrong.”
Their family had lived in the Ruidoso, New Mexico area for decades, but about eight years ago, Jean moved to a remote area in Capitan, Heidi said.
Heidi drove about 25 minutes to her mother’s home and said she had a bad feeling the entire way.
When she arrived, the gate to the long, winding driveway was locked. Jean’s locked car was parked in the driveway, her purse and cell phone inside.
Heidi said she found the door to the home was slightly ajar. Once inside, she noticed that all of her mother’s things appeared to be in their place.
“Everything looked normal,” Heidi said. “Except that the dog she was watching had some accidents. She would have never just left him there long enough for that to happen. My mother was very clean and kept things clean. And also, she just loved that dog.”
Heidi said the only item that appeared to be missing was a .357-caliber pistol her mother kept in her hope chest. She said authorities suspected suicide until the gun was eventually turned in to police two months later. The name of the person who turned the gun in was not release by authorities.
“She only used that gun for protection,” Heidi told Dateline. “She would not have gotten it out unless someone came to her house and she feared for her life. Or she would just use it around the property, because she would sometimes see mountain lions.”
There was no description released of what Jean was wearing when she disappeared, but her daughter said she usually wore a clear glass pendant around her neck that contained ashes of her late husband.
“They were so in love,” Heidi said of her parents. Her father passed away seven and a half years ago and since then, she tried to get her mother to date other men. “She didn’t want any part of it. She’d meet someone, but then would say, ‘He’s not your father.’”
Authorities searched the 10 acres of land where Jean’s house is, eventually spreading out beyond the area using a helicopter, drones and tracking dogs.
But there was no trace of Jean.
“They’re still searching and investigating, but there’s still a lot we do not know,” Heidi said. “They assume she just wandered off. But I know she wouldn’t do that. Someone took her and did something to her.”
Lincoln County Sheriff Robert Shepperd told NBC’s KOB that this is a “pretty difficult case.”
"This isn't a typical investigation for us,” Sheriff Shepperd said. “When it's a missing person, by this time they're either found somewhere at a family member's house or maybe in a hospital somewhere."
Heidi said her mother would get forgetful in the evenings sometimes, but would never just wander off.
Heidi said her mother lived a quiet, simple life. She enjoyed being with her grandchildren and doing yard work. Jean had a couple of friends in town, but mostly spent time at home.
After months of no answers, Heidi turned to the help of several different psychics.
“They all tell me the same thing,” Heidi said. “That she’s buried not too far off the road. But we have no idea where.”
Heidi said one of the psychics was very specific with details.
"She told me that my mother is on private property north of Alamogordo buried beneath Afghan pine trees,” Heidi said. “But we can’t search on private property, so that makes this all really hard to take the next step.
Heidi said she has organized her own searches over the past few weeks, using horses and ATVs to help them cover more ground. Their next search is scheduled for October 26.
“New Mexico is so vast,” Heidi said. “She could be anywhere. We just want to know where she is. We need answers… and closure.”
Jean is described as 5 feet, 6 inches tall, weighing 130 pounds with light brown hair and green eyes.
If you or someone you know have information about Jean Johnson’s whereabouts, please contact the Lincoln County Sheriff’s Office at 575-648-2341.