UPDATE: On July 6, 2022, the Fairfax County Police Department posted on Twitter, that “detectives found a vehicle belonging to Juan Ward” in the 8500 of Alban Rd in Springfield, Virginia. It adds that a body was found nearby and “the ME will conduct an autopsy to determine if the body is that of Mr. Ward.” The post notes that the cause of death will also be determined. Dateline spoke with second Lieutenant Jason Chandler of the Fairfax County Police Department who said, “there are no new updates as of now.”
“We’re just all trying to figure out where our brother is,” René Best told Dateline about her younger brother, Juan Ward.
The 53-year-old was last seen in Woodbridge, Virginia on May 25, 2022. He was captured on security footage using a Navy Federal ATM. He hasn’t been seen since.
“We talk every day,” René said about Juan, but she hasn’t received a text from him in weeks. “This is the most insane thing.”
Juan was raised by his parents, Elizabeth and Thomas Ward, with his four siblings in the small town of Saluda, Virginia. “I am the middle child, Juan is the baby,” René said. “Juan and I are the closest.”
René told Dateline her entire family is from Saluda, and they are all extremely tight-knit. “We would bounce around from aunt’s house to uncle’s house to grandma’s house,” René recalled. “It was just a lot of fun as a kid.”
René said that in 1994 she moved more than two hours away to Fairfax County, Virginia. A few years later, Juan followed. “It’s a very active area,” René said. “Lots of things to do.”
Juan enjoyed the many things Fairfax County has to offer. René told Dateline her brother is a huge sports fan and would often go out to watch games. “He would frequent eateries with bars with ESPN,” Rene said. “That was his thing.”
But more than anything, Juan enjoyed spending time with his two daughters. “He’s very much a family man. He loves his children,” René said. “He's had significant relationships with both mothers for years and years and years,” René said.
René told Dateline that she is very close with her brother’s kids. “I instantly became an auntie/mother with his children,” René said. “His kids have grown up with me.”
On Thursday, May 26, René said she received an alarming phone call from her niece. “She called me, and she said, ‘Have you talked to Dad?’” René told Dateline. “I said, ‘I have not.’”
René told Dateline that Juan works for the General Services Administration and when he missed a meeting that day, one of his co-workers called his daughter. “He had a division-wide meeting,” René said. “Juan doesn’t miss meetings.” René said it was “the first indication that Juan may not be OK.”
The family filed a missing persons’ report that day.
“My niece looked around the apartment. It just felt strange to her,” René said. “And why would he not be at the meeting?”
René said it was extremely unusual for her brother to go days without talking to anyone. “He talks to his mother every day,” René said. “We have a family group chat.” René told Dateline that their mother is in a group home and each of her siblings switches off to check on her daily.
Juan has not been heard from in over a month.
The Fairfax County Police Department is investigating Juan’s disappearance. Dateline spoke with their Public Information Office who directed us to a post on Twitter. The post confirms that Juan was last seen on May 25 at “Navy Federal ATM at 12520 Dillingham Sq in Woodbridge.” It adds that investigators believe he is missing “under unusual circumstances.” Security footage of Juan’s ATM transaction is included in a video accompanying the post. In the video, Fairfax County Bureau Commander, Major Crimes, Cyber and Forensics, Major Ed O'Carroll states that Juan was last seen driving his silver 2008 Nissan Altima. O'Carroll added in the video that officers “want to get answers on where Mr. Ward is and reunite him with his family.”
The silver 2008 Nissan Altima with Virginia plates #UJE3496 is also missing.
Dateline also spoke briefly with Lieutenant John Steier of the Fairfax County Police Department. He described the investigation as “fluid” and “ongoing,” but did not divulge any other details.
René told Dateline that while police are searching, her family is as well. “We went on a huge flyer distribution,” René said. She told Dateline at least 12 of her cousins, along with close family friends, came down to search for Juan. “We have talked to private investigators,” she added.
Although they have yet to find Juan, René says they will not give up. She said their mother, who is 86, is waiting for her son to come home. “She asks the question every day, ‘Have you heard from Juan?” René said tearfully. “I have to tell her no.”
Juan is 5’11” tall, 185 lbs., has black and gray hair. He was last seen wearing a thin long-sleeve gray sweatshirt.
Anyone with information on Juan Ward is asked to contact the Fairfax County Police Department non-emergency line at 703-691-2131.