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Remains of Evan Mueller, missing since Sept. 2022, found

Evan Mueller's remains were found during a San Diego Sheriff's Search and Rescue effort on Saturday, Oct. 21, 2023. Evan Mueller was reported missing on Sept. 13, 2022, from his home on Knoll Park Lane in Fallbrook. Initially, his partner of six years, Rebecca Byrnes, and family and friends, were looking for him with the assistance of the Sheriff, Rangers, Search and Rescue volunteers, and K-9 search dogs. However, his remains were not found until last Saturday. 

Sargent Rich George, coordinator for the San Diego Sheriff's Search and Rescue team, confirmed that human remains were found last Saturday. According to Evan Mueller's mother, April Graham, the medical examiner was able to verify the skull was Evan's by his dental records on Wednesday.

The remains, which were mostly skeletal, including a skull, were found in a ravine area near Vista Del Lago Drive, in Fallbrook, despite the terrain being difficult to access.   

According to April Graham, not all of the remains were located and they don't know the cause of death. She said because of the condition of the remains, they may never determine the cause of death. 

In September 2022, after Mueller went missing, Byrnes initially told Village News, "His family and friends are very concerned. They have flown in from all over, including Washington State, Mexico, and beyond. They have taken off work and come from Hesperia and Chula Vista. They are all very concerned."

Family and friends, with the help of many volunteers and community members, continued with searches for a few weeks with no success. 

Rangers for Wildlands Preserve were familiar with Evan, calling him "mediation man" and they said they had not seen him. 

About a month after Evan went missing, family members reported that Rebecca said she had "moved on with her life" and started referring any inquiries to Evan's mother April. Recently, when Rebecca was called by Village News, she referred any questions to Evan's mom and said, "I would rather not be involved with this. Contact Evan's mom or grandmother."

Family and friends are not sure what happened to Evan. It was reported that Mueller disappeared during the day while Byrnes was at work, although timelines of when he was actually seen by anyone other than Byrnes is not certain. Mueller's mother and grandmother were suspicious that there was no communication with Evan after 5 pm on his birthday, the 12th of September. 

Byrnes reported that she had to leave early on September 13, to go to work, however, phone records appear to tell a different story. Byrnes first reported she had to work all day. Then people around her reported that she said she had just one massage client at 9 am. However, her phone records appear to indicate that she was on the phone for at least 45 minutes while she said she had a massage appointment. 

Then family members reported that Byrnes told people at her home after the disappearance of Evan that he had no access to cash that he could have taken with him. Afterwards, they found that there was hundreds of dollars in their car, thousands of dollars in the home and $13,000 in Evan's bank account for his business. His family reports that Evan was excited about starting his own business. He had been working tirelessly with his best friend, Steve Entin, who was to be his business partner. 

Some speculation is that Evan could have taken his own life. His mother and grandmother are skeptical. April, his mother said, "I talked to Evan the morning of his birthday. He had asked for a set of books that had just become available and I had ordered them for him. I had a sense that I needed to call him early on his birthday before the day became busy and I let him know the books would be delivered to him. He told me they were already there and he thanked me and was excited to read them." 

April said he also was working on his website and was lining up speakers for an event that he was doing with his friend Steve. She said, "When I talked to him, he was motivated and excited about getting his business going."

Another theory was that, because Evan and Rebecca were reported to be arguing "almost every day," that Evan left everything behind and went to live with the 12 Tribes of Israel group that owns the Yellow Deli in Vista, California. A Yellow Deli employee told Evan's mother that Evan was seen at the Yellow Deli with two other people on the 15th or 16th after his disappearance. That lead never produced any more clues or information. It now appears, after finding Mueller's remains, that it wasn't a viable clue.

The 12 Tribes reported that Evan was not with them and they discourage people from not telling their family members if they join the 12 Tribes group. Could Evan have just walked away as Rebecca Byrnes alleges? Kathryn Castillo, Evan's grandmother, doesn't believe he would have done that. "We are so close. Evan would never leave and not communicate with me or his mom, or his stepmother. He has always been close and we would talk regularly. He would not do that to us. We were very close."  

Byrnes reported that she and Evan went to Trupiano's for dinner, the night of his birthday, September 12,  but there is apparently no evidence to support that Evan was physically at the restaurant, according to family. Trupiano's had no video available to verify the in-person visit. There was reported to be a Trupiano's meal that was left in the refrigerator at their home that appeared to be untouched. 

Apparently, Rebecca Byrnes also claimed that they went to Starbucks between Trupiano's and home. She said they ordered two coffees on her Starbucks app and they both went inside the Starbucks to pick it up. However, when questioned by the private investigator and seeing Byrnes's app, he noticed there was only one coffee on the order.  Security footage was sought from Starbucks to no avail. Seeing the discrepancy, the P.I. reported that Byrnes said, "I don't know, maybe Evan ordered with his own app, or maybe he didn't want one. I don't remember."

It was also reported that he left behind his wallet, passport, credit cards, driver's license, and cell phone. Byrnes believed he also took with him a green jacket and some prayer beads, however, the prayer beads were later found in the pocket of another pair of pants. 

Mueller was reported to be wearing black toe shoes, and black three-quarter-length sweats. His green jacket is quilted and does not have a hood. Mueller did have long hair and a full beard, although pictures distributed of him also include a time when he was clean-shaven. He was a white male, 34 years old, 5'8" with brown hair. 

San Diego County Sheriff Lt. Aldo Hernandez, previously from the Fallbrook substation, reported at the time, that the Sheriff initially used a helicopter to try and find him in case he was hiking in the Santa Margarita River Valley. He said, "We called in Search and Rescue, but because Evan appears to have voluntarily walked away. It didn't fit their criteria, but the deputies continued to go out." He continued, "We did register him as missing, but if an officer runs across him the only thing they can really do is let him know his family and the community are looking for him because he's an adult and he's voluntarily missing." 

He also added that, at the time, there was no evidence of any foul play. Byrnes said, "...We're all so concerned. He's so valuable to his friends and family. 

At the time of his disappearance, Rebecca said there were dogs that followed Mueller's scent down to the Santa Margarita River. "The rangers have gone above and beyond to try and find Evan. The Crew has come out and has been amazing." She continued, "'Rabbit' and the group [Renaissance Crew] are from the Escondido area and they are all up here helping." Volunteers were looking along the trails of the Santa Margarita River as Byrnes suspected that may be where he went. 

When Village News spoke to Byrnes, originally she seemed concerned that Evan may have fallen or been injured while hiking. But a few days later she also stated that she was concerned about him being depressed. 

Evan's mom, April, continued to carry Evan's phone in hopes of a clue, or a call from Evan. This message came to her recently and she says it is typical of what she hears from his friends. "Hi April, Just was missing Evan and I glanced at the last correspondence & thought for a minute that it might be a past voicemail from Evan but it was just the outgoing phone number. 

"I'm so sorry for your loss. I just don't understand how he could disappear without a trace. My heart is with you and I hope for answers & if there are those responsible for his harm...that they will be found out and prosecuted. 

Evan had so much more life and goodness to share with the world I think of him every day." 

Finding Evan Mueller's remains is certainly sad for the family and friends, but does provide some closure for Evan's mother and grandmother who said that everyday they have thought about him, as soon as they wake in the mornings, and have wondered if he is ok.

 

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