Ian Eckles has been missing since May 17, 2020, and his body is assumed to still be somewhere in/near the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest, a forest that spans 2.2 million acres, extending 135 miles along the east side of the Cascade Mountains.
Jorge Alcantara-Gonzalez, 34, was arrested in Teanaway, a rural settlement 5 miles east of Cle Elum, and charged with 23 crimes. Among the charges was burglary, possession of stolen firearms and vehicles, and second-degree murder in connection with Eckles’ presumed death. The manhunt – that force-closed the Blewett Pass area of the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest – came to an end with Alcantara’-Gonzalez’ arrest; court records show Alcantara-Gonzalez pleaded not guilty to all 23 counts at his arraignment on June 19, 2020. He remains jailed in lieu of $3 million bail.
Why Alcantara-Gonzalez was arrested:
During the Eckles’ investigation, detectives in Kittitas and King counties learned he was allegedly in possession of a stolen vehicle belonging to 80-year-old Fall City woman, Nancy Holste. Holste was found dead in her home 5 days before Eckles’ disappeared. According to investigators, both Holste’s and Eckles’ SUVs were hidden in a wooded area with items connecting Alcantara to both vehicles. The DNA retrieved from Ian’s vehicle was substantial enough to assume loss of life.
According to ICE, this is a list of 6 of the most recent charges Alcantara has faced (Source):
On Dec. 26, 2017, Alcantara-Gonzalez was arrested for driving under the influence and taken to the King County Jail. He was released before ICE could take any action.
On Dec. 17, 2018, he was arrested by the Lewis County Sheriff’s Department for failure to comply and taken to the Lewis County Jail. The following day, he was transferred to King County on a criminal warrant and detained at the King County Maleng Regional Justice Center in Kent.
On Dec. 20, 2018, ICE lodged an immigration detainer on Alcantara-Gonzalez with the facility but the center “failed to honor the immigration detainer and released him back into the community.”
On Dec. 24, 2018, he was arrested by the Seattle Police Department for theft of a motor vehicle and taken to the King County Jail. On the same day, ICE lodged an immigration detainer. Alcantara-Gonzalez was convicted of vehicle prowling in the second degree. “On an unknown date, the King County Jail failed to honor the immigration detainer and he was released back into the community,” ICE said.
On March 19, 2019, he was arrested by the Seattle Police Department for three counts of failure to comply and detained at the King County Jail. On March 21, 2019, ICE lodged an immigration detainer but the jail failed to honor it and he was released back into the community on a later date without prior notification to ICE.
On May 31, 2019, Alcantara-Gonzalez was convicted of the 2017 DUI charge in King County and sentenced to 364 days in jail, 363 suspended.
Ian’s sister, Stefanie (39), said, “We just want to bring him home so we can have closure and evidence and proof of what happened so (investigators) can put the pieces together.”
An organized manhunt with more than 100 volunteers scoured the area for 6 days looking for Eckles’ remains, but it was called off on June 28, 2020. “We couldn’t maintain that kind of operational intensity,” said Kittitas County Sheriff’s Inspector Chris Whitsett. “We looked everywhere we knew to look. Now the search will be a blanket search. We have to have intelligence (about where to search) and we’re looking for that now.”
May 16, 2020 at 4:00p: Ian Eckles departs Kent, enroute to Liberty, Washington.
The plan was to camp in Liberty, Washington the night before Turkey hunting with his friends. In his vehicle: a shotgun, handgun, and camping gear.
Cell Phone tower pings indicated he was enroute to Liberty and another area further north. He had hunted in this area before.
According to Ian’s sister, Stefanie Eckles, a text message was sent to his friend indicating that he had arrived in the Liberty area.
May 17, 2020 (unknown time): Ian’s friend arrived (undisclosed location); Ian had not arrived.
According to reports, the friend was not concerned and did not alert authorities because it was normal for Eckles to skip the first morning hunt and sleep in.
May 23, 2020 at approx. 5:00a. A member of the search team (one of Eckles’ friends) spotted someone driving Eckles’ FJ cruiser on Forest Service Road 9738. They engaged the driver in a brief conversation. The man was wearing a Seahawks hat, and his friends noted the rear window of Eckles’ silver Cruiser had been blown out.
The person driving the vehicle was described as:
Hispanic or Native American
20s – mid 30s
Heavy set with a chubby face and round nose
Short, cropped black hair
Dark pants, no shirt
Managed to escape law enforcement
Liberty is a small unincorporated community in Kittitas County, Washington, United States. Following the discovery of gold in Swauk creek in 1873, Liberty was one of several gold-mining camps that sprang up. The Swauk creek discovery is notable for producing specimens of crystalline gold. Wikipedia
Last year, when Eckles and his friend went turkey hunting, they parked and camped off the side of Spur 130, off Forest Service Road 9738. According to Media sources, this is where it is believed that Eckles bedded down for the night.
Missing NPF agrees that this location is a good location to begin body recovery efforts, assuming the above-provided information is true and accurate.
According to Media reports, evidence suggests that Eckles likely died the night of May 16, or sometime in the early morning hours of May 17, 2020.
Missing Persons Report:
Ian was not one to be irresponsible, “He’s not the type of person who says he’s going to show up somewhere and not do it,” Stefanie Eckles said. When Eckles did not show up for work on Monday, May 18, 2020, concerned friends and family immediately began asking questions. According to reports, Eckles was “a little blue as he prepared to move out of his ex-girlfriend’s house and back to the Portland area where he grew up, but he was still excited to be moving out and moving on.” (Source)
The missing persons report was issued by his live-in ex-girlfriend, and the following weekend – Memorial Day weekend – his family and friends joined searchers looking for Eckles.
“He always found humor in everything. He had this light burning inside him and people were just drawn to him,” said Eckles’ older brother, Nathan, attributing the large turnout to the bonds of friendship Eckles had formed in high school. “Almost every single one of those people hadn’t seen Ian in a long time and they all dropped their lives to come there and help us look for him.”