New details surface in 2004 disappearance of Tucson man - Tucson News Now

New details surface in 2004 disappearance of Tucson man

Charles "Chuck" Simmons, of Tucson, went missing in January 2004 after returning from a mining operation in Morenci. (Source: Tucson News Now) Charles "Chuck" Simmons, of Tucson, went missing in January 2004 after returning from a mining operation in Morenci. (Source: Tucson News Now)
TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) -

Twelve years after a local gem dealer vanished from southern Arizona, new details are surfacing in the investigation surrounding the disappearance of Charles "Chuck" Simmons.

KOLD News 13 has learned at least one business associate owed Simmons up to $400,000 and that Simmons was seeking legal counsel to try and secure that money before he disappeared.

MOBILE USERS: Photos highlighting the disappearance of Charles Simmons HERE.

Just a coincidence?

Or did somebody get away with murder?

“The gem show’s not generally associated with this kind of crime,” said Carol Gaxiola, director of Homicide Survivors. “That’s why this case has always stood out.”

Simmons talked with his girlfriend on the phone on Jan. 14, 2004. Two days later he was reported missing. One day after that, his truck was found abandoned in a parking lot near the intersection of North Stone and East Toole avenues in downtown Tucson.

The truck was parked across the street from Zee's Gallery and Warehouse, which at the time was owned by Zee Haag, one of Simmons' business partners.

"It was unlike him to leave his truck there," said Frannie Young, Simmons' long-time girlfriend. "It didn't look like anything was wrong with it, it was just there."

Today, the old warehouse looks different than it did 12 years ago.

Back then, it was ground zero for the disappearance of one Tucson's most respected gem dealers.

"I just remember how stunned the community was,” Gaxiola said, reflecting on the unsolved case. "This well-liked, prominent man who suddenly disappeared."

And it happened just days before the biggest show of the year.

"There's several aspects of his life that lead us to believe foul play may have happened to him,” said Detective Charles Garcia of Pima County Sheriff’s
Department, the investigating agency in Simmons’ disappearance.

Not only because his truck was found across the street, but because a business associate - who happened to owe Simmons a lot of money - rented a van and promptly drove it to California at exactly the time Simmons went missing.

"We have looked into a connection between Tucson and the southern California region,” Garcia said. “And we continue to reach out to people in the investigation that were residing somewhere in the southern California.”

Investigators eventually closed in on that rental van and found what was believed to be a major break in the case: DNA that likely belonged to Simmons. But without a body or any definitive proof that something terrible happened to him, the case went cold and remained that way more than a decade.

That is, until early last year.

"This investigation has led us as recently as January 2015 to the northwest end of the Saguaro National Park,” Garcia said. “What I can explain is that we did locate a mine.”

After all these years of speculation and rumor, was an abandoned mine shaft deep in Saguaro National Park where Simmons met his fate?

The information and source seemed very credible, officials said. That's why the sheriff’s department initiated an exhaustive, multi-agency search.

"Unfortunately it didn't yield anything,” Garcia said. “But we continue to press forward.”

Which brings us back to ground zero, back downtown, back to the Tucson gem show, where this missing-person mystery started.

"It's my personal hope that in doing this interview that maybe the information goes out to people who are coming in and out of Tucson,” Garcia said. "If they have any information about his disappearance that maybe now is the time to come forward.

"Whether it be anonymously or whether they contact me directly - that's what the hope is and why we are proceeding with this information.”

Nobody has been publicly identified as a suspect or person of interest in this case. By the same token, nobody's been cleared of any wrongdoing either.

That's why the case is still open, still active. That’s why detectives continue to monitor the gem show every year. They never know who might come forward or who might slip up by saying or doing the wrong thing.

If you have any information about the disappearance of Charles Simmons, please call 911 or 88-CRIME.

Copyright 2016 Tucson News Now. All rights reserved.

Powered by Frankly