'Our hearts are full' | Family of Indiana couple found in Nevada thanks searchers, supporters
Ronnie and Beverly Barker went missing Sunday, March 27, while driving through western Nevada.
An Indianapolis man, who has been missing for more than a week during an RV trip in Nevada with his wife, has died.
Family members tell 13News Ronnie and Beverly Barker were found Tuesday evening on a mountain west of Silver Peak, about 3 1/2 hours northwest of Las Vegas.
Ronnie Barker is deceased, according to a family member. His wife was found alive and was transported to Reno for medical care.
Beverly Barker was released from the hospital on Wednesday.
Earlier Tuesday, search crews found the Barkers' RV stuck in the mud, but the couple and the SUV they had been towing behind the RV were not at the scene. Hours later, they were found a couple miles away in the mountains.
Family members say Ronnie Barker's body will return to Indiana on Friday, April 15 on a 3:30 p.m. flight to Indianapolis International Airport. A short time later, a hearse will meet members of Indiana's Patriot Guard at the airport's cell phone lot. Members of the organization will provide an escort to the funeral home, 9700 Allisonville Road, Indianapolis. The family says people are welcome to join the gathering at the cell phone lot and can participate in the procession.
Ronnie and Beverly's disappearance:
When they weren't traveling the country by RV, Ronnie and Beverly Barker usually had it parked in the driveway of their west Indianapolis home.
“That’s the one thing Ronnie looked forward to when he retired. He wanted to be able to travel. He liked to travel," said daughter Lynn Bledsoe.
The Barkers left on another cross-country trip last month and were supposed to come home to Indianapolis this week. Instead, their family said they disappeared last Sunday in Nevada and haven’t been seen or heard from since.
It’s like they’ve disappeared off the face of the earth.
“They have vanished, literally, into thin air," said the couple’s daughter, Jennifer Whaley.
Somewhere, last Sunday night, along Highway 95 in the Nevada desert, that’s the last time the Barker’s RV was seen on the highway near a place called Luning.
“It was caught on a home surveillance camera going down 95," explained Whaley.
That was at 6:05 p.m. on March 27. A short time later, cell phone towers picked up the last recorded ping of the couple’s cell phones.
“The last hard ping was in Coledale, which is south of Luning," said Whaley.
After that, the Barkers' daughters don’t know what happened to their parents or if they even made it any further down the highway.
“It’s all flat. It’s all desert. So where did they go? Where did they go? They’re out in the middle of the desert. You can see for miles and a 32-foot RV, towing a car, literally vanishes into thin air. Where did they go?" Whaley asked, her eyes tearing up.
“The thought of them not calling anybody, it’s not them," said Whaley, crying. “They would have called and when they fall off the face of the earth, there’s a problem."
What kind of problem, though, the Barkers' daughters don’t know.
Did the couple take a wrong turn and get stranded, outside of cell service or did something else happen?
Both have diabetes and are not in the best of health. Ronnie is a cancer survivor.
“I know they at least have medicine through the 8th," said Bledsoe, explaining that there’s been no activity on their parents’ bank cards since last Sunday, when they got gas in Stagecoach, Nevada.
“It’s really difficult to imagine what could have happened," Bledsoe said.
A flyer with the couple’s picture and one of the type of RV they were driving has been shared across social media.
Volunteers and police began searching for the Barkers this past weekend, four days after their daughters tried to alert authorities that something was wrong when they didn’t show up in Arizona.
Authorities did not issue a Silver Alert at first because Nevada has a stipulation that the missing people have to be residents of the state. Instead, only a “be on the lookout" bulletin was initially used.
“There’s a lot of red tape. There’s a lot of red tape," Whaley said.
Volunteers and authorities spent hundreds of hours searching for Ronnie and Beverly Barker.
The family held out hope the couple would be found and brought home before Beverly’s 70th birthday on April 9.
“It would be amazing, just amazing, to have them home by her birthday," said Whaley.
“So that would be the best birthday gift ever. We’re going to bring them home. We’re going to. Hang in there," Whaley told her sister, squeezing Bledsoe’s hand. “We’re going to bring them home."
Finding Ronnie and Beverly:
On April 5, the Barkers' RV was located stuck in the mud on a mountain west of Silver Peak, Nevada.
Ronnie and Beverly were not with it. Police then switched the search to looking for the couple's white Kia Soul.
Police say the Barkers were found together later Tuesday, inside the SUV about two miles from their RV. When search crews found them, they say Beverly appeared to be in good spirits in light of what happened and the death of her husband.
It's still unclear how Ronnie Barker died, though dehydration likely was a factor.
Travis Peters, the couple's nephew and a longtime photographer and editor at 13News, said his aunt and uncle were very intelligent people. Ronnie was a proud U.S. Air Force veteran who loved antique radios and was ahead of the curve when it came to technology.
Beverly worked for defense contractors and also loved technology.
"We're happy that Bev made it," Peters said. "She's going to be able to answer our questions and a lot of situations like this, we don't know the answer to. Families will never know the answer to. At least we'll get that back to be able to put the pieces of the puzzle together."
Family members flew out to Reno to be with Beverly Wednesday, April 6.
"It's really sad that Uncle Ronnie is gone, but he really led a life well-lived. Kind of makes it a little better that he didn't have things that aren't fulfilled, like so many people do," Peters said.
That was what Ronnie Barker wanted to do - travel the country by RV with his wife, Beverly, by his side.
Beverly Barker was released from the hospital on Wednesday, a day after she was rescued.
Her daughters set up a video call with family members, presumably to share what they had learned from their mother, police and doctors about the ordeal.
"Jennifer just turned the camera and there's my Aunt Beverly sitting in the front seat of a car ... that was emotional," Peters said. "What happened was a 25-minute phone call that's the most incredible phone call I've ever had."
Beverly went on to tell her family what happened, from how the couple got lost to Ronnie's peaceful final moments and, finally, her rescue.
"As a lot of people suspected, it was bad GPS directions," Peters said.
Their RV got stuck on Sunday, March 27. After staying a night in their motorhome, the couple got up the next day and drove for help in the SUV.
But after another wrong turn, the Kia got stuck, too. The couple was stranded with no water, no food and still no cell service.
"They knew they were in trouble, but the story that she told to me, like I said, it was almost religious. As time progressed, my uncle, who was a very devout Christian, he would see figures from the Bible and took so much comfort in that," Peters said.
Beverly, who family said is not very mobile, made repeated trips up a hill to where she spotted snow in the shadows of rocks. Using a walker, she filled sacks with the snow to try to gather water for the couple to drink.
Temperatures dropped into the 20s at night, Beverly told her nephew. As they huddled to try to keep warm, Ronnie's condition weakened.
"As the days and the nights passed, my Uncle Ronnie told her he was dying. And she said, 'I know.' They knew it was dehydration," Peters said. "All along, he would ask her to read the Bible and he finally passed away Monday, just two days ago."
A day after Ronnie passed, search crews found their RV. They tried to follow the tracks left by the Kia, but kept losing them.
A short time later, however, a rescuer heard a car horn. It was Beverly, honking out "SOS" in Morse code, just as Ronnie taught her during the week.
Rescuers gave Beverly water and flew her to a hospital in Reno, where she was treated Tuesday night.
The family of Ron and Beverly Barker issued a statement Wednesday evening, thanking those who joined the search and rescue effort for the couple and for the thousands of people who have supported them through the ordeal.
They also wrote that they hope their loss leads to changes in how public safety officials in Nevada handle missing persons cases in the future.
Read their full statement:
"The family of Ronnie and Beverly Barker wish to thank those who participated in the search and rescue operations to locate our beloved family members. The outpouring of support was nothing short of incredible by the members of the local community. Our hearts are full because of the efforts that were put forth to help us bring Ron and Bev back home again to Indiana.
While the loss of Ronnie Barker is tragic, we are grateful that Beverly was found alive and can now begin her recovery from this tragic ordeal. We are grateful that Beverly will be able to fill in the blanks and give us the answers that we all so desperately seek.
Ronnie Barker loved his family and loved his country. He served our nation proud over his 26-year career in the United States Air Force. Ronnie was a believer in our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. He was proud of his faith and was always willing to give to others. He was funny, witty, and was the spark of energy that everyone gravitated toward. People just loved and wanted to be around Ron Barker.
Our family grieves over this news, and we question the roadblocks that seemed to stifle the search from the moment we were made aware of their disappearance. It's our hope that Ronnie Barker's legacy will be changing policy that will allow for a more expeditious approach to locating missing persons of all ages for both non-residents and residents of the state of Nevada. We call upon the citizens of Nevada to stand up and demand that changes be made at ALL levels of Public Safety to avoid the hurdles that our family faced as we attempted to bring resources into the search of our loved ones.
Fly high MSgt Ronnie E. Barker, you served us all well.
Ronnie Ercel Barker 11/21/1949 - 4/4/2022"
How you can help:
There are official GoFundMe and Venmo accounts setup if you would like to help the Barker family with expenses involved in the search, recovery and medical care.
The GoFundMe account can be found here. Contributions may be made via Venmo by donating to: @Ron-Bev--Barker-Fund.
(EDITOR'S NOTE: This story has been edited to correct the Venmo address of the fund to help the Barker family. The correct address is @Ron-Bev-Barker-Fund.)