A volunteer searcher on Friday night found the body of a man who went missing in the area of a popular trailhead on the Anchorage Hillside earlier this week, police said.
The death of 28-year-old Juan Toscano did not appear to be criminal in nature, Anchorage Police Department spokeswoman Cherie Zajdzinski said in an email Saturday.
Family and friends had last heard from Toscano around 3 p.m. Tuesday, when he told them he was going for a hike at the Basher Drive trailhead. He was reported missing just after 1 p.m. Wednesday when he hadn’t returned from the hike. His vehicle was found at the trailhead.
Search efforts Wednesday and Thursday involved multiple groups as well as dogs, drones, ATVs and aerial resources, a police department spokeswoman said. No signs of Toscano or animal attacks in the area were discovered, according to police.
After authorities called off the official search Thursday night, volunteers continued looking for Toscano on their own, and police received a call a little before 9 p.m. Friday that one of them found his body, according to Zajdzinski.
In social media tributes and messages, friends and families remembered Toscano as a loving and adventurous friend, brother and son, who was kind and generous to the people he loved.
“My husband and Juan were best friends for a very long time, if anything we’d love for everyone to know how caring, loving, and pure his soul was,” Emily Brevard said in a Facebook message. “He was an amazing person.”
Toscano was close with his family and spent his summers outdoors — fishing, hiking, four-wheeling and camping. He worked for a family business owned by his father and grandfather, called Abuelo’s Painting & Drywall, his friend Tania Lisset Hurtado said in a message.
“He was the kind of person that helped a friend in need and was there to pick you up when you felt down. He was such a high spirited soul,” she said.
Police posted a brief alert late Friday night that said Toscano “has been located” but did not specify that he was found dead. That confused some Alaskans who were left with the impression that he was located safe, and frustrated others who believe police should have provided more clarity about the outcome of the search.
Zajdzinski said that it’s part of the Anchorage Police Department’s procedure to update their missing-persons communications for those found deceased by saying they have been “located.”
“This is to ensure the family has time to process the information,” Zajdzinski said in her email. “APD respects the families’ right to privacy in deaths that are not believed to be criminal and allows the family to share publicly that their loved one is deceased if they choose.”
After receiving notification that Toscano’s body was found, police officers and the Alaska Mountain Rescue Group assisted with efforts to recover his body and take it to the Medical Examiner’s Office, which will determine the cause of death, Zajdzinski wrote in an email.
Police had not found any evidence that Toscano’s death was connected to a homicide investigation in a nearby area this week, she said. The body of 35-year-old Juan Wright was found near Campbell Airstrip Road on Wednesday morning.
“We are still asking for the public’s help with any information” in that case, Zajdzinski said.