Almost two weeks after a California man went missing in the desert northwest of Moab, authorities are actively seeking the public’s help in finding him.
Michael Cavallari, 30, of San Clemente, was last seen at a convenience store in Monticello in the early morning hours of Friday, Nov. 27. Several hours later, a rancher found his abandoned 2014 Honda Civic just off Floy Wash Road, about five miles south of Exit 175 on Interstate 70.
Although Cavallari went missing one day after Thanksgiving, Neal said the sheriff’s office held off on publicizing the disappearance at the family’s request.
“They didn’t want it to go to the news media,” he said.
Cavallari is the brother of reality TV star Kristin Cavallari and the brother-in-law of Chicago Bears quarterback Jay Cutler, and word of his disappearance unleashed the kind of sensationalistic and overblown media coverage that the family may have feared.
Once the first report came out, the story took on a life of its own, dominating celebrity gossip, tabloid and entertainment news outlets around the world, including TMZ, Nancy Grace, PerezHilton.com, People Magazine and Entertainment Tonight.
At the time the rancher found the car, the engine was still running, and Cavallari’s cell phone and laptop computer were still inside the vehicle.
While the circumstances behind his disappearance are unusual, Grand County Sheriff’s Lt. Kim Neal said there are no signs of any wrongdoing at the scene.
“There is nothing that leads investigators to believe that foul play was involved,” he told the Moab Sun News.
Likewise, Neal said there is no evidence to suggest that the driver was injured in any way, although the car’s airbag deployed after it veered off the road and continued on for about 150 feet before it came to a halt.
Authorities believe that Cavallari was traveling by himself, based on video surveillance they obtained from the convenience store in Monticello, and from their investigation at the scene near Floy Wash Road.
“From the security footage we viewed, it doesn’t appear that there was a passenger, and from what we found in the vehicle, there’s nothing to suggest that anyone was in the vehicle with him,” Neal said.
Floy Wash Road is a main route to the White Wash Sand Dunes, a popular all-terrain vehicle recreation area about 48 road miles northwest of Moab.
In addition to the sheriff’s office, search and rescue teams from Grand and Carbon counties have set up a command post at the scene, and somewhere between 20 and 30 people are scouring the area each day.
Classic Lifeguard and the Utah Department of Public Safety deployed helicopters to assist in the search, and the command post team has been using two drones on loan from Sevier and Sanpete counties to scan the terrain.
While the area is not especially rugged by Moab’s standards, Neal said that search and rescue teams still have “a lot” of ground to cover.
Moab Tour Company guide Mark Moore has been in the area before, and he said it is not as uniformly desolate as it appears to be from a distance.
“There are some gullies and dry washes,” he said.
Grand County Assistant Road Supervisor Glen Arthur said a well-maintained class B county road passes through an area that he describes as a typical clay desert with hilly terrain.
It’s also home to a number of oilfields, as well as recreational trails, that draw significant numbers of people to the area.
“It’s a high-use zone,” Arthur said. “It can be very busy.”
However, the sheriff’s office has not received any substantial tips about Cavallari’s whereabouts from people who were in the area that day, and any traces of his footprints were obscured by conditions on the ground at the time.
“With the weather being as cold as it was, and the ground being frozen, it made it hard to discern any tracks,” Neal said.
Beyond Floy Wash, authorities have expanded their investigation to Moab, the town of Green River and elsewhere with the hope that new information will come to light, but Neal said his office has received very few leads to date.
“We’ve canvassed the area, taking fliers to hotels and bus stations, and we’re getting negative results from all of that,” he said.
Neal himself followed up on a call this week that took him to a homeless and transient encampment in Grand Junction, Colorado, although he said that tip ultimately didn’t pan out. Still, he encourages anyone who may have any information about Cavallari to come forward.
“Hopefully, we’ll get that call that will lead us to his whereabouts,” he said.
Meanwhile, the focus of the investigation expanded when authorities learned that Cavallari had a recent run-in with the law in California.
The Associated Press reported that Orange County, California, Sheriff’s deputies arrested Cavallari just four days before his disappearance on suspicion of making criminal threats.
Cavallari was apprehended outside Dana Point City Hall with a loaded shotgun, shortly after a woman called authorities to report that Cavallari showed up outside her apartment with the weapon. The woman told Orange County Sheriff’s deputies that she was afraid because he kept returning to her apartment following an argument two days earlier, The Associated Press reported.
Cavallari, who denied the allegations, bailed out of a southern California jail on Nov. 25.
Neal said his office has considered the possibility that Cavallari may have found his way back to Interstate 70 and hitched a ride with a passing motorist.
Whatever the case may be, Neal said his office will continue to follow up on every tip it receives.
“Right now, we’d just like to know where he is and make sure he’s safe so we can put the family at ease,” he said.
Cavallari is 5 feet 11 inches tall and weighs about 175 pounds. He has brown hair and brown eyes; he does not have tattoos or other identifying marks, aside from a small scar on his chin.
At the time of his disappearance, Cavallari was wearing a long-sleeved green sweatshirt, blue jeans, a blue Nike ball cap and black tennis shoes.
If you have any information about Cavallari, contact the Grand County Sheriff’s Office at 435-259-8115.
Brother of reality TV star vanishes north of Moab
Hopefully, we’ll get that call that will lead us to his whereabouts.
A California man missing north of Moab since late November has been found dead, according to a statement from his family.
Michael Cavallari was last seen at a convenience store near Monticello in the early morning hours of Friday, Nov. 27. His vehicle was later found with its engine still running just off Floy Wash Road about five miles south of Exit 175 on Interstate 70.
The Grand County Sheriff’s Office could not be reached immediately for comment. But Cavallari’s sister, reality TV star Kristin Cavallari, issued a statement confirming that authorities found her brother’s body northwest of Moab.
“We want to thank everyone for their love, support and prayers during this very difficult time,” she said in a statement to People Magazine. “This is a very painful time and we are still processing it all. We kindly ask everyone please respect our privacy during our time of grieving.”