On Thursday morning, July 22, Dr. Desmond Kidd, Yosemite National Park’s medical director, had just finished a busy 24-hour shift at the park’s clinic—it was, after all, the height of the summer tourist season—and the 36-year-old physician was beat. But not long after he arrived back at the log cabin he shared with other park employees in Yosemite Village, his pager went off. Kidd called in to the park dispatcher and was asked to join a search for a missing person—a search, the dispatcher said, “with law enforcement implications.”
In two and a half years of working in Yosemite, Kidd had helped rescue a number of hikers who had lost their way, but before he headed out of Yosemite Village in a convoy of four-wheel-drive vehicles toward the nearby hamlet of Foresta, he learned that this search was different. Five months earlier, three female tourists had vanished from their hotel room at the Cedar Lodge, near Yosemite’s entrance, and had been found a month later, brutally murdered. Now, Kidd was told, another young woman had disappeared. Joie Ruth Armstrong, 26, an ebullient, strawberry-blond naturalist at the nearby Yosemite Institute and a casual acquaintance of Kidd’s, had been planning to spend the weekend visiting friends in Sausalito. Armstrong had never shown up, and her friends feared something had happened to her.