Arizona deputies uncover murder mystery while making welfare check

May 5, 2023, 4:00 PM

(Terry Welfenberg - Yavapai Sheriff's Office Photo) (Yavapai Sheriff's Office Photo) (Yavapai Sheriff's Office Photo)

PHOENIX — A man in his 70s was arrested last month after a welfare check turned into a mystery case in rural Arizona.

It all started April 7 when the post office in Ash Fork, a small community about 60 miles east of Flagstaff, told the Yavapai County Sheriff’s Office that an area resident hadn’t picked up his mail in over a year.

Deputies to went to check on 67-year-old John McCabe and found 76-year-old Terry Welfenberg living at McCabe’s property in Juniper Woods, YCSO said in a press release and on social media Friday.

Welfenberg told deputies that McCabe left about two years ago, but he couldn’t say exactly when. Welfenberg also allegedly acknowledged that he broke into the home, stole some firearms and started living there, YCSO said.

YCSO arrested Welfenberg on counts of burglary and firearm theft and searched the property.

During the search, a volunteer noticed what appeared to be a skull fragment in a fire pit.

Detectives obtained a search warrant and found several other bones that were later determined to be human.

Two days later, another search uncovered McCabe’s medical ID bracelet, his wallet and more bone fragments.

Possible homicide charges are now pending against Welfenberg, YCSO said.

“What could have been a simple welfare check on a man who may have simply left the area was only discovered to be something far more nefarious because of the instincts of the responding deputies and the tenacity of the CIB detectives” Sheriff David Rhodes, referring to the agency’s Criminal Investigations Bureau, said in the release.

“Now a suspected murderer is in custody, and there can be justice for a man whose tragic death may never have been discovered.”

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Arizona deputies uncover murder mystery while making welfare check