$10K reward offered for information that leads to whereabouts of missing California campground owner

UPDATE: The Tuolumne County sheriff’s office released a statement on Thursday, September 2 saying their investigation into the case of missing California man John Stivers, “revealed facts that eliminate suspicion of foul play, or criminal activity.”

The statement went on to say that “out respect for the Stivers family and the privacy of John Stivers,” the sheriff’s office would not be releasing any further information.

Two days later the sheriff’s office announced on Facebook that they had made contact with John and that "information related to the contact would remain confidential."

Original story:

A week ago today, John Stivers and his family were preparing for a camping trip to Tahoe. But when the well-liked campground owner vanished while out running errands, his family has instead spent every day since searching for him, with friends, and pleading for his safe return.

“John is one of the kindest, most loving people in the world,” his wife of 17 years, Michele, told Dateline. “No matter how busy he is, he will always stop to help someone else.”

The 52-year-old husband and father to a 14-year-old daughter, was last seen at the family home in Copperopolis, California on August 2, 2021. Michele said she had made lunch for everybody as they talked about their plans for the day and their upcoming camping trip - a trip, Michele added, that was her husband’s idea.

The couple owns Lake Tulloch Campground and Marina in nearby Jamestown, California. After lunch, John told Michele his plans to stop by the bank in Sonora, California, and then to work at the campground before returning home for the evening.

Around 2 p.m. that day, Michele said she got a call from John.

“He called and told me about a golf cart being left down at the clubhouse, and then said he was going to bring the RV home that night for our camping trip,” Michele said. “And that was the last time I talked to him.”

When John didn’t return home that evening, Michele began to worry. She told Dateline she knows he made it to the bank to deposit money for the business but after making calls to the campground and speaking with the employees, she realized he never showed up for work.

By 9:30 p.m. Michele said she had called and texted his cell phone numerous times, but it remained off. She then called the Tuolumne County Sheriff’s Office and reported him missing.

That same evening, sheriff’s deputies located John’s 2013 white Chevrolet Express 15-passenger van parked alongside Campo Seco Road in Jamestown, according to a release issued by the sheriff’s office the next day, but John was not with the vehicle. The area where the van was found was on a road John might have taken to get to the campground from the bank in Sonora.

John's 2013 white Chevrolet Express 15-passenger van was found parked alongside Campo Seco Road in Jamestown, Calif.
John's 2013 white Chevrolet Express 15-passenger van was found parked alongside Campo Seco Road in Jamestown, Calif.

In the days since John’s disappearance, several searches have been conducted in the surrounding area, both by law enforcement and community volunteers. A Facebook group “Find John Stivers” was created to track the searches and provide updates. The page reached nearly 2,000 members within a week.

“I can’t think of anyone who doesn’t love John,” his wife Michele told Dateline. “There’s no one I can think of who would want to hurt him.”

She added that she knows without a doubt her husband would never just walk away from his family, his campground or even his van.

“It just doesn’t make sense,” she said. “None of this makes sense at all.”

As the tight-knit community continues to conduct searches, post fliers and share updates on social media, Michele told Dateline she believes someone must know something about what happened to her husband that day.

“There’s a span of time that’s unaccounted for,” she said. “Between his call to me and his car being found. It was the middle of the afternoon - someone had to have seen something. That’s what I’m looking for. Someone who saw something and who will come forward -- and the information will lead us to John. We just need him home safe.”

The Stivers family is offering a $10,000 reward for information that leads to John’s whereabouts.

John is described as being 6’2” tall, weighing about 215 lbs. He has salt and pepper hair and hazel eyes. At the time of his disappearance, he was wearing a bucket hat with a wide brim.

Anyone with information on John’s whereabouts is asked to call the Tuolumne County Sheriff’s Office 209-694-2900 or email tips to findjohnstivers@gmail.com.