State Police think 26-year-old committed suicide; family suspects homicide.
9:50am 1/7/08 UPDATE: The New Mexico State Police have ruled the death of 26-year-old Arsalan Serajian a suicide, according to a news release sent out by State Police this weekend.
According to the release, on Dec. 19, a hiker about half-way up Woody's Trail found a cut-up piece of a driver's license, with the letters "jian" visible, and turned it into the park ranger's office.
State Police Agent Carl Christiansen and Park Ranger Steve Riley began searching the area, and around 10:30 a.m. Dec. 21, found the body of Serajian — who had been reported missing since last October — in a steep snow-covered canyon off the trail, the release said.
Found next to the body were Serajian's backpack, two sawed-off shotguns and a pistol, according to the release.
State Police said it was evident that Serajian had suffered a shotgun wound and his body had been in at that location for some time.
There were no other apparent injuries or signs of foul play, and investigators determined that the firearms had been purchased by Serajian, the release said.
The body of 26-year-old Arsalan Serajian, who disappeared months ago in the Gila wilderness, has been found in a cave, was found Dec. 21 with a fatal gunshot wound in the head, police told the Boulder (Colo.) Daily Camera on Thursday.
Serajian was last seen Oct. 7 on a hotel security camera in Truth or Consequences, and his 2004 silver Infiniti was found later that month in the parking lot of the Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument, according to earlier reports.
While autopsy results are pending and there is no official ruling as to the manner of death, New Mexico State Police Lt. Rick Anglada said, "It looked like an apparent suicide," the Daily Camera reported.
But Serajian's family and friends think otherwise, the paper said.
"It was murder," said Serajian's mother, Dr. Ghazala Roopani. "I really think that Arsalan probably gave a ride to some people in Truth or Consequences."
Roopani told the Daily Camera that her son had just taken $4,000 from his bank account and had purchased new camping equipment and hiking boots before he disappeared.
Serajian's family also said that the day after he was seen at the TorC motel, his credit card was used at a McDonald's restaurant to buy two quarter-pound hamburgers with cheese — food they say he never eats, according to the Daily Camera.
Geneva Z. Bailey, a good friend of Serajian's from Boulder, Colo., said her friend wouldn't have killed himself, the paper said.
"The local police tried to say it was a suicide," Bailey told the paper. "But there are too many weird circumstances."
Bailey also told the paper that Serajian had bought property the week before he left on his trip, had gotten a haircut and bought hiking boots the day before he left.
"People who plan to commit suicide don't do that," Bailey said.
After Serajian was officially declared missing on Oct. 28, rescue groups, police, dogs, horses, helicopters and volunteers — including friends from Boulder — scoured the wilderness, the Daily Camera reported.
Serajian's body was eventually found about a half-mile off a trail after a hiker found a tiny piece of his driver's license, which his mother said looked like it had been cut, the paper said.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation is looking into the case because the death took place on federal land, the Daily Camera said.
Serajian was buried Christmas Day in his family's hometown of Pikeville, Ky., the paper reported.
8:40am 11/28/07 — Family Fears Foul Play: Strange evidence found in car parked last month at Gila Cliff Dwellings monument.
The family of 26-year-old Arsalan Serajian, who has been missing in the Gila Wilderness since mid-October, has tried everything to find the missing college student, including using psychics, but fears he was the victim of foul play, the Silver City Sun-News reported.
Serajian, a naturalized citizen of Iranian and Pakistani descent and a resident of Kentucky, was last seen on a Motel 6 security camera in Truth or Consequences on Oct. 7 and may have been seen leaving his 2004 silver Infiniti carrying a backpack at the Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument parking lot on Oct. 14, according to the Sun-News and earlier reports.
State Police Officer James Dean told the Sun-News there is little indication of what happened next to Serajian, who was officially declared missing on Oct. 28.
Mac Roopani, Serajian's stepfather, told the Sun-News his stepson was an avid hiker but had never spent more than a few days camping out.
Roopani said Serajian last contacted the family in late September or early October and was usually in touch about once a month, the paper said.
Serajian had been attending college in Boulder, Colo., and was supposed to begin school in Santa Barbara, Calif., this fall to work on a master's degree in computer science, and while he registered for summer classes, he didn't show up, his stepfather told the Sun-News.
Adding to the mystery of Serajian's disappearance, the Sun-News reported, was what was found — and not found — in his car, which was first noticed in the parking lot of the Gila Cliff Dwellings visitors center on Oct. 12.
Steve Riley, supervisor at the monument, said Serajian's car may have been parked in the lot at least two weeks before it was noticed by staff members, the Sun-News said.
Staff members noticed that the car's license plate was missing and found the car was unlocked with the car keys on the floorboard, and that's when they called in law enforcement, Riley said.
State Police Officer James Dean said that in addition to the missing plate, the car window's VIN number had been covered up with a kind of putty and a second VIN number inside the car had been scratched out, the Sun-News said.
A search of the car also turned up a box for an AR-15 rifle that Serajian may have purchased shortly before he disappeared, Dean told the paper.
But Roopani told the paper his stepson never liked guns and the family never knew him to own one.
An empty beer box and an empty cigarette pack found inside the car also were uncharacteristic of his stepson, Roopani told the Sun-News.
"He doesn't smoke or drink," Roopani said.
Dean said that while there is no evidence that suggests foul play, the Federal Bureau of Investigation has gotten involved in the case, the Sun-News said.
Dean also told the paper that detectives were trying to determine whether Serajian was involved with radical groups, although he said there was no evidence that he was.
Several searches of the area have been conducted, including one with dogs, but all were done weeks after Serajian first went missing, Dean told the Sun-News.
A company that uses unmanned drones to photograph areas where people have gone missing is expected to show up some time this week, Dean said.
And a Grant County resident, Jo Remondini, who spent 40 days searching for a woman who was missing in the Gila Wilderness earlier this year, told the Sun-News she has been looking for Serajian herself.
"I feel bad for the parents who live out-of-state and don't know how to find their way around to help their children," Remondini told the paper. "I try to help them any way I can."
Anyone with information in this case is urged to contact New Mexico State Police at (575) 388-3977.
8:25am 11/5/07 — Oregon Man Missing in Southern N.M.: 25-year-old last seen in TorC Oct. 7; car found in Gila Cliff Dwellings parking lot.
State Police Search and Rescue on Sunday went looking for 25-year-old Arsalan Serajian, a resident of Portland, Ore., in the area of the Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument, who was last seen at the Super 8 Motel in Truth or Consequences on Oct. 7, according to a State Police news release.
Serajian's 2004 silver Infiniti four-door sedan was found in the Gila Cliff Dwellings visitor center parking lot and had been there approximately three weeks, according to the release.
A search and rescue team searched the area on Sunday without finding any trace of Serajian and has suspended the search, State Police Lt. Rick Anglada told ABQjournal.com this morning.
Serajian, who is of Iranian descent, is 5 feet 10 inches tall, weighs 130 pounds and has a small build, according to the news release.
Anyone with information is asked to call his father at (606) 477-6217 or the New Mexico State Police District 4 office in Las Cruces at (575) 827-9309.