“At approximately 3 p.m. Thursday the Pima County Medical Examiner made a positive identification of the skeletal remains found in the desert near the intersection of Interstate 8 and Highway 84,” according to Michael Minter, Pinal County Sheriff’s Office Public Information Officer. “Dental records provided by the family and the Tempe Police Department were used to identify the body of Loretta Bowersock, 69, of Tempe. The cause of death was asphyxiation.”
A 5 p.m. Thursday press conference was held in Florence to provide the details of the investigation. “Following the closure of the Pinal County Sheriff’s Office investigation, the case will be turned over to the Tempe Police Department for their on-going investigation,” explained Minter.
Randall Johnson discovered the remains at about 4 p.m. Tuesday while walking in the desert (see Sheriff’s Log for 1/11). They were partially buried about one and a half miles southwest of the Vija Truckstop, located on Highway 84 near Stanfield.
Bowersock, the mother of Terri Bowersock of Terri’s Consign and Design Furnishings, went missing on December 14, 2004. Previously, the daughter had walked Interstate 8 near Stanfield Road, but that search as well as others turned up nothing, neither did flyers or reward money.
Taw Benderly, the elder Bowersock’s live-in companion of 18 years, was the main suspect in her disappearance. Police believe that the couple argued over the desperate state of their finances. However, Benderly hanged himself in their garage before sharing any details regarding the whereabouts of the missing Bowersock.