‘Coyotes’ play into mystery of missing man
But mother, Tamaqua police differ on what his last words meant as they hope to find clue.
Just before Jesse Farber went missing three years ago near Tamaqua, police say, he made a frantic phone call to his girlfriend and told her that coyotes had chased him up a tree.
The 29-year-old’s report of coyotes still shapes the investigation into his disappearance, and a new search of the Schuylkill County coal hills may soon help clarify his cryptic words.
Police say they hope the planned large-scale examination of the mountain chasms and cliffs 4 or 5 miles west of
Tamaqua will begin to unravel the Jesse Farber mystery. The hunt by the WolfPack Search and Recovery Team of Orefield, and other searchers, may happen in December or January.
Police say Farber’s fate probably involves coyotes — the wild animals, whether real or imagined. However, the Tamaqua man’s mother believes he fell into the hands of Coyotes, a real or imagined local drug gang.
Neither police nor Farber’s mother, Norma Fritz of West Chester, have much hope he’s alive.
Police investigators say it’s possible that Farber imagined he saw coyotes in a drug-induced hallucination Aug. 11, 2015, before he ran and fell into one of hundreds of deep coal pits on the mountain.
“Our theory is that he was under the influence, thinking coyotes were chasing him, and he comes down from the tree, and he runs west, and he runs by all these stripping holes,” Tamaqua police Chief Henry Woods said.
But Fritz said police may be looking in the wrong direction. She said police should closely examine another theory: that her son was killed by a gang called the Coyotes.
“There’s been talk about a little drug gang, and lots of rumors that they killed him, that it wasn’t animals chasing him, it was a gang, the Coyotes,” she said. “There’s rumors that he was shot and put through a wood chipper. That’s the most horrendous rumor.”
Woods said police have heard the gang rumors, but they’ve found nothing to back them up. He said the most important items in evidence — Farber’s sweatpants and a bag containing personal items — indicate that Farber really did climb a tree near the mines the night he vanished. Farber’s grandparents, who went out to look.
“While they were standing there, the grandmother saw the bag tied up in the tree,” Woods said. “It was a little higher up the tree from where the sweatpants were.
“They got the bag down and they were able to identify it,” he said. “There was a pin in the bag, and it was a pin that the grandfather gave to Jesse.”
Finding the tree was significant, Woods said, because it helped police reconstruct Farber’s movements of Aug. 11, 2015.
A man reported that at 7:20 that night he saw Farber walking out of Tamaqua, heading south on the Scurves on Hunter Street that lead to a trail that goes west into the coal fields, Woods said. Farber phoned his girlfriend, Rachel Carroll, at 9:09 that night, the chief said.
The hour and 49 minutes between the Hunter Street sighting and Farber’s phone call is about the length of time it takes to walk from Hunter Street to the coal field tree, Woods said.
“This kind of jibes with what he said to the girlfriend the night he disappeared,” he said.
If Farber panicked and ran moments later, he added, he probably plunged down a deep hole in the dark.
“The holes are all around the path,” Woods said. “There’s no way you could run through there without falling into one of those holes, falling maybe 15 to 20 feet. In other spots, you could fall a considerable distance, hit a ledge and fall even farther. We recently found one hole that’s at least 140 feet deep.”
The chief noted that immediately after Farber was reported missing, emergency workers went to the mountain just west of Tamaqua High School because that’s where he told his girlfriend he was. A cellphone ping also indicated that Farber’s call came from west of Tamaqua, Woods said. But the search found no one.
“They went up behind the high school, yelling for him, and they didn’t hear anything,” Woods said. “Actually, they were nowhere close to where the bag was found in the tree. It was miles away.”
The tree was near the border of Walker and Schuylkill townships.
Jesse Farber of Tamaqua disappeared Aug. 11, 2015, after a call to his girlfriend to say he'd been chased up a tree by coyotes.