Arrest made after mountain lions found eating human remains

A man has been arrested on suspicion of stealing a vehicle belonging to a missing Oklahoma man and the arrested man is a “person of interest” in connection with human remains found along an Arizona hiking trail, authorities said.  Daylan Jacob Thornton, 21, was arrested Friday night on suspicion of auto theft involving a vehicle belonging to Steven Mark Brashear,  the Pima County Sheriff’s Department said in a statement.

The identity of the person whose remains were found Tuesday in Pima Canyon in the Coronado National Forest outside Tucson hasn’t been established, the department said. An autopsy didn’t immediately establish a cause of death.

Brashear was reported missing to Oro Valley Police in December, CBS affiliate KOLD-TV reports.

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Three mountain lions were found feeding on the remains but officials say they don’t believe the animals killed the person. Arizona Game and Fish Department officers killed the mountain lions after they were determined to be a danger to the public because they showed no fear of officers trying to remove the remains.

“We thought the risk was too great and we had to take action,” said Mark Hart with the Arizona Game and Fish Department. “Mountain lions are not routinely scavengers. Mountain lions prefer live prey and they’re very good at killing live prey. And there’s abundant javalina and deer in the Catalina foothills so why it happened in this case, we’re just not sure.”

Daylan Jacob Thornton Pima County Sheriff’s Department

While saying Thornton was a person of interest in the investigation into the remains, the Sheriff’s Department’s statement said the investigation “is in the early stages and more information will be released as it becomes available.”

Court records don’t list an attorney for Thornton who could comment on the allegations.

Police in Oro Valley, a Tucson suburb, said last month they were helping police in Bartlesville, Oklahoma, conduct a missing person investigation for Brashear.

The Oro Valley Police Department said in a Dec. 27 statement that Brashear, 66, reportedly left Bartlesville on Dec. 7 with another man in a gray Audi SUV with Oklahoma temporary plates and that Brashear may have arrived in the Tucson area on the afternoon of Dec. 8.

According to the Oro Valley police statement, Brashear reportedly went to a restaurant and was “picked up in another vehicle by an unknown person and that he has not been seen or heard from since.”

Brashear’s cellphone subsequently was pinged and reported to be in the Oro Valley area but a search for Brashear and his phone were unsuccessful, the police statement said. 

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