News Flash

Sheriff's Office

Posted on: April 28, 2021

Homicide Victim Located at Forest Service Road 776

For Immediate Release 

Contact: Jon Paxton

Phone: 928-226-5089 

Flagstaff, AZ –   On April 27th, 2021, the Coconino County Sheriff’s Office received information from Milwaukie Police Department in Oregon of a possible missing and endangered female traveling with a male subject last known to be in the Flagstaff area.  

Working with the Milwaukie Police Department, Sheriff’s Office detectives were able to ascertain a possible location where the couple may have been camping. The area indicated was Forest Service Road 776 off Highway 89, north of Fernwood.  Deputies responding to the area began contacting campers and handing out flyers of the male and female.  From the flyer, a camper recognized the female and identified a camping location where the female and male subject were last seen. In investigating the location, the body of a female was found deceased. The female victim has been identified as 38-year-old Melisa Rose Wheeler, of Oregon.

Wheeler was last known to be traveling with Benjamin Mota, a resident of Oregon, on vacation.  Mota returned to Oregon in the victim’s vehicle where he was taken into custody on unrelated charges. Evidence gathered during the initial investigation resulted in a 2nd Degree Homicide warrant for Mota’s arrest. Extradition efforts will be pursued. Mota is currently being held on a one-million-dollar cash bond. 

The Coconino County Sheriff’s Office would like to thank the Milwaukie Police Department, the Coconino County Attorney’s Office and the Coconino County Medical Examiner’s Office for their assistance and efforts during this investigation.

The investigation is ongoing by the Coconino County Sheriff’s Office and the Coconino County Medical Examiner’s Office. No other information is available at this time. 

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