Sister of Missing Rawlins Man Seeks the Public’s Help in Finding Her Brother
Nearly 40 years later, Rocky Najera’s case gets new scrutiny
- Published In: Other News & Features
- Last Updated: Sep 10, 2023
Rocky Najera was only 20 when he disappeared in 1985, and to date, there is no information on what might have happened to him. (Courtesy photo from Michelle Jacobsen)
By Jennifer Kocher
Special to the Wyoming Truth
It’s been 38 years since Michelle Jacobsen last saw her older brother, Rocky Najera. He disappeared without a trace in June 1985 when he was 20 years old. Since then, the family has had no communication with him. Nor do they have any clue as to what might have happened to him.
Despite the decades that have passed, Jacobsen, now a 53-year-old mother of two boys and restaurant manager living in Casper, has hope that her brother could be found. A recent push on social media by the nonprofit, Missing People of Wyoming, to find Najera has reignited search efforts.
Executive Director Desirée Tinoco, who runs the group, believes social media can help to generate new leads and update information in cold cases like Najera’s that have inconsistencies in how they were originally reported. Najera was misidentified as “Caucasian,” not Hispanic; Jacobsen is in the process of trying to correct that with the Carbon County Sheriff’s Office, the investigating agency.
With nearly 28,000 members on the Missing People of Wyoming Facebook page, Tinoco believes the group’s platform offers an additional resource for generating information for unsolved cases.
Najera is one of 82 persons missing in the state dating back to 1974, according to the Wyoming Division of Criminal Investigation’s database.
Since posting about Najera’s disappearance on July 16, Jacobsen and other family members have already received tips about his associates at the time who may have been involved in his disappearance. Jacobsen has since passed this information on to the Carbon County Sheriff’s Office.
Sheriff Alex Bakken did not respond to multiple requests for an update on Najera’s case.
“Someone out there might have vital information,” Jacobsen said. “We just want some kind of resolution.”
Jacobsen made it clear that her brother was no angel and had a knack for getting in trouble, starting in his early teens. He also struggled with alcohol abuse, which led to skirmishes with law enforcement.
That said, Jacobsen noted, her brother seemed to be doing well at the time he disappeared. He had just moved from the family’s home in Rawlins to Cheyenne, where he worked at a Holiday Inn restaurant and lived with friends in a trailer on Fox Farm Road, within walking distance to work as he didn’t have a vehicle.
Najera was last physically seen by his parents during a trip home from Cheyenne in early June 1985, which resulted in an arrest by the Rawlins Police on June 2, one day before his 20th birthday, for malicious mischief and disobeying an officer.
Najera pleaded guilty to both charges and spent five days in the Carbon County Jail, according to the police report. He saw his parents on his way back to Cheyenne.
Approximately a month later, Jacobsen and her parents went to visit Najera in Cheyenne. They stopped by his work to find he wasn’t on shift that day. Afterwards, they went to his trailer, where they learned from a neighbor next door that Najera and his roommates had packed up everything and left in the middle of the night.
Jacobsen is certain her brother wouldn’t have moved away without contacting her family. “He would have gotten in touch with us,” she said. “He always did.”
Despite Najera’s knack for “finding trouble,” Jacobsen said her older brother was a good son.
Jacobsen distinctly remembers the last time she saw him, which was months before he vanished. She and her little sister, Jeanne, who has since passed away, were in the back yard of their two-bedroom home in Rawlins when they saw Najera — his face badly bruised and blooded — being helped down the alley by his best friend.
Najera had been in a fight at a local bar and asked his sisters to bring him clean clothes, Jacobsen said. The two girls began crying at the sight of their brother, but they handed him freshly washed clothes off the clothesline. He told them not to tell their parents.
“He was talking, but he wasn’t coherent,” recalled Jacobsen, who was 14 at the time. She watched as he disappeared into a car with his friends, intending to find the guys who had beaten him up.
The girls continued crying so loudly that their father came outside to find out what was going on. They told him, and he went out in his vehicle to search for Najera, but couldn’t locate him.
“That was it,” Jacobsen said. “It was such a small memory.”
Jacobsen doesn’t believe the incident was related to Najera’s disappearance, however, as it happened before he moved to Cheyenne.
Najera is one of five children in their tight-knit family, and Jacobsen said he doted on their mother. He would make tortillas and finish his chores before going out with friends. During the summer, the family went fishing, and Najera liked to sleep on the porch. Later, he turned an outside shed into his bedroom—a fort, of sorts, where he entertained friends, Jacobsen said.
“He was my mother’s favorite son,” she said. “He could do bad things and get away with it. She just loved him.”
Her mother still cries for Najera to this day, Jacobsen said. For the most part, she believes he’s likely deceased, but still worries he might be suffering somewhere.
“She has a hole in her heart,” Jacobsen said. “She just wants closure.”
To date, there have been no solid leads or answers, Jacobsen said. Last year, the family was notified by the coroner in Rawlins about bones that had been found. Her sister provided DNA, but it did not match the unknown remains.
Rocky is described as a Hispanic man who is approximately five-feet, six-inches tall with brown eyes, brown hair and a mole near his right eye. Anyone with information is asked to contact the Carbon County Sheriff’s Office at (307) 324-2776 or the Wyoming Department of Criminal Investigation at (307) 777-7181.