Deputies Find Murder Suspect Living in Missing Man’s Home, Bones in Fire Pit

Arizona deputies conducting a welfare check in April on a man who hadn’t picked up his mail in more than a year found another man living on the property and human remains in a fire pit.

Yavapai County deputies came to 67-year-old John McCabe’s home initially on April 7 after the post office in Ashfork reported that his mail was stacking up. They found Terry Welfenberg, 76, living in the home. Welfenberg told them McCabe left about two years ago and admitted breaking into his home and stealing some firearms.

He also said he’d been living there for some time, deputies said.

“Due to the suspicious circumstances, including no sign of the victim himself and some odd behavior displayed by Mr. Welfenberg, deputies left and contacted YCSO detectives in the Criminal Investigations Bureau (CIB) for their assistance,” the sheriff’s office said.

When the criminal investigation detectives weren’t able to determine that McCabe was alive and living somewhere else, deputies obtained search warrants and charged Welfenberg with the crimes he admitted to: burglary and theft of firearms.

Searchers first found a skull fragment in a fire pit near the trailer and then several other bones, which forensic testing agencies — three of them — determined were human. Two days later, a second search uncovered a medical ID bracelet belonging to McCabe and his wallet, along with more bone fragments in the fire pit.

“What could have been a simple welfare check on a man who may have simply left the area, was only discovered to be something far more nefarious because of the instincts of the responding deputies and the tenacity of the CIB detectives” said Sheriff David Rhodes. “Now a suspected murderer is in custody and there can be justice for a man whose tragic death may never have been discovered.”

It’s not clear if the remains have been positively identified as McCabe’s but the sheriff’s office said that homicide charges against Welfenberg are pending.

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[Featured image: Yavapai County Sheriff’s Office. Inset image: Terry Welfenberg]