TUCSON, AZ (3TV/CBS5) -- Officials in Tucson have identified a man found dead on a hiking trail last month. The remains were discovered on Dec. 31, 2019, on the Pima Canyon Trail near First Avenue and Magee Road.
The victim has now been identified as 66-year-old Steven Mark Brashear of Bartlesville, Oklahoma. Brashear was last seen at a restaurant near the Tucson Mall on Dec. 7.
The Pima County Medical Examiner's Office says investigators have not yet determined how he died.
Mountain lions had fed on the body, making it difficult to identify the remains. An autopsy proved the mountain lions did not kill Brashear, but state officials say they had to put the lions down because they were a danger to the public. At the time, the Arizona Game and Fish Department tweeted: "AZGFD lethally removed three mountain lions from Pima Canyon overnight that fed on human remains found there Monday by Pima S.O. Rarely scavengers, such abnormal behavior made them them more likely to attack humans in the future. Repeatedly showed no fear of responding officers."
“Mountain lions are not routinely scavengers,” said Regional Supervisor Raul Vega of AZGFD in Tucson. “A mountain lion eating human remains is abnormal behavior. Those that do are more likely to attack a human being in the future. In addition, they did so 50 yards from a popular hiking trail and within sight of homes, and repeatedly showed no fear of responding officers. They were a clear and present danger to public safety.”
Earlier this month, a man was arrested in connection with the investigation into Brashear's death. Daylan Jacob Thornton, 21, was taken into custody on suspicion of auto theft involving a vehicle belonging to Brashear, the Pima County Sheriff's Department said in a statement.
Police say Thornton is also from Bartlesville, Oklahoma. It was his last residence since 2017. Police say Thornton went to the Oro Valley Police Department to ask about Brashear’s disappearance and to report his cellphone missing. He was reportedly driving Brashear’s vehicle when he went to speak with detectives.
Thornton allegedly admitted to taking Brashear’s SUV, but claimed Brashear had given it to him. Thornton allegedly provided information on Brashear's missing persons case that led detectives to believe that he was dead. Thornton also allegedly admitted to fleeing to California days after Brashear’s disappearance. Thornton was booked into the Pima County Adult Detention Center but was later released on bail.
The Criminal Investigations Division is continuing its investigation into Brashear's death. Anyone with information is asked to call 911. You can also submit an anonymous tip, with the potential for a reward, by text, phone, or by going to 88CRIME.org