Family mourns after Mary Black found dead, still has questions in case

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Family mourns after Mary Black found dead, still has questions in case

By Rikki Mitchell. CREATED Dec 8, 2013

TOMBSTONE, Ariz. (KGUN9-TV) -  Mary Black was a go-getter, a perfectionist and her years of working on a ranch made her one tough gal.

"It was nothing to see Mary driving her tractor up and down the main street of St. David to go from one pasture to the next," says family friend Lisa O'Brian.

Her family calls her a pioneer and says she passed on her years of rodeo experience to younger generations.

"Mom made the difference and those kids all have successful lives because of all the opportunities that my mom and dad were involved in," says Mary Black's daughter Mary Ann Black.

The family says the entire county knew Mary as a leader.

Cochise County Sheriff Mark Dannels said in a statement that "Our thoughts and prayers are with the family during this time of extraordinary sorrow..." and that Mary Black was "a woman who has been a beacon for so many people in our county."

And the family says all of those people were ready and willing to help find her.

"You'd of had 100 horses out there and 100 people looking for her if they'd let us do that," said O'Brian.

Mary Black left her St. David home on November 24, with no food, water or money. Six days later, a hunter found her abandoned Ford Explorer near Arizona City.

It took search and rescue teams another week to find her body in a brushy area about a mile from her vehicle.

While the family still mourns, they're also asking questions about the search effort. They say law enforcement wasted time.

"It became quite evident that there's a serious lack of communication and cooperation between the law agencies," said Mary Ann Black.

According to the family, law enforcement told them they had certain leads showing Mary Black headed northwest toward Picacho right away, including a 911 call the day she went missing and a law enforcement agency spotting her vehicle earlier in the week. But 9 On Your Side has not yet confirmed these leads with authorities.

"If we had gotten those leads right away, and been able to act on them, we would have got Mom," said Mary Ann Black.

The family says they do not suspect foul play and have no doubt in their mind that their mother could have handled driving through those dirt roads.

Search and rescue teams found a set of footprints leading from her vehicle, but can not say yet whether they belonged to Mary.

"There are still some other questions that need to be answered," said Sgt. Jason Dowdy, search and rescue supervisor for the Pima County Sheriff's Department.

The Cochise County Sheriff's Office is handling the investigation and the Pima County Medical Examiner will perform the autopsy.

But as far as the family is concerned, they just want something to change so this never happens again.

"It should never happen to another family," said O'Brian. "To go through what we've gone through."

Rikki Mitchell

Rikki Mitchell

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Rikki Mitchell is a proud University of Arizona grad and joined the KGUN9 team after graduation. Rikki reports for the evening newscasts.