‘I just want my wife back.’ But missing hiker’s husband says he’s a ‘prime suspect’

An Arizona man who says he last saw his bikini-clad wife Friday on a two-mile hike in the Mojave Desert begged for her return as search efforts expand, KTNV reported.

“I just want my wife back and if somebody out there has her, which I feel somebody does, please drop her off at a safe place where she can contact us and that’s it,” said Robert Thomas, according to the station.

But the Bullhead City man also says investigators have told him he’s a “prime suspect” because the two were alone in the desert and have accused him of being “deceptive” on a polygraph test, which he blames on lack of sleep, KCAL reported.

Thomas says he fears someone abducted Barbara Thomas, 69, as she crossed a road back to their vehicle after he stopped to take a photo, according to the station. He says he’s “absolutely not” involved in her disappearance.

“Someone picked her up because she was wearing a bikini,” Thomas said, KCAL reported. “She had a beer in her hand and she had to cross that road.”

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Sheriff’s officials in San Bernardino County, California, are focusing on the search for Barbara Thomas, who had no phone or other supplies on her when she vanished in triple-digit heat.

A sheriff’s office post Wednesday on Facebook said search efforts had expanded with the use of off-road vehicles in addition to helicopters and search dogs.

A video posted with the update shows searchers in the rugged desert terrain with dogs and a helicopter overhead.

Barbara Thomas was last seen about 2:30 p.m. Friday wearing a black bikini, a red baseball cap and tan hiking boots with black socks, sheriff’s officials say.

She’s described as being 5’9, 130 lbs., with blonde hair and green eyes. Robert and Barbara Thomas had been hiking in the Kelbaker/Hidden Hills area near Interstate 40, sheriff’s officials reported.

Temperatures in the area have topped 100 degrees all week, sheriff’s officials say.

The sheriff’s office asked that anyone with information contact the Colorado River Station at 760-326-9200 or sheriff’s dispatch at 760- 956-5001.

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Don Sweeney has been a newspaper reporter and editor in California for more than 25 years. He has been a real-time reporter based at The Sacramento Bee since 2016.