Julius Chee homicide (1966)

The crime scene in Camp Townsend in 1996 where the body of Julius Chee was found. (Coconino County Sheriff's Office)

Coconino County Sheriff's Office

On the July 4 weekend in 1966, 58-year-old Julius Chee was in Flagstaff celebrating the holiday at the annual Pow Wow.

Several people remembered seeing him in town drinking with friends.

On July 6, 1966, his body was found north of Camp Townsend. The cause of death was blunt-force trauma to the head.

Coconino County Sheriff’s Office investigators interviewed scores of people in trying to solve the Chee homicide. At the time, residents reported that a roaming group of Native Americans was picking fights with Navajos during the Pow Wow. The Pow Wow is no longer held in Flagstaff.

The homicide is still unsolved nearly 48 years later.

“It’s a sad case,” said Joe Sumner, volunteer for the Coconino County cold case unit. “There were a lot of limitations in this case.”

The cold case unit is currently trying to solve more than 40 cold and missing-person cases in the county like Chee’s. Sumner, who retired from the National Park Service in 2007 as a criminal investigator, came onto the cold case unit in 2008.

POW WOW DAYS

Chee was from either Gray Mountain or Cameron. His age is generally assumed to have been 58 when he died. Back then, Sumner said Native Americans infrequently had Social Security numbers and other identifying documentation.

“That may have been in other reports lost over the years,” Sumner said.

There were no admitted witnesses to the offense.

“If there were witnesses, they sure didn’t identify themselves at the time, so this is a very tough case,” Sumner said.

Chee and his family had been in town for -- what was then -- the annual Pow Wow, Sumner said.

According to the Flagstaff City - Coconino County Public Library, “ In 1930, the first Southwest All-Indian Pow Wow came to Flagstaff. This event, centered around the Fourth of July, featured rodeos, parades, authentic ceremonials, and the sale of arts and crafts. It quickly became an occasion for celebration and attracted members of tribes from all over America. It was Flagstaff's primary festival for many years, but the size of the crowds became unmanageable for Flagstaff residents. In 1980, Flagstaff decided to cancel the Pow Wow permanently.”

Chee had gone off drinking. His wife and a son did not drink and were involved in some of the Pow Wow activities, Sumner said.

LAST SEEN

Chee was last seen alive on the night of July 5, drinking with other men out at Camp Townsend where Highway 89 North and Route 66 connected. Sumner said county investigators did good work to track down the men Chee had been drinking with. They all stated that when they left him on July 5, Chee had been alive at the Starveout Trading Post.

Chee’s body was found by one of the people he drank with the night before. That person called authorities.

There is nothing in the sheriff’s office evidence archives from the case.

“These old cases,” Sumner said. “There’s no telling where it went if they found any evidence at the time.”

What are the next steps for the cold case unit?

“About all we can do is go back through the list of people who were in the area at the time and recontact them ... if they’re still alive,” Sumner said.

What’s it going to take to solve the Chee homicide?

“Either we find somebody, or somebody comes forward from the past who has some information,” Sumner said. “It’s going to take a lot of time and gasoline to drive out to these areas and a lot of people who could have been witness might not still be alive.”

If anybody has information about this case, contact the sheriff’s office cold case division at 774-4523, or visit the Facebook page.

Larry Hendricks can be reached at 556-2262 or lhendricks@azdailysun.com.

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