Terry Lee Arnold left Fort Huachuca on July 21, 1972. In the U.S. Army, he was going to make a stop to visit his parents in Kanab, Utah on July 22 or 23.
“He had just received a reassignment,” said Joe Sumner, volunteer for the Coconino County Sheriff’s Office cold case unit. “ He was going to be a recruiter in the Salt Lake City area.”
On July 23 or 24, his truck was spotted on the Bill Williams Lookout Road.
On July 27, his body was found 100 miles from his truck north of Cameron, near where the old produce inspection station had been. He’d been murdered.
“Multiple stab wounds was the cause of death,” Sumner said.
The cold case unit is currently trying to solve nearly 40 cold cases in the county like Arnold’s. Sumner, who retired from the National Park Service in 2007 as a criminal investigator, came onto the cold case unit in 2008.
During the course of the original investigation, county detectives discovered that Arnold had been in Flagstaff on July 21, the same day he left Sierra Vista, based on a gas-card receipt. But, there was also a receipt from July 19, and April 21, also in Flagstaff. Sumner said it is unknown why he was here the previous two visits.
When the truck was impounded on July 25 by the sheriff’s office, detectives found gay pornographic magazines in the truck. Arnold apparently lived a “closeted” homosexual life. Views on homosexuality in the 1970s were different in many respects than they are now. “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” didn’t even exist in the military back in 1972. The war in Vietnam was still going on. People who knew him in the Army denied knowing that Arnold was gay.
People at Fort Huachuca denied ever seeing any kind of magazines or material like the ones that were found in the truck at the time it was impounded. Whether or not Arnold’s homosexuality had any bearing on his death is unknown.
“We’re looking into it,” Sumner said.
As for other theories, Sumner added, “It’s hard to say.”
Several items, including a stereo and mechanic tools, were missing from the truck, according to witnesses.
It’s possible Arnold knew somebody in Flagstaff because he came through Flagstaff on a regular basis.
And the nature of the stab wounds suggests the possibility of a male attacker.
“Whoever did this was very strong,” Sumner said. “There was evidence from the stab wounds that it was a very strong person who did it based on the damage to the bones.”
The unit has other suspect information that Sumner said he did not think would be best to share at this time.
Most of the evidence in the case has been lost over the last 41 years.
“But there’s still latent fingerprints from the truck,” Sumner said, adding that the fingerprints have been compared to specific people, including one person who claimed (then recanted) to have driven Arnold’s truck from Cameron to the location near Williams. There have been no matches.
Also, there are some people listed in the investigative reports who are still alive in various parts of the country Sumner is interested in finding and interviewing.
“We want to see if people mentioned in the file are people he maybe knew and maybe came to visit,” Sumner said.
Plans are in the works to resubmit the fingerprints. Technological advances have grown with regard to fingerprint evidence and the database of fingerprints has grown as well.
“I bet there are some people still in town interviewed in this case about some of the suspects,” Sumner said. “And if they read about this, I’d like for them to give me a call.”
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 email@example.com.