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Professor uses news coverage of missing Mojave Desert woman as case study in class

Posted at 5:21 PM, Sep 24, 2019
and last updated 2019-09-24 21:17:34-04

LAS VEGAS (KTNV) — In July of 2019, Barbara Thomas and her husband were hiking in the Mojave Desert when he says she got ahead of him and that was the last time he saw her.

At the time, 13 Action News spoke with Bob Thomas about the search for his wife. Now, an anthropology professor at Oxnard College in Ventura, California is using that news coverage as a case study in her class.

RELATED: A 69-year-old woman went hiking in California with her husband last week and has not been seen since

Bob Thomas said he and 69-year-old Barbara Thomas were on a casual hike a few miles off of Kelbaker Road, just north of Interstate 40 in California. The couple, who live in Bullhead City, frequently explore and according to Bob this was not a strenuous activity.

He shared his account with 13 Action News, and now professor Linda LeValley Kama’ila, who said she has a fascination with missing persons cases, is showing the news story to her classes, having students analyze body language, facial expressions and emotions.

She says she first has them watch the coverage with no sound.

“I took them through it without any background and without any sound initially and I asked them really simple questions like how old do you think these people are, where would you say they’re from,” said Kama’ila.

Then she has them watch with the sound on.

Kama’ila says the students tend to point out how calm Bob Thomas is during the interview.

“He sort of breaks down but everybody notices there’s no real tears or real sobbing, so it just seemed really suspicious to most of the people in the class,” she says.

RELATED: Man says police believes he had something to do with wife's disappearance

Kama’ila says the overall feeling of sadness is noted.

“It could just be that he feels guilty, he lost his wife in the desert. It was his idea to go and now she’s missing and everyone is going to blame him, it doesn’t mean he actually did something to her,” says Kama’ila.

Investigators say they do not suspect suspicious activity at this time. That said, police say Bob is not a suspect but will remain part of the investigation because he was the last person to see her.

Anyone with information is urged to call the San Bernardino County Sheriff's Department's Colorado River Station at 760-326-9200 or Sheriff's Dispatch at 760-956-5001.