In search for missing Cody woman, authorities find blood in ex's vehicle
November 16, 2023
Via Wyoming News Exchange
POWELL — Authorities investigating the disappearance of a Cody woman found dried blood and an apparent bullet hole in the vehicle she was last seen traveling in, court records say.
The SUV is owned by Katie Ferguson’s ex-boyfriend, Adam Aviles Jr., who was arrested last week amid the investigation. Aviles is facing a federal charge that alleges he illegally possessed ammunition, but the 26-year-old has not been charged in connection with Ferguson’s disappearance.
Ferguson was last seen in early October, as she began heading back to Wyoming from Alabama with Aviles and their two children. Aviles and the kids made it back to Cody with his vehicle, but Ferguson did not.
Ferguson’s mother contacted Cody police on Nov. 2 to report her as missing, and court records say it kicked off an extensive investigation by local, state and federal agencies.
Investigators later found Aviles’ SUV in a remote area south of Cody, with a “large quantity” of dried blood inside; the passenger seat — which Ferguson reportedly rode in during the trip from Alabama — had been removed, as had blood stained trim, charging documents say.
The Park County Sheriff’s Office arrested Aviles on Nov. 8 on misdemeanor charges that alleged he possessed a small amount of meth and stole his father’s vehicle.
However, the Park County Attorney’s Office dismissed the counts Monday to allow federal prosecutors to take over the case. The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Wyoming has charged Aviles with a felony count of possessing ammunition despite a prior felony conviction — specifically, for possessing a felony amount of heroin in Cody in 2016.
The federal charge relates to a fully loaded magazine for a .45 caliber Glock that authorities found in Aviles’ SUV last week, with charging documents alleging some blood was found on the back of the piece of the equipment.
Federal prosecutors are asking a judge to detain Aviles while the case is pending, alleging in part that there’s a serious risk he’ll flee and that it qualifies as a “crime of violence.”
Assistant U.S. Attorney Paige Hammer also contends there are no conditions of release that would reasonably assure the safety of the community.
On Tuesday, Aviles was transferred from the Park County Detention Center in Cody to the Big Horn County Detention Center in Basin, which has a contract to hold inmates for the federal government.
The pending charge against Aviles is supported by an affidavit from Luke Williamson, a Lander-based special agent with the FBI who summarized various agencies’ efforts.
Ferguson’s mother told Cody police that her daughter had relapsed into drug use and had called Aviles for help, according to Williamson’s third-hand summary of the account. After spending several weeks together in Alabama, the affidavit says Ferguson, Aviles and their two young children headed back to Wyoming.
But Ferguson went missing along the way.
The affidavit indicates Aviles later told Ferguson’s family that she left to go get drugs near Little Rock, Arkansas, and never returned.
However, when Cody Police Sgt. Josh Van Auken spoke with Aviles on Nov. 2, he told the sergeant that Ferguson “was not missing” and simply didn’t want to speak with her mother, the affidavit says.
At the time he spoke with Van Auken, Aviles was working on his 1999 Dodge Durango. Just two days later, on Nov. 4, a citizen reported the SUV appeared to have been abandoned in the Oregon Basin area south of Cody. Deputies responded, but couldn’t see inside the vehicle, as trash bags were blocking out the windows, the affidavit says.
“Due to [Ferguson] being listed as a missing person and her connection to Adam Aviles Jr., along with the suspicious condition and location of the vehicle, deputies broke a window to make sure no one was in the vehicle who may need medical attention,” Williamson wrote.
Once they opened the Durango, Sheriff Darrell Steward reported smelling “putrefied blood.” The deputies also spotted multiple Clorox wipes and a blood-stained piece of trim in a trash bag in the back.
The front passenger seat was gone and a fully loaded magazine was near the center console. Deputies also saw a hole in the front passenger door that they suspected to have come from a bullet.
The metal was bent out — indicating a round had passed from the inside of the vehicle to the outside — and had been covered up with duct tape, according to the affidavit.
Aviles arrived with a gas can while the deputies were at the scene, the affidavit says; he reportedly explained that he’d run out of fuel and was there to refill the tank.
Authorities instead towed the Durango back to the Cody Law Enforcement Center and later got a warrant to search the vehicle. Inside, they reportedly found various blood-stained items, cleaning supplies, tools and what appeared to be three rounds fired from a .45 caliber weapon. Two of the rounds were inside the front passenger door, and one was in a passenger side pillar.
“The recovered Glock magazine was loaded with rounds similar to the recovered projectiles,” Williamson added.
While authorities did not find a gun in their searches, Aviles’ father reportedly told police he’d recently seen Aviles with a large caliber handgun, which the agent said would be consistent with a Glock 21.
Piecing together evidence
Sheriff’s Investigator Clay Creel also worked with Wyoming Division of Criminal Investigation Special Agent Shane Reese to try piecing together Aviles’ trip from Alabama back to Wyoming.
Creel learned that a police camera in Trumann, Arkansas, had captured an image of Aviles and Ferguson on Oct. 5; he was driving and she was in the passenger seat, the affidavit says, with no hole in the passenger side door.
However, when a trooper with the Texas State Patrol saw the Durango on Oct. 9, Ferguson was not in the vehicle and “a large quantity of clothing was covering the passenger seat,” Williamson wrote; additionally, the suspected bullet hole was visible on the passenger door, covered by tape.
The Durango was captured on police video again in Colorado on Oct. 11, and Aviles was the only adult inside.
The FBI interviewed Aviles and Ferguson’s 4-year-old about the trip last week, and Williamson said the child “made a statement about her father accidentally hurting her mother.”
However, the agent added that, “It is uncertain as to the timeframe [the child] may have been referring to.”
Aviles turned himself in to the sheriff’s office on the afternoon of Nov. 8 but declined to speak without an attorney, court records say.
Ferguson’s family members have asked anyone with information about the case to contact law enforcement — and they’ve pledged to continue looking for Ferguson until she is found.
Aviles’ initial court date had not been set as of Tuesday afternoon.
This story was published on November 16, 2023.