Mother of missing treasure hunter holds onto hope

posted by Dan Boniface written by Cheryl Preheim
PHOENIX - Searchers this weekend were scouring the rugged mountains east of Phoenix looking for a missing Denver man.

Thirty-five-year-old Jesse Capen was on a mission to find the fabled Lost Dutchman Gold Mine. That mission was supposed to bring him home weeks ago. There is no sign of him, but his mom isn't giving up hope

"It's a legend," Capen's mother, Cynthia Burnett said.

It's a treasure hunt that could make any adventurer head for these hills. And for Capen, that adventure was as much a lure as the gold fabled to be hidden just below the surface.

"It's gotten a lot of people obsessed, yeah," Burnett said.

Somewhere in the bleak landscape of the Superstition Mountains near Phoenix hides the Lost Dutchman Gold Mine. Real or not -- no one really knows for sure.

Yet, Capen's mom says her son mapped a plan to find it.

"He never really talked about it a lot," she said.

Burnett says her son began his search in late November. He was suppose to be home before Christmas.

'"I knew when he was going and when he was due back but he didn't tell me the detailed information, maybe that was to protect a mother," she said.

And in a landscape that keeps its secrets, there's no sign of Capen anywhere.

"There were no footprints. There was no scent for dogs, which could have easily been washed away by the weather," Burnett said.

But, while this Denver adventurer may be lost, his mom has hope he'll be found.

"A mother can hold out hope for her child until she has a body to cremate or bury, or has scientific evidence through DNA, and until a mother has that she always has hope," she said.

The Maricopa County Sheriff's Office has been organizing searches for Capen since Dec. 20.

That's when hikers found his Jeep, wallet, backpack and cell phone -- along with food and a sleeping bag in a tent nearby.

About 100 people, dogs and helicopters searched for Capen this weekend.

His mom describes him as a gentle giant, about 6-foot, 4-inches tall, and more than 200 pounds.

Capen had been working as a bellhop at a downtown Denver hotel for the last 11 years.
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