A Nebraska 18-year-old who celebrated his high school graduation with a trip to Arizona has been found dead in a desert bonfire pile — in what authorities described as a “malicious” death.
Parker League’s body was discovered June 12 in the remote Bulldog Canyon, part of the Tonto National Forest, on the day he was supposed to fly back home after his trip to Tempe, KNXV reported.
The Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office called League’s death “malicious.”
The medical examiner is working to determine the cause of death.
“He was found in the pile burning,” said police spokesman Sgt. Joaquin Enriquez.
“He was visiting a friend. The investigation continues to determine whether, was this a family friend? Was this a close friend? Was this somebody he met? We don’t know,” Enriquez told KPNX.
League’s brother, Hunter League, 20, told KNXV he believes that Parker may have been targeted because of his expensive watch — and the family also said they found two unusual transactions involving his bank account.
“We basically found out that someone was using his debit card to get food and tried to pay their electric bill with it,” Hunter told the outlet.
“It’s hard to accept because he was the nicest kid in the world,” he said. “I got a call from my dad telling me to come home. I asked him ‘why’ about three times, and the third time he tried to explain it, he just started breaking down.”
The family said Parker flew to Arizona on June 9 and last messaged his brother the next day — two days before he was found dead.
Relatives said they didn’t find out about the grisly discovery at the time, so they filed a missing-persons report with Tempe police June 15 and eventually learned the grim truth, according to KNXV.
The Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office said no arrests have been made and that it has stepped up patrols in the area.
“I hate to hone in on this specific issue but, I mean, we’re dealing with homelessness. We’re dealing with just a remote area. We’re dealing with areas that can only be accessed by 4-by-4 vehicles,” Enriquez told the outlet.
The sergeant said investigators are working through possible leads but cautioned that some may turn out to be nothing.
“But we work every avenue, every angle, especially with a crime like this, in such a remote area,” he said.