Ex-aide to Pete Wilson went for walk — and vanished

Sacramento BeeAugust 13, 2011 

SACRAMENTO — The disappearance of a former political appointee and aide to Republican Gov. Pete Wilson has rattled friends and former colleagues from the Capitol.

Martin Dyer, who vanished the evening of July 30, was last seen going for a walk after dinner at a friend's encampment on Henthorne Lake in rural southeastern Trinity County.

An extensive search effort conducted by local law enforcement produced no leads, friends said, leaving them looking for answers about what happened to the longtime GOP aide and appointee, who was in his late 60s.

"God, I hope he's all right," the former governor said in an interview. "This disappearance has everybody sick."

Wilson, who has known Dyer for four decades, said the "inexplicable" disappearance was completely out of character.

"I am worried to death," he said. "It just doesn't make sense."

At the time of his disappearance, Dyer was staying at the lake with friend Richard Wilson, with whom he worked in the Pete Wilson administration, after attending a family wedding in Southern California.

Richard Wilson said Dyer departed for a walk around the lake around 7:45 p.m. when it was still light. When Dyer didn't return, he went searching for him, first on foot then driving to a higher elevation to look down over the lake. At one point, he said he believed he heard someone yell "tomorrow" in response to his calls, but could not determine where exactly the noise was coming from in the dark of night. In the morning, when Dyer had still not been located, he drove 10 miles to the nearest land line and called the authorities.

The only sign that turned up after an intensive, days-long search effort that included helicopters and dogs was a watch and several cigarette butts thought to be left by the heavy smoker, Richard Wilson said. Law enforcement officials in Mendocino and Trinity counties who helped orchestrate the search could not immediately be reached for comment Friday.

Richard Wilson said while Dyer was "the kind of guy who could get lost in his house on occasion, his sense of direction was just not good," he had been to the site before and had been working around the lake road earlier that day.

"The worst part of this is not knowing anything," he said. "He went away and walked around the lake and walked into the wilderness, and that is the last we saw of Martin Dyer."

Dyer began his career in politics as an aide to former Republican Gov. Ronald Reagan in the late 1960s and spent roughly a decade working for several GOP Assembly members, including Wilson, and the Assembly Republican Caucus. He served on Wilson's gubernatorial transition team and held several posts during that administration, including head of the Bureau of Automotive Repair and chief deputy of the Department of Parks and Recreation. Wilson later appointed him to the Public Employee Relations Board.

Dyer maintained a home in Sacramento but had taken to spending much of his time in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, where he would relax, play bridge and scuba dive, according to his friend Richard Stapler.

Stapler, a former Democratic consultant who now works for the Natural Resources Agency, said it has been especially difficult "to not have some sort of answers" about what happened to his longtime friend and mentor.

"He was something as a father figure to me ,and even though he and I are politically on the other side of the aisle, I learned a tremendous amount from him," he said, adding: "My life was much better for it."

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