CASA GRANDE — A missing Casa Grande man was recently declared legally dead by a Pinal County judge, even though his body had yet to be discovered.
Dennis K. Yu disappeared without a trace in November 2012, leaving behind a wife and many children.
His family suspected foul play due to how his wallet, car keys, and belongings weren’t taken from the family’s home. But police reports indicate the Casa Grande Police Department has not made any arrests in the last six years.
Meanwhile, the Yus were left in financial “limbo,” not having access to the missing man’s assets, according to Tom Asimou, an attorney representing the family.
On July 19, Yu’s wife, Rosaura, appeared in Pinal County Superior Court, seeking to have her husband declared deceased.
After hearing law enforcement officials testify, Judge Steven Fuller ordered the state’s health department to issue a death certificate for Yu, stating he had died on Nov. 24, 2012 under unknown circumstances.
Arizona law permits missing people to be declared legally dead if the subject has been gone for at least five years or if there’s clear and convincing evidence to suggest they’re dead.
If someone goes out to sea and their boat sinks, but their body’s never found, then that’s a scenario where a judge could easily declare someone legally dead.
But in Yu’s case, Asimou said he had to convince the judge Yu wouldn’t have abandoned his family unless something happened to him against his will. The lack of activity on his bank accounts and Social Security number since his disappearance helped their case, the attorney added.
According to police reports, the evidence initially recovered by investigators didn’t clearly explain what happened to Yu.
His wife awoke two days after Thanksgiving with her husband nowhere in sight. Yu, who was the manager of Panda Express, failed to show up for work later that day.
Coworkers told investigators that Yu was a “very nice person” and “could not imagine anyone mad at him.”
No one in the family reported seeing Yu on the morning he disappeared. His last known interaction was with his wife, who recalled waking up around midnight to her husband complaining about their front door being left unlocked.
His stepson forgot to lock the door when he went outside to smoke. The stepson told investigators he noticed Yu was “acting a little nervous” when he came back inside, then he went to bed, and woke up to everyone looking for Yu.
A search of Yu’s laptop didn’t turn up anything suspicious, according to police reports, and Yu didn’t have a cellular phone.
One of his family members mentioned somebody making threats against the family a few months before Yu vanished. This person was allegedly upset because one of Yu’s family members ratted them out to law enforcement for unrelated crimes.
Another family member reported a strange encounter Yu had shortly before his disappearance. Yu had attempted to buy some gift cards from a man he met through a Craigslist ad.
According to police reports, Yu met this man in Phoenix and was instructed to drive him around to various department stores. Yu told his family he thought this was strange so he left the man at a store and came home. The man later called the Yu residence, upset and angry that Yu abandoned him.
Investigators interviewed several people in the weeks following Yu’s disappearance. They searched the city landfill and many vacant homes in his neighborhood, but there was no sign of him.
Yu is currently one of 23 people from Pinal County who are listed in the National Missing and Unidentified Persons System, a database law enforcement agencies use to track missing people.
Another name on that list is Thomas Smith, who was last seen five years ago in a rural area around Maricopa. His wife said he left their house after an argument and never came back.
He left behind his wallet, car keys, and many of his daily medications.
Like Yu, Smith’s spouse went to court and had her husband declared legally dead in 2014. Despite her appearance coming before the five-year mark, the court determined there was convincing evidence to declare Smith dead.