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What Happened to Juan Pedro Martínez?

This case has remained unsolved for 37 years, 5 months, and 12 days.

On June 25, 1986, Juan went with his parents on a road trip. Juan’s father was a truck driver and was driving a large tanker truck of acid. The tanker crashed and while the bodies of his mother and father were located, Juan’s body was never found.

Did Juan survive the crash and then wander off? Was his body dissolved in the acid that spilled from the crash? Or was Juan handed over to settle a drug debt, as some have suggested, and then his parents killed?

The case of Juan Pedro Martínez is now known as “The Boy of Somosierra” and it is very well-known in Spain, although it is relatively unknown outside of its country of origin. What happened to Juan Pedro Martínez? Over 30 years later, we still aren’t sure, and we’re still searching for answers.

Table of Contents

About Juan Pedro Martínez

Juan Pedro Martínez (some sources refer to him as Juan Pablo Martínez) was born on January 1, 1976. He was born to his father, Andrés, and his mother, Carmen.

A photo of Juan taken when he was 10 years old.

According to sources, Juan was a good student who enjoyed learning and school. He had a good relationship with his family and especially loved his maternal grandparents. In 1986, Juan and his parents lived in Murcia, a city in southeastern Spain.

The city of Murcia located in Murcia, Spain.
The city of Murcia located in Murcia, Spain.

The Day of the Crash

Juan’s father, Andrés, worked as a truck driver. On June 25, 1986, he was set to deliver some 20,000 liters (5,200 gallons) of olium sulfuric acid to the town of Fuente Álamo. He took his son, Juan, and wife, Carmen, along with him on the road trip. It’s said that Juan was allowed to go with his parents because he’d earned such good grades in school.

After picking the truck up in Cartagena around 7 PM on June 24, the family headed out for their long trip. They made several stops along the way, including at Venta de Olivo, Las Pedroñeras, and Mesón El Maño.

The truck stopped several times for food, rest, and to refuel. Everything seemed normal until the family reached the Somosierra mountain pass on June 25. At that point, Andrés was driving erratically and ended up crashing into several cars, knocking the mirror off of one of them and rear-ending another.

A road sign for the Somosierra region of Spain.
A road sign for the Somosierra region of Spain.

The Fatal Crash

After speeding down the mountain pass, the truck collided with another car and overturned, crashing in a ditch on the side of the mountain road. Sulfuric acid began pouring out of the tanker, causing a cloud of noxious gas to rise near the crash site. Witnesses quickly reported the crash to authorities.

The site of the truck crash.
The site of the truck crash (El Español).

The Spanish Civil Guard arrived shortly after the incident. They quickly located the bodies of the parents. Surprisingly, the bodies didn’t have much damage from the spilled acid. Later, it was determined that the parents had died on impact.

Where was Juan?

It took over 10 hours for the Civil Guard to be informed by the grandparents that Juan had been traveling with his parents that day. Since the body of Juan was not found, authorities didn’t realize that there had been a third person in the truck during the crash. Immediately, they began searching the surrounding area for the 10-year-old boy.

At the crash site, there was evidence that indicated a child had been in the car. The rubber sole of a shoe that belonged to Juan was found, along with some children’s cassette tapes. However, Juan’s body wasn’t at the crash site. Did he survive the crash? If so, where did he go?

The Search for Juan

Authorities weren’t sure that anyone could have survived the crash. According to autopsies performed on the parents, both had died on impact. Because of this, it was thought impossible that a child could have survived the crash.

However, authorities combed the area, searching for any clues that might point them toward what happened to Juan. His body wasn’t found so perhaps there was a chance that he’d survived the crash and wandered off. Unfortunately, they were never able to find anything that might lead them to the boy — dead or alive.

A White Van

Several witnesses claimed to have seen a boy matching Juan’s description getting into a white van. Because Andrés was driving so erratically, he clipped some other cars, breaking the mirror off of one and rear-ending another.

It was at the scene of the rear-ending that the white van was spotted, with witnesses reporting a foreign man and a blonde-haired woman pulling up and getting something out of the truck — perhaps Juan himself. However, this sighting of Juan could never be confirmed by authorities.

A newspaper article about the truck crash in the Somosierra region of Spain.
A newspaper article about the truck crash in the Somosierra region of Spain.

The Truck’s Tachograph

Data from just prior to the crash was stored in the truck’s tachograph, a device that records engine speeds in commercial road vehicles. The data from the tachograph revealed that the truck was descending downhill at a rate of 140 KPH, or roughly 86 MPH.

The tachograph provided more interesting information, including several stops that the truck had made. Some of the stops were accounted for by witnesses. For example, the family stopped at 12:12 AM on June 25 to refuel at a petrol station in Cieza, Murcia. Later that same morning around 5:20 AM, the family stopped for breakfast at the Aragon Inn and were remembered by witnesses. There was reportedly no odd behavior and everyone seemed fine.

Lastly, the tachograph revealed that the truck had stopped 12 times in the last hour and a half of driving for periods ranging 1–20 seconds. Obviously, this was a bizarre find as there were no traffic jams, accidents, or landslides on that stretch of road that morning. So why did the truck stop so often, and for such short periods of time?

Drug Trafficking Rumors

As weeks and then months went by with no answers and no Juan, rumors arose that Juan’s father, Andrés, was a part-time drug smuggler. Some sources say that the family denied this allegation while others claim they acknowledged it, but also claimed that Andrés was an unwilling participant. He was supposedly forced to smuggle drugs by a criminal organization.

Some people theorized that Juan was taken from the parents before the crash as a sort of incentive for Andrés to pay his drug debts or complete a delivery. Then, because Andrés was so distraught about his son, he drove erratically — either to chase after the kidnappers or because he was so emotionally upset — and ended up crashing the truck.

A magazine cover discussing Juan Pedro Martínez’s case. The headline reads, “The Boy of Somosierra: In the Hands of Drug Traffickers?”
A magazine cover discussing Juan Pedro Martínez’s case. The headline reads, “The Boy of Somosierra: In the Hands of Drug Traffickers?” (El Español).

Some Truth to the Rumors

The truck was searched again after a year by the Civil Guard and a secret compartment was found containing drugs. There was speculation that, since Andrés had only purchased the truck a year or so before, he didn’t know about the secret compartment and the drugs had just been in there for a while. I find this hard to believe; what seller is going to leave valuable drugs in a secret compartment when selling an old truck?

The owner of the trucking company stated:

“[Drug traffickers] were able to take the kid away from [Andrés] with threats to force him to do something he didn’t want. Perhaps they forced him to transport the cargo by kidnapping the boy until the merchandise arrived in Bilbao.”

Truck Company Owner (Source: El Español)

Juan’s Family Convinced He was Kidnapped

Juan’s family was convinced that he’d been kidnapped. They believed that the truck was stopped where it was because a little ways ahead was a police checkpoint where the drugs might’ve been discovered.

The grandparents of Juan stated that the crash was never investigated properly. They whole-heartedly believed that Juan had been kidnapped prior to the crash and taken from his parents. A spokesman for the family, Juan García Legaz, stated:

“[The crash scene] was not properly investigated then. [There] were the first two vital years with very little attention to help us in our search.”

Martínez Family Spokesman (Source: El Español)

After coming out publicly with their ideas about the kidnapping, Juan’s family began receiving threatening phone calls from a criminal network. However, Spanish authorities didn’t give this idea much credence, nor did they investigate this possibility thoroughly, according to Juan’s family.

Theories on What Happened

The Spanish Civil Guard put forth three theories about what happened to Juan. Notably, the idea that he had been kidnapped by drug dealers was not one of them, although his family still thinks that this is what happened to Juan.

Juan’s Body Dissolved in the Acid

While many have suggested that perhaps Juan’s body was dissolved in the sulfuric acid, scientists don’t believe this is a probable theory. They conducted a test with animal remains and found that it took at least five days for bones to be affected by acid and even then, there were some remnants like teeth.

For Juan’s body to have been completely dissolved, he would have had to have been completely submerged in acid for at least several days. This was not possible given the time frame of the investigation.

Juan was Thrown From the Truck

There was also a river near the crash scene ang and some suggested that perhaps Juan’s body was thrown from the truck into the river, or somehow managed to make it to the river and then was carried away. Some speculate that he may have gone down to the river to soothe his acid burns with water, then fell in and was swept off elsewhere.

A newspaper article about Juan’s disappearance.
A newspaper article about Juan’s disappearance.

Juan Survived the Crash and Ran Away

Some theorize that Juan perhaps sustained a terrible head injury, perhaps to the point where he forgot about his family and the crash, and then wandered away. Because he was so disoriented, he wandered off into the surrounding mountainside and ended up succumbing to his injuries.

This sounds somewhat plausible given the mountainous terrain of the Somosierra mountain pass. People tend to underestimate how easy it is to get lost in the woods, especially if someone is disoriented, young, or otherwise vulnerable.

Juan Survived and Was Picked Up

Another theory is that Juan managed to survive the crash, but was badly injured. He might’ve been picked up by good Samaritans trying to help him, but when he died on the way to a hospital, they disposed of his body. If this was the case though, wouldn’t the good Samaritans have just reported the incident to authorities? After all, it’s not like they did anything wrong.

Juan was Taken By Kidnappers

Again, the family thinks that Juan was kidnapped by drug traffickers. When the crash happened and his parents were killed, the kidnappers either took Juan far away where he wouldn’t be recognized or ended up killing him to get rid of any evidence of wrongdoing on their part.

What Do I Think Happened?

This case is a very tragic one because not only did at least two people lose their lives, another is still missing after three decades. Juan’s family still doesn’t have answers, and after such a long period of time, it’s unclear if they ever will. Perhaps if the investigation had been more thorough closer to the time of the crash, this case wouldn’t be as mysterious as it is now.

Juan’s family still holds out hope that he’s out there somewhere.
Juan’s family still holds out hope that he’s out there somewhere (El Español).

Drug Trafficking Involvement Likely

The fact that drugs were found in the truck leads me to believe that Andrés was indeed involved in drug trafficking, even if involuntarily so. Additionally, the truck’s tachograph revealed erratic driving and odd stops, leading me to believe that the family was either being followed or Andrés was trying to catch up with the kidnappers who’d taken Juan.

The family also reported getting harassing phone calls from a supposed criminal organization, lending credence to the idea that they didn’t want the family spreading any ideas that Juan might’ve been kidnapped. Because authorities reportedly didn’t fully investigate this lead until much later, we’ll probably never know if there was a kidnapping.

Juan Might’ve Survived the Crash, Too

The idea that Juan’s body could have been dissolved in acid has been largely disproven, although I think it is possible that he survived the crash, wandered off and, in his disoriented state, succumbed to the elements. The area surrounding the crash site was searched thoroughly, but only after many hours had passed. By the time authorities realized that there had been a child in the car, Juan could’ve gotten far away — to the point where he’d never be found

Overall, this case is painful on so many levels. Whether Andrés was involved or drug trafficking or not, he didn’t deserve to die the way he did along with his wife, Carmen. The remaining family doesn’t deserve the enduring trauma that comes with not knowing what happened to Juan or where he might be. It’s possible that someone out there saw something that could finally bring this mystery to a close, and we need that person to come forward with information. Thirty-plus years have been far too long already.

Case Updates

Updates in the Juan Pedro Martínez case are few and far between. His body has never been found, nor has he been located if he’s still alive today.

May 1987: Juan Seen?

In May 1987, the owner of a driving school reported to authorities that he’d met an elderly blind woman of Iranian origin who had a boy as a guide. The boy was approximately 10 or 11 years old and matched Juan’s description. The owner was convinced that the boy was Juan but by the time the sighting was reported to authorities, the woman and the boy were long gone.

Do You Have Information?

At the time of his disappearance, Juan was 10 years old, 155 cm (5’1), and about 63 kg (140 lbs.). He has black hair and dark eyes. If you have information, reach out to the Central Office of Interpol Spain at 91 582 29 66 or 91 582 29 64, or contact them via email at

A missing poster for Juan Pedro Martínez.

Cold Case Questions

  • What do you think happened to Juan Pedro?
  • Do you think Juan Pedro survived the truck crash?
  • What do you make of the drug trafficking rumors? Do they have anything to do with Juan Pedro’s disappearance?

Let me know what you think happened in this case in the comments below!

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