Charges may be filed against people who misled investigators about a San Bernardino woman reported missing earlier this month who suddenly reappeared more than a week later, authorities said Thursday.
San Bernardino police will be “seeking charges for some of the false statements that were given to our investigators that ultimately led them down the road they took,” Chief Jarrod Burguan said in a video statement posted on YouTube.
“Each step along the way, we received a little bit of information to indicate that foul play was likely involved” in Sahray Barber’s disappearance March 9, Burguan said.
But it was all an apparent ruse.
After Barber left for school that morning, local high school students found her bag, laptop and phone in some nearby bushes. In light of recent attacks on women at Cal State University San Bernardino across the street from her apartment, police immediately investigated to see if there was a connection.
But nothing tied Barber's disappearance to the earlier attacks, Burguan said. Interviews with Barber’s roommates only complicated matters, he said.
“They had given us information throughout the course of the investigation that caused our detectives to question their honesty,” Burguan said. The roommates were given polygraph tests and failed, he said.
Another search of the apartment turned up evidence of foul play, and investigators began combing nearby rural areas for Barber’s body, the chief said. Barber apparently left items in her apartment that friends and family said she “would never leave home without.”
But at the height of the search, on March 19, Barber reappeared.
She told police she left “because of some things that were going on in her life” and headed to Los Angeles, Burguan said. She was admitted to a hospital but gave a false name, and no one there recognized her from media reports on her disappearance, Burguan said.
Barber saw the reports and knew police were looking for her but didn’t come forward. After she left the hospital, she landed in a shelter, where employees recognized her and notified authorities.
“I am happy to report that she is home safe and with her family and ultimately that is a successful resolution to what was taking place here,” Burguan said.
But the effort to find Barber was costly, he said. The department hasn’t tallied all the extra hours dedicated to the case but said it would cost more than $30,000 in overtime. Police also used a helicopter and increased staffing.
“This was not a typical missing persons case,” he said.
Police expect to submit their report to the district attorney’s office to seek charges against those who misled investigators in the next two weeks, Burguan said. The department is also working with the city attorney’s office to seek restitution for the money expended in the search.
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