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Uncertainties Plague Search for Missing Girl

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Times Staff Writer

The search for 7-year-old Charitie Careins, who has been missing since Aug. 5, remains complicated by the possibility that the Pacific Beach girl may be vacationing--with her mother’s permission--somewhere in Mexico with a neighbor family.

San Diego police and Charitie’s family hope she is in Mexico, but while they wait to hear from the Gomezes--who have been out of touch there for two weeks, possibly because of storms--both police and family have been pursuing other leads closer to home.

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Frustrated after twice searching the Pacific Beach neighborhood near the girl’s Navy housing, police have moved on to other methods of investigating her disappearance, including administering polygraph tests to Charitie’s mother and stepfather Tuesday.

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Detective Robert McManus said police asked Charitie’s parents to take a polygraph test to verify that they did not know of her whereabouts and to see whether police could better determine what really happened to her.

“We just don’t know what we have at this point,” McManus said. “We’re just counting on the fact that we’re going to hear from the Gomez family,” who were supposed to reach relatives in the Yucatan Peninsula on Monday.

“It could be a misunderstanding, or it could be the other extreme--that she is with someone against her will.”

The blue-eyed, blond third-grader has been missing since she left a friend’s house just blocks from home about midday Aug. 5, the last day of summer classes at Bayview Terrace Elementary School.

Jane Lewis reported her daughter missing the evening of Aug. 6 after learning that Charitie had not spent the night and next day with friends.

“She’s a very independent, friendly, smart, inquisitive little girl, but she wouldn’t go with someone she doesn’t know,” said Lewis, who is working with her family to pass out flyers about Charitie in areas such as National City and Chula Vista.

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It was only after police searched the entire neighborhood house-to-house Aug. 6 that Lewis, who is recovering from cancer of the jaw, recalled giving Charitie permission a few weeks earlier to go to Mexico with the Gomezes.

A few days after the initial search, the police made another, more extensive search and brought in a helicopter to scour the neighborhood and places Charitie frequented.

Police said there is no indication yet of foul play. “If the Gomezes return without Charitie, then we have a whole different ballgame,” McManus said.

If that happens, he said, the investigation will turn homeward again, and police “may be talking to a lot of people.”

Freckle-faced Charitie was born and raised in Corpus Christi, Tex., but she and her family have been living in San Diego for two years. They have only been at their current address on Betty Street less than a month, police said.

Charitie is 4 feet tall, about 65 pounds and has shoulder-length hair.

“I’m hoping beyond all belief that she’s coming home. I won’t prosecute,” Lewis said, as long as Charitie is unhurt. “I want her home.”

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