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Father of Missing Scout Wants Search Reactivated : Wilderness: Philip Negrete asks Gov. Wilson and President Bush for help in finding his son.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

The father of a missing El Monte Boy Scout appealed Monday to Gov. Pete Wilson to reactivate the search for his son, which has been drastically scaled back after hundreds of searchers fruitlessly combed the slopes of San Gorgonio Mountain for 16 days.

“We’re very grateful for the help we’ve gotten, but I think life is precious,” said Philip Negrete, whose 12-year-old son Jared disappeared July 19 while on an overnight hike. “They shouldn’t give up.”

Negrete also called upon President Bush to send federal aid. “He’s a good man,” said Negrete, 45, a custodian for the West Covina Unified School District. “He just might hear my prayers. He has sons.”

Sheriff’s deputies and jail inmates on Sunday dismantled the command post at Angelus Oaks, from which an estimated 2,000 searchers had hiked or flown into the wilderness around the 11,500-foot San Gorgonio summit between July 20 and Aug. 4. Search leaders said the probability of Jared’s survival had dropped to zero last week, making the continued risk of injury to searchers along the treacherous slopes unjustified.

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A small team of searchers continued to pick through the search area on Monday, said San Bernardino Sheriff’s Deputy Debra Dorrough. “The aerial search will continue all week, and there will be dogs over the weekend,” she said.

Philip Negrete, downcast on the first day of the scaled-back efforts, spoke wistfully about his son, who was lost on his first overnight hike. “There was a glow in his face,” he said. “It was the same in his baby pictures. He’s a special child.”

Negrete said that, for the first time since Jared disappeared, he and his wife ran errands in El Monte on Monday, passing places that the boy had frequented. “We went past the El Pollo Loco on Peck Road, and we cried,” he said.

He said that a few days ago, forgetting that Jared was missing, he had called out to the boy. “It was one of his jobs to take out the trash,” Negrete said. “I touched the trash can and called to him, but he wasn’t there.”

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The father had kind words for the man who led the hike on which Jared disappeared. Though Dennis Knight, Scoutmaster of Troop 538 in El Monte, had “made a boo-boo” in letting Jared separate himself from the group of Scouts on the trail, Negrete said he still felt warmth for him.

“I went to church and saw him eye to eye,” Negrete said. “He feels like we feel.”

Knight, who could not be reached for comment, and the Negretes belong to the same church.

Negrete said that his wife Linda, 43, an office manager for a physical therapy firm, was exhausted from the ordeal. It was “a torment” for both of them to leave the search unresolved, he said.

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Describing himself as “not rich,” Negrete said, “If I was rich, they’d keep on going until they found him, dead or alive.” Noting his strong support for the U.S. war effort in the Persian Gulf, Negrete shook his head.

“We can win a war,” he said. “We can find this child.”


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