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Frantic search for missing teen Pearl Pinson stretches from Sonoma to Santa Barbara

Pearl Pinson
An undated photo provided by the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Office of Pearl Pinson.
(Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Office / Associated Press)

Law enforcement officials on Saturday resumed their search for a missing 15-year-old Bay Area girl along the rugged Sonoma County coast and in other parts of the state as frantic family members await word of her fate.

Pearl Pinson was abducted on Wednesday in Vallejo while walking to a school bus stop near her home. Authorities think Pearl is injured, based on witness accounts and evidence found at the scene of her abduction. Her alleged assailant was killed in a shootout with deputies.

As of about 10 a.m. Saturday, the Solano County Sheriff’s Office said more than 65 law enforcement and search-and-rescue personnel had been deployed across 25 square miles in the Willow Creek.

Local authorities, working with the FBI, had turned their attention to the area around the Russian River on Friday. 

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But officials noted that they were also looking in other parts of the state, including Marin and Santa Barbara counties.

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“We do believe she may be here, or there may be evidence to lead us to believe she was here at one point,” Solano County sheriff’s representative Christine Castillo told KCRA-TV at the time.  "This case spans from Northern to Southern California.”

On Saturday morning, officials began walking a remote area along the Russian River looking for signs of the teen, aided by helicopters, according to the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat.

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Family members have issued a plea for her return.

“Pearl, you need to come home,” the teen’s sister, Rose Pinson, told reporters Thursday night. “If anything, you can find a way home. I know you can.”

Authorities said the kidnapping suspect, Fernando Castro, 19, was an acquaintance of Pearl’s. He often was seen roaming around her neighborhood, her sister said.

Pearl’s disappearance triggered an Amber Alert on Thursday afternoon.

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Hours after the alert, Castro was spotted at 3:10 p.m. near Los Alamos heading south alone on the 101 Freeway, according to Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Department spokeswoman Kelly Hoover.

Authorities followed Castro, who at one point drove the wrong way on the freeway. After exiting in Buellton, Castro drove through the city and then entered a neighborhood in Solvang, where he crashed into a barricade at a mobile home park.

He then broke into a mobile home and holed up for a time. A woman who lived in the home managed to escape without injury. Castro then jumped into a Toyota Tundra truck at the home and tried to flee.

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Castro shot at deputies as they closed in on him, and deputies fired back. He was pronounced dead at the scene from multiple gunshot wounds.

Castro was identified as the gunman by Santa Barbara County sheriff’s officials on Friday. Solano County sheriff’s officials had named Castro as the shooter on Thursday.

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UPDATES:

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2:58 p.m.: Updated with new information about the scope of the search.

11:15 a.m.: Updated with new information about the search area.

This post was originally published at 8:48 a.m.


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