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Pearl Pinson’s backpack might hold clues as search for kidnapped teen continues

Pearl Pinson
Pearl Pinson, 15, was abducted last week.
(Santa Barbara Sheriff)

Authorities said they continue to look for clues in the case of kidnapped teenager Pearl Pinson, who went missing in Northern California more than a week ago.

Detectives have searched areas of Sonoma County as well as locations near Vallejo but have found no sign of her. Solano County Sheriff’s officials put out a photo of a backpack similar to the one Pinson carried, urging the public to contact officials if they’ve seen it.

“We also are asking anyone who may find a backpack abandoned like the one pictured to call us,” the sheriff said on Facebook.

Authorities have not searched for the 15-year-old since last Saturday, when they called off an intense effort in the Willow Creek area in Sonoma Coast State Park, according to the Solano County Sheriff’s Office. Crews spent two days looking for Pearl from the air and ground, but found no signs of her.

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Sheriff’s officials are urging the public to call their tip line at (707) 784-1963 with any information on Pearl’s whereabouts.

“Investigators continue to follow up on leads and any future search will depend on where those leads take us,” the sheriff’s office said.

A witness saw the girl being pulled away by an armed man at a pedestrian bridge that crosses Interstate 780, officials said. She was reportedly bleeding and screaming for help as she was dragged off. The witness ran to help and heard a gunshot, authorities said.

At the pedestrian bridge, deputies found blood on the ground.

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The next day, the California Highway Patrol issued an Amber Alert for Pearl and identified 19-year-old Fernando Castro as her kidnapper.

Hours after the alert, Castro was spotted in a vehicle at 3:10 p.m. near Los Alamos heading south alone on the 101 Freeway. At one point, he drove the wrong way on the freeway, according to Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Department spokeswoman Kelly Hoover.

Authorities followed Castro into Solvang, where he crashed into a barricade at a mobile home park.

Castro broke into a mobile home and locked himself inside, while a woman who lived there managed to escape without injury. Castro then jumped into a Toyota Tundra truck at the home and tried to flee.

He exchanged gunfire with deputies as they closed in. He was pronounced dead at the scene from multiple gunshot wounds.

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

veronica.rocha@latimes.com

For breaking news in California, follow VeronicaRochaLA on Twitter.

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