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California

Mystery of missing Pearl Pinson deepens as law enforcement calls off search in remote area

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

The mystery over the whereabouts of a missing 15-year-old Bay Area girl deepened after authorities called off an extensive search along the Russian River in Sonoma County.

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. The man who authorities believe kidnapped her was killed in a shootout with deputies.

The Solano County Sheriff’s Office said Saturday morning that more than 65 law enforcement and search-and-rescue personnel had been deployed across 25 square miles in the Willow Creek. But that afternoon, they called off the search. Officials have not said what brought them to the location in the first place.

“Nothing was found during the search that would indicate Pearl is there. Investigators continue to follow-up on leads and any future search will depend on where those leads take us,” the Solano County Sheriff’s Department said in a statement. “We continue to encourage our community to call in any tips they may have to 707-784-1963. If they see Pearl, they are encouraged to call their local law enforcement or 911.”

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On Friday, family members issued a plea for her return.

“Pearl, you need to come home,” the teen’s sister, Rose Pinson, said to 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.

A police spokeswoman told the Press-Democrat Saturday that they have evidence that Castro’s car was as far north as Marin County after the kidnapping. The spokeswoman said searchers spent two days looking for the girl both on the ground and in the air.

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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.

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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.

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:

11:42 a.m.: Updated with more on the Sonoma search.

9:30 a.m.: This post has been updated with a statement from the Sheriff’s Department. 

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