The search for Pearl Pinson has taken a desperate turn after police in California killed the man believed to have abducted the 15-year-old girl, leaving investigators with few clues to her whereabouts.
Pinson went missing this week after witnesses say they saw a girl with a bloodied face being dragged away by a gun-wielding man. Police identified the suspect as Fernando Castro, 19, who was last seen driving a gold four-door Saturn.
California Highway Patrol officers, working together with the Santa Barbara Sheriff’s Office, located Castro during a helicopter search and chased the suspect, ABC 7 reported. Castro crashed into a barricade and then opened fire on police before fleeing into a mobile home.
Castro stole a pickup truck and tried to escape, but he was killed after getting into another shootout with police.
“He then drove a little ways, got out, shot at deputies,” said Solano County Sheriff Tom Ferrara (via the Washington Post). “They returned fire. The suspect is dead. And at this point we believe that the suspect is probably Fernando Castro.”
With his killing, the search for Pearl Pinson hit a snag. Castro was the only person who knew the girl’s whereabouts, police said, leading them to track the suspect’s movements in the hope of finding some clues.
The Solano County sheriff noted on Thursday that Castro’s car was seen in Marin County, giving police a new area to search.
“Was spotted on cameras near the San Rafael Bridge,” Solano County Sheriff Deputy Christine Castillo said (via ABC 7).
Ferrara noted that an Amber Alert was issued for Pearl Pinson, but they are not sure where she might be located. Ferrara said Castro may have been driving alone.
“Did not appear she was in the car, no,” Ferrara said.
Vallejo kidnap suspect Fernando Castro believed dead after SantaBarbaraCo shootout. Pearl Pinson, 15, still missing pic.twitter.com/q2o93EtW96
— Henry K. Lee (@henrykleeKTVU) May 27, 2016
The revelation that the suspect traveled as much as 300 miles after the alleged abduction means a search area that stretches across the state, police said.
“The search has expanded exponentially this afternoon, especially with the car being in southern California,” said Christine Castillo, the Solano County public information officer. “Originally the search efforts were focused in the Vallejo area. That is believed [to be] where she was and they were on foot. With the new information that the car was seen in Marin County, we have sent additional resources to that area.”
The circumstances of Pearl Pinson’s abduction have also come to light as the search for her continues. She was reportedly abducted at 7 a.m. on Wednesday when family members said she was walking to a school bus stop.
Witnesses said they heard Pinson scream for help as she was dragged away.
“It was like when you’re getting chased and you’re screaming for help just like in horror movies,” said witness Leslie Caro.
Police said that Pinson and Castro knew each other, but that she was taken against her will.
— IBTimes UK (@IBTimesUK) May 27, 2016
A pool of blood was found on the footbridge where Pinson was taken, and her cellphone was found there as well. Police believe the suspect shot Pinson on the bridge, though her exact wounds were not known.
“We just want to know where she’s at. We want to know where he left her at,” Pearl’s sister, Rose Pinson, told ABC 7.
Others remain hopeful that the search for Pearl Pinson will have a happy ending. One friend noted told CBS Sacramento that “Pearl’s not going to go down without a fight. I know.”
[Image via Pinson family/ABC 7]