A Huntington Beach woman who vanished four days ago while camping with her husband in Inyo County has been found alive, and her family says she got lost while trying to hide from a man who threatened to rape her.
Sheryl Powell, 60, was located near the Montenegro Springs area, roughly 2 and a half miles from where she disappeared in the Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest, Inyo County sheriff’s officials said in a news release.
Rescuers described her as “resilient and strong but exhausted after being lost in an extremely remote area” within the national forest east of Bishop, authorities said.
She was being taken to a nearby hospital for medical clearance.
Just two and a half hours before, search crews announced they had found Powell’s 4-pound Yorkie-poo. The pooch was in an area just above where her owner was found, officials said.
Powell disappeared with her dog Miley after taking out the pet while her husband moved their Jeep near their remote campsite in the Bristlecone Pine Forest area, according to the Sheriff’s Office.
“This took 5 minutes or less but when he got back she and Miley were gone without a trace,” the couple’s daughter, Farrah Powell, wrote on a GoFundMe page set up on Saturday to help “with funding for helicopter search in the event the search becomes scaled down, which they did say would happen.”
The woman’s son, Greg Powell, said she was chased by a man brandishing a knife who saw her and told her “if she didn’t give him what he wanted he was going to knife the dog.”
Sheryl avoided main roads for fear the man would find and rape her. She was able to survive off stagnant water and cactus fruit until Miley’s barking alerted search crews to their location, Greg said.
Authorities say they’re continuing to investigate the circumstances surrounding the woman’s disappearance.
Sheryl’s husband had spent about an hour looking for her after he parked their car. He then called authorities from the Grandview Campground at around 2 p.m. Friday, the Sheriff’s Office said.
The incident drew help from search and rescue teams from across California, including ground and aerial units equipped with a thermal imaging device, the agency said.
The family had suspected a “high likelihood of abduction which many rescue personnel are skeptical of,” Farrah Powell said on GoFundMe.
“They keep insisting she just got lost (she didn’t bring any food or water and had no plans to hike yet, they were just setting up camp) or the dog got away (she weighs 4 lbs was on a leash and has a bad leg so she can’t run),” Farrah Powell wrote. “I hope they’re right but I think they should be pursuing the possibility of abduction as well.”
Farrah Powell she said her father refused to leave the campsite after his wife disappeared and was “on the verge of breakdown.”
On Monday, the Sheriff’s Office said investigators don’t suspect any link to Powell’s husband.
“They have been married for 42 years,” Farrah Powell said of her parents in a Facebook post. “They love each other, they love my brother and me, and they love the outdoors.”
One of the couple’s friends, Lorie Geery, told KTLA Joe was easing into retirement, “and I can’t imagine either one of them wanting to go through the rest of their life alone.”
The family has been “extremely cooperative” in the investigation, the Sheriff’s Office said.
Their GoFundMe campaign had raised nearly $30,000 as of Monday afternoon. The Powells have yet to comment on what will happen with the money now that Sheryl has been found.