SDMRT 2019-09 Vista, CA

SDMRT Operations Report 2019-09
Full Callout in Vista, CA
Abbey Motzer
18-19 April 2019

SDMRT Responders Operational Period 1: Richard Yocum, Sukhyung Shin, Hugo Bermudez, Bill McNaul, Alicia Trigeiro, Jesse Ma, Dylan Bodkin, Mark Kenny, Grayson Hough, Kevin Litwin

SDMRT Responders Operational Period 2: Bill McNaul, Marshall Masser, Michelle Bearmar, John Hatala, Michael Winger, Frank Ortega

SDMRT ITC: Dennis Peck

Other responding organizations: San Diego County Sheriff’s Department SAR including 3 dog teams, ASTREA air support, and local law enforcement. Estimate total of approx. 51 SAR personnel for Operational Period 1 and 15 for Operational Period 2.

Short Summary:

  • Type of callout: Full
  • In-County: San Diego
  • Type of search: Search for missing juvenile with autism
  • Environment: Urban/suburban, including parks and greenbelts
  • Location:
    • LKP at her home, 800 E Bobier Drive, Apt EB, Vista, CA 92084
    • CP (Op Period 1) at 1301 E. Vista Way, Vista, CA, 92017 92084
    • Subject located alive at approx. 1215 hours during the 2nd operational period, on 4/19/19, less than ½ mile from her residence
  • Operational periods:
    • Earliest time of activity: Callout request at 1948 hours on 4/18/19
    • Operational Period 2 ended (10-22) at 1232 hours on 4/19/19
  • Information about the subject:
    • Number/names of subjects: 1 subject, Abbey Motzer
    • Age/Gender: 15-year-old female
    • Level of fitness and preparedness: Fitness level reportedly good, experienced living homeless on the streets, no cell phone/cash/bank card
    • Mental status: Autism, functioning at 12 year-old level
    • Injuries, if applicable: No prior injuries reported
    • How were they found: Subject was found alive by a postal carrier who recognized her from a photo distributed by another postal carriers to a chat group reaching other postal carriers
  • Any rescuers injured: None known
  • Aircraft used: ASTREA

Descriptive Report

At 1948 hours on Friday, 4/18/19, SAR received a callout to respond to Vista to look for Abbey Motzer (5’7”, 150 lbs, blonde hair above the shoulders in a pixie cut, blue eyes), a 15-year-old white female with autism who is believed to have left her home at about 1600 hours. Initial report was that she was wearing a blue robe and white shorts. Later, she was reported to be wearing not wearing a robe, but rather a gray sweatshirt with a superhero (Deadpool) logo or image, white shorts, and no shoes. It was reported she has no money, phone, or bank card. The only autism information was that she functions at a 12-year-old level, dislikes police uniforms, and likes superheroes. Abbey lives with her mother and her mother’s boyfriend. Abbey has run away from home several times in recent months to return on her own some hours later, reportedly after midnight when she gets cold. Her mother reported that Abbey is prone to hiding behind dumpsters until she was ready to come home.

Abbey was reported to be home schooled, to have no friends and no internet access or social media presence. There was also no other family in the county. She was said not to use public transportation and to be distrustful of law enforcement personnel because of previous domestic violence calls that had occurred between her parents. Abbey’s mother also reported that Abbey had been sexually abused. Before SAR responded, ASTREA had flown the area making PA announcements for several hours and deputies had been investigating the circumstances of Abbey’s disappearance and conducting their own search.

Operational Period 1 (4/18/19):

SAR responded with 51 SDSAR and SDMRT members. A CP was set up in an Albertsons parking lot at the corner of E. Vista Way and Foothill, near the subject’s residence. Sgt. Abutin was the Incident Commander. Between about 2030 and 0300, 19 SAR teams were deployed including motor units, area search teams, and 3 trailing/tracking dog teams. A team interviewed the mother as the RP. Scent articles were obtained from the home. Three motorized teams were assigned respectively to each of the roads forming the triangle of Bobier Drive, E. Vista Way, and N Santa Fe Dr, to inquire at all businesses and along those routes and search the immediate area along the roads. One team searched the Albertsons area.

A trailing dog alerted at the Lowes north of 78 on Vista Village Drive and followed a scent in a generally northeast direction toward Abbey’s residence but became fatigued in Wildwood Park. A second dog sent to Wildwood Park also picked up the scent but did not track to a direction of travel and also eventually fatigued. A third dog team reacted strongly in the area surrounding the home apartment but no direction of travel could be established from the residence.

Five area teams searched the apartment complex where the subject lived and immediately surrounding neighborhoods, and along Calle Jules to the south, continuing southward including the greenbelt. Two areas teams covered most of Brengle Terrace Park. One team searched Wildwood park and the greenbelt to the north and then east. One team searched the drainage channel under 78 near Lowes. Teams were instructed to expect the subject to be hiding and non-responsive, and search dumpsters and all other hiding places.

Various reported sightings were followed up and no clear direction of travel could be determined and no useful clues were found. PODs were low given the darkness and high density of dumpsters, bushes, apartments, mobile homes, and other potential hiding places in the area. Several search areas were known to have gang activity and pockets of transients. Deputies provided escort for a number of area search teams during the first operational period. There were no incidents or injuries to search personnel. The search was suspended at about 0300 hours.

Operational Period 2 (4/18/19):

A new CP was established at 0730 hours at Brengle Terrace Park. Sgt. Bligh was the Incident Commander. Turnout for this second period was 15 SAR and SDMRT members. 11 teams were dispatched, focusing on completing search areas not completed the night before and other high-probability areas that needed to be re-searched in daylight. A team was dispatched to search an area in Oceanside where Abbey and her mother had spent time when homeless about 18 months ago. SAR efforts were greatly augmented during both operational period by a large number of deputies and detectives.

One SAR team was sent to search a large mobile home park on E. Bobier Drive, east of the apartment complex where Abbey and her mother lived. While there, they engaged a postal worker who took a photo of the missing person flyer and sent it to a postal service chat group. Shortly after, at about 1215 hours, a postal worker encountered Abbey in the mobile home park at 1010 E Bobier Drive and identified her based on the photo provided, and notified law enforcement who confirmed ID. When found, Abbey was wearing only a gray shirt. It is believed that she spent the night in a deep (empty) drainage canal that runs along E. Bobier and curves behind a row of homes in the mobile home park. She had some superficial facial cuts but no other obvious injuries. Paramedics evaluated her and Abbey was reunited with her mother.

Abbey Motzer

Search Vicinity Map

Lessons learned/suggestions for future operations:

  1. For searches during hours of postal deliveries, providing the subject’s photo to the postal service chat group can obviously be of benefit.