Rescued camper says stranger threatened her with a knife
BISHOP, Calif. — Authorities say they are “actively investigating the circumstances surrounding” the disappearance of a Southern California woman who went missing for four days in Inyo National Forest.
Sheryl Powell, 60, of Huntington Beach, and her dog were separately found and rescued Monday after an exhaustive four-day search. Powell told NBC’s “Today” show on Tuesday morning that an attacker had chased her with a knife. She ran to escape him and got lost.
On Tuesday, Farrah Powell, her daughter, told HLN’s Lynn Smith that “authorities have been alerted. They are definitely looking for him.”
“It’s scary to think about the fact that he’s still out there,” she said.
Sheryl Powell disappeared Friday near the Grandview Campground in the Bristlecone Pine Forest area of Inyo National Forest after taking the family dog for a bathroom break while her husband moved their Jeep, according to the Inyo County Sheriff’s Office.
The man who threatened her with a knife was “a big guy — burly, bald-headed, tan-skinned,” Powell told NBC: “I was told do what he wants and he’ll refrain from using the knife on us. It scared me enough to act pretty docile and let him think that I was gonna go along with him.”
Given “a chance” to escape, she took off with her dog and ran. “And he was pursuing me,” she said. “But I was only concerned about that for the first day. I never saw him again after the first day.”
The Inyo County Sheriff’s Office said it was “grateful that Mrs. Powell and her dog were found alive and well.
“Our office is actively investigating the circumstances surrounding her disappearance. We have no further information at this time,” the sheriff’s office said.
After the first day, she concentrated on “how to get through this… how to get water, how to get back to my family,” she told NBC.
Powell’s son, Greg, told HLN that Powell did not have food or water with her when she escaped the knife-wielding stranger. “She knew she had to find water, that was her main mission at that point,” said Greg. Searching the area, Powell found “a tiny spring that she and our dog were able to drink water from,” he explained.
The search included the use of helicopter and aerial equipment with thermal detection abilities that had been provided by California Highway Patrol-Inland Division Air Operations. “So my mom could see the helicopters the whole time,” Farrah Powell told HLN. “When she realized the helicopters couldn’t see her, she knew she had to go to higher ground.”
This was difficult because her mother was exhausted by trying to travel through the rough terrain, her daughter explained. As a result, authorities discovered the family dog, Miley, before finding Powell herself.
Miley, a 5-pound yorkie poo, saved the day by running ahead of her owner. “Miley started barking and the ATVs [All Terrain Vehicles] heard her bark,” Farrah Powell said. The rescue team found Miley, alone, more than two miles from where they were last seen. “Shortly after, within an hour, they found mom nearby,” said Farrah Powell.
Powell was taken to a local hospital for medical clearance after her ordeal, according to the sheriff’s office, which described her as “resilient and strong but exhausted after being lost in an extremely remote area.”
Powell’s son, Greg, told CNN his mother was dehydrated, but doing well. “She’s so strong,” he exclaimed through tears.
Joe Powell, her husband, told NBC that “it’s a miracle I got my wife back.”
“Every day I was starting to lose hope. I became half a man. I couldn’t imagine my life without her. I was so unhappy and so depressed but I had to keep my act together. I needed to do everything I could to help her,” he said. “Yesterday I was the saddest man on the planet, today I am the happiest man on the planet.”
The Inyo County Sheriff’s Office posted on Facebook: “We are beyond grateful for the continued support from her family, local residents, visitors, and the media. We also cannot thank our assisting agencies enough for their amazingly hard work in difficult terrain throughout this 4-day search.”
Farrah Powell, who had collected money for her mother’s rescue, told HLN that all of it will be returned to the donors. Still, she said she “would love for that money to be donated” to search and rescue efforts. Multiple agencies, including China Lake Mountain Rescue Group, CA Rescue Dog Association and search and rescue teams from Fresno, Riverside, Tulare, El Dorado and Mariposa participated in the effort to save her mother’s life.
When collecting donations, Powell’s children had promised that any unused money would be returned. Greg said he’d also like to see the money contributed to other search and rescue efforts, but “we don’t feel comfortable making that decision” on behalf of those who generously contributed.