LOS ANGELES (AP) — Police spent nearly two weeks and thousands of dollars searching for a missing 22-year-old art student across Southern California before she called her father from a Los Angeles shelter after seeing news reports about her case and asked to come home.
Sahray Barber was reunited with her family late Thursday. But police said Friday that her safe return has raised more questions than answers. The case could lead to criminal charges against two persons of interest who may have intentionally given investigators misinformation even as crews spent days searching from the air and on the ground, police added.
Barber’s disappearance took on an added urgency because two other women have been assaulted on the California State University, San Bernardino campus in recent weeks and a suspect in those cases remained at large.
But police now believe Barber’s case was unrelated, and she was not held against her will, said Lt. Rich Lawhead, a police spokesman for the city about 60 miles east of Los Angeles.
“She had something going on in her personal life. She voluntarily decided that she had some issues she felt she had to deal with in her life and decided to go missing,” he said. “We’re not sure what her involvement is in this whole thing.”
Authorities are in the process of questioning two persons of interest who provided the misinformation, Lawhead said.
Police have not ruled out presenting a criminal case to the district attorney’s office against them or filing a civil case to recuperate the money spent on the search, Lawhead said.
“This is kind of top of the chart right now for ... strange, especially the direction that we were led initially in this case,” he said. “I was shocked yesterday when I got the call” that Barber was safe.
Teams searched nearby hills from the air, traveled miles to the north and south of San Bernardino and combed through up to 30 separate sites in San Bernardino itself, he said.
Barber and her family have asked for privacy and released a short statement through Facebook that thanked God for her return.
She was last seen by her roommates at 6 a.m. March 9 as she left for the Art Institute of California, where she takes classes.
She never boarded the bus she normally took, and her laptop and cellphone, both intact, were found later that day under some bushes. There were no signs of a struggle.
Barber gave a statement to police on Thursday and explained to investigators why she left her electronics behind. But Lawhead said he could not disclose those details.