On Friday, investigators were combing an area under the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge, where a security camera caught Pearl’s alleged abductor, Fernando Castro, 19, driving around Thursday — hours before he was killed in a Santa Barbara County gunbattle with police.
Solano County Sheriff’s Department officials said Castro was spotted about 9:30 a.m. Thursday driving a 1997 Saturn in the area of Sir Francis Drake Boulevard near the Marin County side of the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge.
Solano County Sheriff Tom Ferrara Said:
An automatic license plate reader triggered a traffic camera to pick up the car in the area after an Amber Alert was issued for Pearl and authorities sent out an all-points-bulletin with a photo of the Saturn and its license plate number.
The security footage showed Castro apparently alone in the car, but officials said the missing girl could have been lying down in the back seat and not visible to the camera.
Detectives spent Friday morning in the area searching for more surveillance footage, hoping it will help them find Pearl alive.
Pearl never made it to school Wednesday morning and was last seen about 7 a.m. She was wearing a black-and-turquoise backpack, according to the Solano County Sheriff’s Office.
Later Wednesday morning, several witnesses called police and reported seeing a girl bleeding, screaming and being dragged into a car on the Interstate 780 overpass near Home Acres and Taylor avenues. Police said witnesses saw the abductor holding a gun.
Officials believe Castro and Pearl were acquainted.
“I’m overwhelmed and I’m worried sick about her,” Rose Pinson, a sister of the missing girl, told reporters at a vigil in Vallejo Thursday night. “So much is going through my mind, I don’t know what to believe. I just want her found.”
On Thursday afternoon sheriff deputies in Santa Barbara spotted Castro driving alone around Solvang and gave chase. He drove into a mobile home park, where he jumped into another vehicle and fired shots at law enforcement officers before being fatally shot by return fire, authorities said.
“Obviously, this ramps up the search efforts,” Ferrara said Thursday. “We continue our search and hope Pearl Pinson is alive.”