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021 - The Abduction of Pearl Pinson

[Case Evidence]

               

                Pearl Pinson was born on December 15th, 2000 in Vallejo, California to James Pinson and Joyce Mitchell.  Vallejo California is located in the North Bay Region of San Francisco and is seated in Solano County.  As of 2010 it had a population of 115,942 making it the tenth most populous city in the Bay Area.    Pearl had two siblings, an older sister, Rose, and a younger brother William.  Rose described her sister as having a boisterous personality, loving to have fun and being an avid skateboarded.  According to Rose, Pearl and William were extremely close, stating:  “He and Pearl are more like twins.  They loved to skateboard together.”  Pearl’s former principal at Jesse Bethel High School described Pearl as the kind of girl who would always go out of her way for her friends and would frequently stand up for them if she saw them being treated poorly.  Principal Kingston said “She has such a big heart.  She is very articulate and concerned about justice.  She’s a feisty, strong woman.”  According to her sister, Rose, Pearl dreamed of being a firefighter, but also was a lover of animals and considered a career as a veterinarian. 

                By May of 2016, Pearl was fifteen years old and a ninth grader.  On May 25th, she was in her last month as a freshman and excited for what the future had to offer.  Pearl walked the short ten to fifteen minutes to school every day, but on May 25th, her normal routine would be interrupted by a violent and bizarre set of circumstances.  Pearl is described as being a Caucasian female standing 5’3” and weighing approximately 130 pounds.  Her natural hair color is light brown, though it was dyed green when she was last seen and she has blue / green eyes with a piercing on her lower lip, on the left side.  She was last seen wearing a black and white zip up jacket, a gray sweater, black leggings, black and white Nike turfs shoes and a black Raiders beanie cap.  She was carrying a black and turquoise backpack with a Joker emblem on it.  The Charley Project also states that Pearl may be in need of medical attention, though whether or not she has a condition for which she required this attention is unspecified.

                Wednesday, May 25th, 2016 began as any other day for Pearl Pinson.  She got dressed, packed her bag and shortly before 7am she began her short walk to Jesse Bethel High School.  On Pearl’s way to school she was required to cross I-780 via a pedestrian overpass with a corkscrew ramp leading to the causeway.  The overpass led from Home Acres to Taylor avenue.  At approximately 7am, Vallejo police began receiving distressing 911 calls depicting a violent incident at that location.  The callers described a woman being attacked and possibly shot.  I will play pieces of these 911 calls now:

                [Insert 911 audio]

                Several witnesses reported seeing a struggle ensuing between a young woman and an armed male.  Several witnesses reported seeing the man wearing a hoodie dragging the young woman across the overpass.  The victim was described as being a Caucasian female with green hair and a black and turquoise backpack and was later identified as Pearl Pinson.  They also described a possibly latino man wearing a black hoodie.

                Other reports were scattered, with some saying that the woman was being assaulted, others saying that the man was attempting to rape her and several believing that he was attempting to abduct her.  According to one witness, he attempted to intervene in the situation and aid the woman but the assailant spun around and pointed a gun at him.  Witnesses began taking cover from the armed man, though many still had a view of what was going on and said that the woman had a bloody face.  At some point in time, though it cannot be pinpointed precisely, Pearl screamed and a gunshot went off.  Unfortunately, no one saw what exactly happened, and to this day it is unknown whether the gunshot was accidental, meant as a warning shot or if Pearl herself was shot.  Tragically, William Pinson was on his way to school that morning and heard the scream and the gunshot, though he had no way of knowing that it was his sister who was being abducted.  Leslie Caro, a witness to the incident stated “It was like when you’re getting chased and you’re screaming for help just like in horror movies.”

                By the time Police arrived on the chaotic scene, both Pearl and her abductor were gone and they had the incredibly challenging job of trying to sort out exactly what happened.  Eyewitness testimony is often flawed and confusing and can often help, but when there are multiple witnesses you’re going to receive varying accounts of what happened.  On the scene, police found a small pool of blood and a cell phone.  The Police were able to positively identify Pearl Pinson as the victim when they tracked down the cell phone records.   Police reportedly placed a call to Rose Pinson at approximately 7:35am, telling her that they believed her sister had been kidnapped.  Not believing this, Rose called the school to ask if Pearl was there, and she quickly learned that Pearl had never arrived. Unfortunately, since her cell phone was left behind at the scene, Police had no ability to track her location.  Several witnesses reported that the abductor fled with Pearl on foot, though this seemed unlikely.  One witness later came forward and said that he had witnessed Pearl’s backpack, as well as Pearl herself, being shoved into the trunk of a car.  The vehicle was described as being a gold four-door 1997 saturn.

                Due to the delay in this last witness coming forward, and conflicting reports about the abductor fleeing on foot, there was a delay in the initialization of the Amber Alert system.  For those of you who are unaware, there are specific requirements and guidelines that must be met in order for an Amber alert to be issued.  Law enforcement must confirm that it is a case of abduction, first and foremost.  The victim must be at risk for serious bodily harm or death.  Law enforcement must have enough descriptive details to give to the public, and that is where the issue came in with Pearl’s abduction.  According to amberalert.gov “This element requires as much descriptive information as possible about the abducted child and the abduction, as well as descriptive information about the suspect and the suspect’s vehicle.  Issuing alerts in the absence of significant information that an abduction has occurred could lead to abuse of the system and ultimately weaken its effectiveness.”

                When asked about the delay on the Amber Alert, Pearl’s sister Rose was upset with the way in which it was handled, stating:  “It was upsetting because they knew who he was, and they knew the car he was in.  They didn’t have a license plate number, but they knew what car he was in and who he was, and I was upset because they refused to put it up.  They had to wait thirty-two hours to put it up, and in those thirty-two hours he could have done whatever he wanted with her.”

                The conflicting reports, whether or not a vehicle was involved, descriptions of the suspect and the victim, resulted in the Amber Alert for Pearl not being issued until the afternoon of May 26th, more than twenty-four hours after she was abducted.  Authorities immediately began searching the area and canvassing for any clues as to who may have taken Pearl, and why.  Descriptions of the vehicle and perpetrator allowed them to identify the suspect:  Nineteen year old Fernando Castro, a local who lived in Pearl’s neighborhood and who is reported to have known Pearl, according to authorities, though Rose Pinson would say she remembered hearing Castro’s name, but that the relationship between Pearl and Castro was no more than that of an acquaintance.

                Pearl and Castro lived only three blocks apart, but despite the proximity there isn’t believed to be a connection between the two beyond seeing each other on occasion in passing.  According to Rose, police did forensic searches of both Castro and Pearl’s phones and found no record of the two every contacting one another.  There were, of course, unsubstantiated rumors that Pearl and Castro had been involved in some type of relationship or that they knew each other well, but this could never be proven and there appears to be no evidence to support those claims. 

                Over the course of the next twenty-four hours, Police received multiple tips reporting sightings of Pearl in the area locally and as far away as the state of Washington.  Surveillance cameras captured the first images of Castro’s vehicle on Thursday morning.  According to the official timeline, Castro was seen at 9:13am in the Westbound lane of I-580 Richmond-San Rafael Bridge.  Seven minutes later at 9:20am, he was again seen by cameras near Sir Frances Drake Blvd in Marin County.  Fifteen minutes after that, Castro is spotted again southbound on the 101 near the Golden Gate Bridge.  The Amber Alert for Pearl was officially launched several hours later, sometime between 1pm and 2:30pm. 

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                Quickly thereafter, at approximately 3pm, a witnesses sighted and reported Castro’s position.  He was seen driving south on Highway 101 in the Los Alamos area of Santa Barbara County.  Across all surveillance footage, and this witness sighting, Pearl was never seen in the vehicle.  The California Highway Patrol managed to catch up to Castro on Highway 101 and a high speed pursuit ensued.   Christine Castillo, a deputy with the Solano County Sheriff’s Department stated “You know the room was silent.  The room went silent because everybody was holding on and waiting for every word that was said on that radio.  And you know, is there any sign of Pearl?  I think that feeling, regardless of the outcome of this case, is gonna sit with everybody involved.  Forever.”  There is also a conflicting report that Highway Patrol spotted Castro earlier in San Luis Obispo County and pursued him into Santa Barbara County.  According to police, the pursuit ended when Castro crashed his vehicle into a mobile home inRancho Santa Ynez Mobile Estates in Solvang park.  Castro exited the vehicle and ran into the home, moments later the homeowner came running out. 

                Solano County Sheriff Thomas Ferrara stated “He drove a little ways, got out, shot at deputies.  They returned fire.  The suspect is dead.  And at this point we believe that suspect is probably Fernando Castro.”

                At this point, Castro exited the home and began firing at officers while attempting to steal a truck.  Castro continued to fire at Solano County Sheriff’s officers who returned fire.  Castro got the truck going and started driving back to Fjord Drive where he again fired at deputies who fired back, hitting him and fatally injuring him.  When the shooting stopped, officers approached the vehicle and found Castro dead inside.  Unfortunately, the one man who may have known the exact whereabouts of Pearl Pinson was now dead, and with him the answers to those questions.  According to the police, they found blood in the trunk, which was later matched to Pearl Pinson.  Castillo would later state “The trace of blood we found in the trunk is consistent with whatever injury she had when she was abducted, but it wasn’t a significant enough amount of blood to indicate that it wasn’t survivable.  So we still very much hold onto hope that we are going to bring Pearl home.  That she’s being held somewhere against her will, or she’s being passed from person to person, but that she is alive.”

                Information about Castro is notoriously difficult to get as the Police have release very little information about him.  There doesn’t appear to be an apparent criminal history, there have been no statements made about whether or not he was involved in drugs or suffered from any mental illnesses.  It’s fairly startling to have a suspect involved in such a crime and to find so few facts about who he was, or what his motive may have been.  There has really only been rumor and speculation, with some claiming that Castro was part of a gang and heavily involved in criminal activities and others saying that he was a perfectly nice guy with no ties to any gangs.  What we do know is that, after his death, Police searched his home and found what they described to be several disturbing notes as well as unreleased pieces of information which pointed them towards the area of Jenner, California, a small coastal town of only 2.4 square miles.  They reportedly also found information regarding his cell phone, suggested to be pings showing his location, which suggest that he had a connection to Jenner.  According to an unidentified source, Police discovered a receipt in Castro’s car which had hand written directions on it to Jenner. 

                Police also issued a statement requesting that the public be on the look out for Pearl’s backpack.  The distinctive black and turquoise backpack with the joker emblem was not found inside the vehicle nor amongst Castro’s possession and authorities believe that the whereabouts of the backpack could indicate a possible location for Pearl herself.  Given all of the information they had, Police believed that Pearl was still alive, and based on that assumption, they began massive searches of several different areas where they believed she may be.  Unfortunately, due to the route Castro drove, and the more than 300 miles he covered, Pearl could be in any number of areas.  According to Deputy Castillo “This case spans from Northern to Southern California.”  In a statement issued to the Press, Rose stated “No matter who you’re with, how they’re treating you, do not give up.  I mean, I love you, and I’m not gonna stop.”

                On Friday, police engaged a search over four square miles near the mouth of the Russian River.  Officials from State Parks and agencies in Sonoma, Mendocino and Marin counties all came together to pool their resources in their search effort conducting land and air searches.  Local authorities were also joined by the FBI.  On the morning of Saturday, May 28th, more than 65 law enforcement officers combined with search and rescue personnel tackled 25 square miles surrounding the Willow Creek area, a campground in Jenner, but found no signs of Pearl.  Later that afternoon, they called off the search.  In addition to Willow Creek, search parties also exhausted efforts along the Glen Cove coastline area of Vallejo, the field and stream near the original site of the abduction, much of the area along highway 37 which stretches from Vallejo to Sonoma County and the area of Skaggs Island.  Unfortunately, none of these searches produced any results.  In a statement released to the media, the Solano County Sheriff’s Department said “Nothing was found during the search which would indicate Pearl is there.  Investigators continue to follow up on leads and any future search will depend on where those leads take us.” 

                For the next few months, authorities struggled with a lack of leads and in their desperation for answers, they scoured over hundreds of hours of surveillance footage from homes, businesses and traffic cameras in hopes that they may find more information on Castro’s travels, or at least a sign of Pearl.  Despite their efforts, none of the footage they found showed Pearl.  One surveillance camera showed Castro the morning after the abduction at the Bodega Bay gas station.  Bodega Bay is just ten miles from Jenner, California.  There was no evidence of Pearl in his company, though it did lead investigators to check the area and canvass for any witnesses who may have seen anything, but again, their efforts failed to produce results. 

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                An anonymous benefactor donated $10,000 for information which may lead to the recovery of Pearl Pinson. Fliers were produced and handed out and put up all over the state of California seeking answers and assistance as to where Pearl may be.  On the twenty-fifth of every month, Pearl’s family holds a candlelight vigil and works hard to keep her name present in the public.  Since the early part of the investigation, Rose has taken on the responsibility of being the spokesperson for the family.  In December of 2016, the family sadly celebrated Pearl’s sweet sixteen without her.  She had requested a party with an Oakland Raider’s theme, which they went forward with.  Despite the passage of months, nothing new was found.  By May of 2017, a year after her disappearance, her family struggled to cling to hope that she would come home someday.

                The family expressed some frustration with the police over the shooting of Castro, feeling that he was the best hope in locating Pearl, but with him dead, there is no one left to question.  Rose stated “We don’t know where he took her, what he did with her or why he even took her.  The question is why, or where’s she at.”  Pearl’s father James, when asked about the situation, said “They knew the importance of getting him alive, but they still took the guy’s life.”  Though many understand the families frustration, authorities assured the public that they had wanted to take Castro into custody but had no choice but to defend themselves, and other potential innocent victims, when he began firing at them.  The family returned to the scene of the abduction on the anniversary, a pedestrian overpass now adorned with graffiti in relation to Pearl.  Standing where their daughter was last seen, Pearl’s mother said “Pearl, I love you.  Please come home” and her father added “Baby, we have not stoppedlooking for you.” 

                It has been over a year since Pearl Pinson was abducted and seemingly vanished into thin air.  The prime suspect, and the only man who may have been able to lead authorities to Pearl was killed in a shootout and no knowledge could be gleaned from him.  There is still a debate about whether or not Pearl Pinson is alive and in captivity, or if she was murdered by Castro.  According to Police, they have, to this day, found no significant evidence to suggest that Castro murdered Pearl.  They also have failed to come up with a motive for the attack and abduction in the first place, or at least have chosen not to release those details to the public.  There is a strong air of mystery and confusion around this case, and unfortunately, many people got so caught up in the circumstances of Pearl’s abduction, and the details surrounding Castro’s death, that many lost sight of the fact that a then fifteen year old girl was missing and was gone without a trace.  In the year since the abduction took place, several theories have been brought to light, some put forth by the family, some by the police and some from online investigators.

                One theory is that Pearl was abducted by Castro due to a lingering issue between the two of them.  According to this theory, Pearl and Castro knew each other much better than has been told, and may have even been involved in a relationship, or Castro wanted a relationship which Pearl was not interested in.  Followers of this theory suggest that Castro approached Pearl and when she told him to leave her alone, he became angry and violent.  At this point he tried to get her into his car, she was injured in the scuffle and when others took notice, Castro produced a pistol to frighten them off and to convince Pearl to get into his car.  What his exact intentions were beyond this, the theory comes up light in.

                The second theory is that Castro had seen Pearl around the neighborhood and had developed and attraction to her.  This attraction led Castro to the point of obsession, and he began stalking Pearl.  He learned her route to school and chose that particular day as the time to abduct her.  When things went wrong, many have theorized that Castro murdered Pearl and dumped her body somewhere along his travels.  They point to his firefight with Police as an indication that he no longer felt he had anything to lose and that if he had simply abducted someone who was still alive he would have been less likely to lose his own life in a gunfight.

                The final, and most popular theory is one which has been stated by both police and Pearl’s own family:  That Castro may have abducted Pearl in order to traffic her.  Police believe she may still be alive, but being held against her will.  They have said she could be getting passed from person to person and have not ruled out the possibility of sex trafficking and that Castro may have known individuals involved in it, or have been looking to make some fast money and chose who he believed would be an easy target.  Pearl’s own sister Rose has said “Honestly, I think she’s in sex trafficking.  She could be anywhere with anybody, but I believe she’s still alive and I’m not gonna stop believing until I have proof.”  According to the HumanTrafickingHotline, since 2007, there have been over 21,225 cases of human trafficking in the state of California alone with most of the victim being women or children. 

                Pearl Pinson was a bright and beautiful young woman with a huge heart and a loving soul.  There wasn’t a person around her who didn’t feel gifted by her presence.  Then, in one terrible moment, she was taken away and hasn’t been seen again.  It’s a terrible story, a haunting question without legitimate answers.  What happened to Pearl Pinson and what was it that drove Fernando Castro to abduct her early that Wednesday morning?  As time has passed, there have been fewer answers than most expected.  Police have remained tight lipped about Castro himself and any possible motive for the crime.  Witnesses to the abduction have come forward, but friends and family members of Castro have remained quiet about what his intentions may have been and what drove him into this dark action.  It has been a year and nearly four months since Pearl Pinson was abducted on her way to school, and her family continues to hold out hope that she will be safely returned to them.  Until someone comes forward with information, new leads can be developed or some sign of Pearl can be discovered, she remains missing and her case unsolved.

[Thoughts & Theories]

                Pearl Pinson was fifteen years old when she was abducted.  Think about where you were when you were fifteen and just try to imagine the absolute terror you would have experienced if something like this happened to you.  She was just a girl walking to school, so close to finishing ninth grade, when a violent man approached her and kidnapped her for no apparent reason.  Nothing about this makes sense, and sadly, we don’t have any answers over a year later.  Pearl’s brother was walking to school and heard his sister cry out for help, but he didn’t know it was her and I find that detail incredibly heartbreaking.  In a few interviews, Pearl’s sister Rose has said that their brother has taken it really hard and hold himself somewhat responsible for not knowing, and not being able to protect his sister.  That’s something no one should have to live with, but due to the actions of one sick person, an entire family was shattered that May 25th.

                The Abduction of Pearl Pinson is one of those cases that is so shocking and brazen that I can’t believe more people haven’t heard of it.  There are a ton of news articles on this case, but they all tend regurgitate the same information.  To find something new, or a piece of the story that you haven’t seen before can take a while.  I had to look at twice as much information on this case as almost any of my other cases because the information is distributed so unevenly.  As has been the story recently for me, information about the victim is thin, at least prior to hear abduction.  I do my best to make the victim the focus of each episode, and in this case I had very little to work with.  Regardless of that, I think it’s extremely important to not forget that, at the end of the day, we are discussing a horrible incident that happened to a fifteen year old girl who was on her way to school.  All you have to do is look at pictures of Pearl Pinson to be reminded that she was just a kind, innocent girl who faced a terrible situation for little to no reason.  In the aftermath, her family has been left without answers and investigators have remained baffled by why it happened and where Pearl was taken.

                The entire incident is extremely bizarre and what makes it that much more frustrating is not knowing why it happened, or what happened afterward.  Several witnesses saw or heard what was going on on the pedestrian bridge that morning, and a few called 911 to report the abduction.  According to all accounts, Pearl was approached by Castro, there was some kind of a struggle in which Pearl was injured.  There was a single witness who said that Pearl was bleeding from the mouth, and when police arrived they found blood on the bridge.  One witness said that he saw Pearl being shoved into the trunk of Castro’s car, while others were ducking for cover following the gunshot.  Police later found blood in the trunk confirming that Pearl had in fact been in the trunk.  The interesting thing is that police note that, though blood was in the trunk, they don’t believe it was enough to suggest that Pearl had been shot.  On the bridge that day, witnesses heard Pearl scream, followed by a gunshot.  Initially this led many to believe that she had been shot, and that is why she stopped screaming, but evidence suggests that Pearl was not shot.  This leads investigators to believe that she may, in fact, have been kept alive and either murdered later, left somewhere desolate or given over to a third party.

                Before moving into the theories, I wanted to address one specific piece of this case.  In a lot of the cases I cover, there are obvious errors in investigation or glaring mistakes made by the police.  I don’t consider this one of those cases and while I understand the frustration of Pearl’s family, I think the situation revolving around the Amber Alert and the shooting of Castro have to really be looked at closely before you leap to any conclusions.  Starting with the Amber Alert, there are specific guidelines in place that they have to adhere to before they can issue that alert.  Rose would argue that they knew who took Pearl, and they knew the vehicle, but according to all of the research I have done, much of that information came out hours later when a witness came forward to report it.  At the initial scene, they had a chaotic situation to deal with and they needed to weed through conflicting reports.  Some people didn’t even a see car, and they wanted to be really sure.  Although it doesn’t sound like a big deal, if you issue an amber alert describing a vehicle without knowing for certain, anyone driving that vehicle could be called in to police and its going to really spread your resources thin to be tracking down and pulling over every car of that type and color.

                In the Castro shooting I honestly don’t think police had a choice.  Based on his driving, Castro proved that he was a danger to the public.  If he had simply crashed, I think things may have turned out differently, but when he entered an innocent persons home, stole another vehicle and fired shots at police he was essentially endangering not only the police, but anyone who lived in the vicinity.  If they hadn’t shot back, he may have driven off and could have proven to be an even bigger danger.  Castro was obviously desperate, armed and dangerous.  Though it would have been the optimal result for police to have captured, or merely wounded him, they were being shot at and they returned fire.  In moments like that I don’t know that you have the ability to take the time to consider all of your options.  In addition to this, Castro was in the drivers seat of a truck so even if they had wanted to, Police didn’t have the option to just shoot him in the leg or wound him.  Although I deeply wish Castro had survived so that he could have answered questions, I cannot judge how the Police responded to him shooting at them.

                The theories revolving around this case are mostly thin, but considering the lack of information we have that isn’t surprising.  This case is different than most of the others I have covered because, in terms of the abduction, we have a very vivid picture of what happened.  Several people witnessed it and were able to describe the attack.  We know that Castro put Pearl in the trunk of his car and drove off with her, and we know that Castro was the man who was responsible for this.  That’s where our knowledge ends and whereas usually we don’t know for sure who was involved, in this instance, it’s what happened afterward that leaves us baffled and confused.  As a result of this, the theories are about why Castro took Pearl and what he did with her afterward.

                The first theory is that Castro abducted Pearl because of some sort of issues or dispute between the two of them.  This theory assumes that Pearl knew Castro on more than an acquaintance basis, though her family disputes this fact.  There have been rumors that Castro and Pearl knew each other much better than that, and some have even hinted that the two had been involved in a relationship though there doesn’t appear to be any evidence to suggest that.  It’s really hard to say, but if I operate only in terms of evidence, there really isn’t anything to connect Castro to Pearl prior to the abduction. 

                That being said, I think it would be an extremely odd coincidence that Castro would abduct Pearl, a girl from his neighborhood who he had seen before, and who had seen him, completely at random.    What are the odds that on that particular morning Castro, who we know was driving, just happened to be passing by that pedestrian bridge when he suddenly saw Pearl and decided that he should abduct her?  That’s one of the stranger details of this case… the abduction took place on the bridge over the interstate, a bridge that a car cannot fit on to.  So how did Castro end up on that bridge, with Pearl?  There are only a few scenarios which I imagine could have led to this:  Either Castro just happened to be by the corkscrew ramp leading to the crosswalk and saw Pearl and decided to follow her, or Castro followed Pearl that day and when he saw Pearl ascend the pedestrian bridge decided to make his move, or there is the possibility that Castro had stalked Pearl, knew her morning routine and was already up on the bridge waiting for her.

                I am not a huge believer in coincidence, and a large part of me believes that Castro was either following Pearl that morning or was up there waiting for her.  I don’t believe we are dealing with a totally random abduction here, which would possibly lend credence to the fact that Castro and Pearl may have known each other a little bit more than her family believes.  Castro had a gun on him, which to me suggests that he either drove around every day with a gun on him or he planned to use it that day.  Police would later search in the Willow Creek area of Jenner based on information they got from Castro’s phone, his home and a receipt in his car which would also imply that this was planned out beyond just the abduction.  I do think there is a chance that this abduction was based on some interaction between the two, and some have theorized that Castro may have been attracted to Pearl, but that she didn’t return those feelings and he became angry about it.  That’s as much a possibility as anything in this case, but in terms of this theory, I do consider it more likely than not that there was some connection between the two.

                The second theory follows a similar line as the first, though it suggests different possible motives. This theory focuses more in on the possibility that Castro had become obsessed with Pearl over time and may have even been stalking her.  Since I began investigating this case I couldn’t help but wonder if Castro was suffering from some kind of mental illness, and though that is purely speculation on my part, it isn’t uncommon for someone with issues to become obsessed with someone and to imagine that there is some kind of mutual interest.  I don’t think it’s normal for someone to abduct a fifteen year old girl at gunpoint, in broad daylight, in front of witnesses.  To me, there has to be more at work beneath the surface than we have been publicly made aware of.  Castro’s past, his possible criminal history, has all been kept underwraps for one reason or another.  He has been one of the most difficult criminals I have ever researched for an episode as almost nothing exists about him.  Typically in a case like this, especially one with so few answers, extensive investigation of his past and behavior around the time of the abduction would have been conducted, and I am sure it was, but it hasn’t been released. 

                Without more information it’s nearly impossible to say whether or not this crime was influenced in anyway by mental illness, drugs or was the case of an obsessive stalker going too far.  Castro’s family has had little to say about the crime, and appear to be as baffled as everyone else as to what caused their son to commit this heinous act.  On the other hand, certain individuals close to Pearl and her family have speculated that Castro had psychological problems and his family was aware of them but chose not to seek treatment for him.  Whether or not that is accurate, there is really no way of knowing.  I honestly don’t feel like there is enough information available to come down to a decision on the this theory.  Considering my feelings about Pearl beyond followed and or stalked I certainly think there is a possibility this is a case of someone becoming obsessed and that it may tie into some sort of psychological or substance abuse problems.

                The final theory is the most well known and popular and it surmises that Pearl was abducted in order to be sold into sex slavery and human trafficking.  There are a few factors here which lend credence to this:  first and foremost, based on the amount of blood found in the trunk of Castro’s car, investigators felt it was highly unlikely that Pearl had sustained any fatal injuries and essentially ruled out the chance that she had been shot.  To this day, investigators believe that when Pearl was in the trunk of the car, she was still alive and could very well still be alive today.  Using surveillance camera footage and pings from Castro’s cell phone, Police were able to get a good idea of where Castro traveled.  From the time he abducted Pearl, to the moment he was shot, Castro traveled over 350 miles which was a contributing factor as to why search efforts struggled.  That is a lot of land to cover and one officer even refered to it by saying that calling it a needle in a haystack was a generous description.

                Many people don’t believe that a nineteen year old could have pulled off this abduction and managed to dispose of Pearl without someone helping him, or someone to whom he had delivered her.  California has a large underground for sex trafficking and young girls and women are the most likely to be abducted for this purpose.  If the unknown source is correct in his statement that there was a receipt in Castro’s car which had directions to Jenner, California, there is a possibility that he was meeting someone there in order to deliver Pearl for some unknown purpose.  Considering how much authorities discussed the possibility of her being trafficked, and that her own sister believes this is what happened to her, I am inclined to believe that authorities may have uncovered information which gave them this belief.  What that information could be, we don’t know because they have been fairly tight lipped about that aspect of this case, but I don’t think it’s a theory they would just throw out without having some kind of basis for it.  I do believe there is a good possibility that Pearl was in fact trafficked, but there has always been one detail of the case which has made me question this.

                Castro fled from Police and led them on a high speed pursuit.  In his desperation, he crashed his car, stole a truck and exchanged fire with authorities.  There is a big part of me that feels like if Castro had simply abducted Pearl, and gave her to someone else, he wouldn’t have been so willing to die for this.  The fact that Castro was willing to risk his own life, to me, suggests that he believed that if he were captured he was likely going to jail for the rest of his life.  I can only speculate, but I’ve always felt that there was a high likelihood that Castro was so violent and willing to die because he knew that Pearl was dead and if he were caught he knew the price he would pay for that.  If this was merely an abduction, and even if trafficking were involved, it seems more likely that you’d try to escape but wouldn’t be willing to die to keep something secret.  I don’t want to go into much of the gory details of what I believe is likely to have happened that day, but I just find it extremely odd that someone would be willing to go to such extremes if he weren’t already aware of having done something horrible.  If you factor in that Pearl has not been sighted since that day and no signs or traces of her were ever recovered, I think there is just as much of a chance that she was murdered as that she was trafficked.

                The abduction of Pearl Pinson is a terribly tragic story.  A fifteen year old girl taken away from her life, a family left behind without any answers and a search which was never able to produce any results.  The abductor is dead, and his family is left wondering why their son did such a terrible thing, but they too lack any real answers.  Investigators devoted countless manhours to search efforts, studying surveillance footage and canvassing large areas of California and still remain baffled as to what could have happened to Pearl in the thirty-three hours between the time she was abducted and the fatal shootout with Fernando Castro.  This is one of those cases that sticks with you, a total mystery that makes no sense on the surface and the deeper you go the more complex and frustrating it becomes.

                What happened to Pearl Pinson?  She vanished from the streets of Vallejo California on May 25th, 2016 and hasn’t been seen since.  We can only hope that she is still alive, and not in an absolutely terrible situation but the odds are not in favor of that likelihood.  If Pearl is still alive, then someone knows where she is and we can only hope that this person will eventually come forward and tell authorities what they need to know to bring her home safely.  If Pearl was murdered, then there are hundreds of miles of California wilderness in which she may have been concealed and the likelihood that she will ever be discovered is slim.  There is a $10,000 reward out for information leading to the recovery of Pearl Pinson.  She is not forgotten, and I truly hope that one day, we will have the answers to this incredibly disturbing story.