Rescued OC woman says stranger threatened her and her dog before they went missing in Inyo County forest

 In blog, Crime News: Los Angeles Daily News

Rescued OC woman says stranger threatened her and her dog before they went missing in Inyo County forest

by Alma Fausto, Eric Licas

Rescuers on Monday found a Huntington Beach woman who told family she and her dog got lost Friday in the Inyo National Forest after being threatened by an armed man — and she then survived on stagnant pond water and cactus fruit.

Searchers found Sheryl Powell, 60, a few hours after locating her 5-pound black and gray Yorkie-poo named Miley, Inyo County Sheriff’s Department officials announced at 2 p.m. They were near the Montenegro Springs area, about two and a half miles from the Grandview Campground where Powell went missing.

The site is a half-hour drive north of Big Pine in the Sierra Nevada mountains, northeast of Fresno.

“She is dehydrated, but her vitals are okay,” said her son, Greg Powell.

“Searchers describe her as resilient and strong but exhausted after being lost in an extremely remote area above Big Pine,” sheriff’s officials said in a statement.

The rescued hiker and her husband had just arrived at the campground prior to her disappearance on Friday afternoon, Greg Powell said.

He said she and her dog walked a short distance away from their Jeep to relieve themselves, and were confronted by a stranger with a knife.  He made a lewd comment and threatened to harm her pet if she attempted to resist him, her son said. Instead, she ran away as fast as she could.

Inyo County Sheriff’s officials didn’t immediately comment directly on the reported encounter with the stranger.

“We’re 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 Department said in a Facebook post Monday night.

Greg Powell said his mother described the stranger as a balding, middle-aged man with a stocky build. He said Sheryl Powell ran for hours, staying off of roads and obvious trails in order to avoid detection. She became lost, and nearly succumbed to exhaustion as she and Miley tried to find their way back.

She came across a pond, where the experienced hiker took refuge and managed to survive by drinking stagnant water and eating cactus fruit, Greg Powell said. At first, she would wave frantically to the helicopter that flew overhead to look for her in an area several miles north of where she had taken shelter. But without supplies, the hardship of Sheryl Powell’s ordeal took a toll on her body. She told her relatives she was barely able to move as search efforts continued for a fourth day.

“At one point, she thought `this would be it, that these would be her last days,’” said Greg Powell.

On Friday, Sheryl Powell’s husband Joseph Powell searched for about an hour before calling for help at around 2 p.m. on a satellite device. Inyo Search and Rescue and sheriff’s personnel immediately began looking for the missing woman. They were later joined by search and rescue teams on the ground and in the air including from the California Highway Patrol and the California National Guard.

Crews battled gullies, heat, direct sun and faced the threat of rattlesnakes. Greg Powell worried that search teams were lacking in manpower as they combed the area surrounding Grandview Campground at an elevation of 8,600 feet.

Some began to fear the worst until Miley was found barking in the rugged wilderness on Monday. That discovery led search crews to the missing woman, Greg Powell said.

Sheryl Powell was met at the Bishop Airport by an ambulance and taken to a hospital, Greg Powell said. There had been a few abnormalities in her lab results, but relatives said she may be able to leave the hospital as soon as Monday evening.

Her daughter Farrah Powell shared a photo on Facebook of her mother on a hospital bed with father Joseph and brother Greg with the caption: “SHES ALIVE!!! This is the happiest day of our lives. We can’t thank everyone enough!!!!!!!”



“My parents have an extremely loving relationship and my dad (who has refused to leave the campsite) is on the verge of (a) breakdown,” Greg Powell said before his mother was found.

He described the past few days as a “roller coaster” of emotion for his relatives. He said his family would have a number of things to sort out in the coming days, but for now, they are content to be together.

Family members had started a crowdfunding page to accept donations for additional search efforts and possibly a private investigator. However, now that his mother has been located, Greg Powell said all of that money will be returned to donors.

All credit goes to Alma Fausto, Eric Licas Originally published on

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