Five years later, family still searching for abducted Bay Area teen Pearl Pinson

Tuesday was the five-year anniversary of the day Pearl Pinson was kidnapped and many family members, friends and activists came out to set off balloons and be there to console each other near the site of of Pearl's abduction on a bridge overlooking the 780 freeway.

Five years later, family still searching for abducted Bay Area teen Pearl Pinson

In the 1994 film, “The Shawshank Redemption,” prisoner Andy Dufresne states that “Hope is a good thing, maybe the best of the things. And no good thing ever dies.”

Rose Pinson knows this to be true.

Tuesday marked the five-year anniversary of the kidnapping of Rose’s sister, Pearl Pinson — an occasion marked by family members, friends and activists setting off balloons and consoling each other near the site of Pearl’s abduction on a bridge overlooking the 780 freeway.

“You have to keep up hope, keep faith,” said the 23-year-old Rose, through tears. “You never know why these things happen but you have to believe she’s coming back. Hope gets me through the day and I’m hoping one way or another she’s soon back home with us.”

Pearl Pinson was a 15-year-old Jesse Bethel High School student in 2016 when she was kidnapped off a pedestrian walkway over Interstate 780 on her way to school by an armed man, dragged to a waiting car.

  • Pearl Pinson

  • Dan Walsh attaches a new banner that reads ‘Bring Pearl Home’ on the pedestrian overpass of Interstate 780 where Pearl Pinson was abducted by Fernando Castro in 2016. (Chris Riley—Times-Herald)

  • This undated photo provided by the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Office shows Pearl Pinson. Authorities are hoping to find the missing teenage girl alive as they frantically search a wide swath of California for her Friday, May 27, 2016, a day after the man suspected of abducting her died in a shootout with police. (Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Office via AP)

  • The suspect vehicle that was believed to have been used in Pearl Pinson abduction.

  • The backpack resembling the one that Pearl Pinson carried at the time of her abduction.

  • Rose Pinson is comforted by her uncle Aaron Pinson during the one year anniversary of the day Pearl Pinson was abducted by Fernando Castro on a Vallejo pedestrian overpass in 2016. Pearl has not been found. (CHRIS RILEY — TIMES-HERALD)

  • Pearl Pinson (Courtesy of Solano County Sheriff s Office)

  • Pearl Pinson’s mother holds a sign showing a reward for the return of her daughter. (RACHEL RASKIN-ZRIHEN — TIMES-HERALD)

  • Pearl Pinson (Courtesy of Solano County Sheriff s Office)

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She hasn’t been seen since.

The kidnapper, later identified as 19-year-old Fernando I. Castro, had no known connection to Pinson. Castro died in a shootout with police in Southern California the day after the kidnapping, leaving plenty of unanswered questions but no sign of Pinson. Pearl was later featured in an article in People magazine on missing children.

Five years later, Rose says no new developments have been made and she hasn’t talked with anyone at the Solano County Sheriff’s Department for a few years.

“The lead detective stopped working on it about two years ago but every time I call the Solano Sheriff’s Office they don’t call me back,” Rose Pinson said. “There have been no new leads, unfortunately.”

Rose often thinks back to the last time she spoke with her younger sister. On Rose’s Facebook page she wrote, “I love and miss you so much sis. I wish I could just call you up and tell you everything that’s been going on over the past 5 years. I wish I could see you smile and laugh again.”

On Tuesday Rose described the last time she talked with her younger sister — the day before her kidnapping.

“I was living in Concord at the time and she was telling me she was being bullied at school,” said Rose, who now lives in Vallejo. “Sometimes friends just have little arguments and they go through stages with each other.”

Rose said that the arguments and girls bullying her at school had nothing to do with the kidnapping. The older sister said Pearl loves to skateboard and listen to music, especially bands like Guns N Roses. Rose said Pearl also loved applying makeup.

“She was loved by a lot of people,” Rose said. “She was always skating and always at skate parks all over the area.”

This is not the only time Rose has dealt with tragedy in the past five years. Just last year, only a month after she and her fiancé, 24-year-old Gabe Medonza had a baby boy, Andres, Mendoza was shot on Nov. 2 on the 1800 block of Broadway in Vallejo.

Mendoza, suffering from at least one gunshot, was transported to a local hospital, and then a local trauma center to be treated for life-threatening injuries, according to a Vallejo Police Department report. Mendoza, whose aunt, Miranda Stuart, says he was kept on life-support or three days to he could be an organ donor, died from his injuries on Nov. 8.

Bridget Doherty and her granddaughter Anyah Morales, 6, cut the strings on balloons as they release them off the pedestrian overpass on Interstate 780 where Pearl Pinson was abducted in 2016. (Chris Riley—Times-Herald) 

The event for Pearl Pinson on Tuesday night was attended by many friends from nearby and all over the state. Laura Smith, who is running for governor in 2022, made the trip all the way from Chino Hills.

“I’m sick of tired of what is going on with human trafficking in this state,” Smith said. “I see it all the time. I had an up-close perspective of it growing up and it just irritates me.”

At about 7:30 p.m. a number of balloons were released into the sky as friends yelled out, “Go find Pearl,” or “Go see Pearl” or “Get up there girl.”

Vickie Francom’s son, Tyler, dated Pearl Pinson briefly before the kidnapping. Vickie said Pearl was always very sweet when visiting their house.

“They were at the house often and she was basically my son’s first girlfriend,” Francom said. “Pearl was very nice and we loved having her over.

“I remember the day after she was kidnapped I was working at the Lowe’s in Fairfield and I got an Amber alert,” Francom continued. “When I saw that it was Pearl that was missing I became very, very upset. We all started looking for her and it seems since then I’ve been to so many vigils for her. But you have to keep up hope. I mean, why not?”

A petition was also re-started to rename the overpass on 780 connecting Lewis and Home Acres avenues after Pearl Pinson. Francom discussed going around the neighborhood to ask people to sign the petition. Francom said that 1,000 signatures are needed and last year only 600 were obtained.

“I would like to rename the pedestrian overpass for her and have some kind of plaque dedicated to her,” Francom said. “Even if it’s small it would be a nice thing to have that could bring awareness to her case.”

Anyone wanting to sign the petition or anyone with information on Pearl Pinson’s case is encouraged to visit Rose Pinson’s Facebook page at www.facebook.com/roseann.pinson.