With Redding teenager Jean Marie Berlinghoff still missing two weeks after she disappeared, the Shasta County Sheriff’s Office announced today that it has coordinated with the California Highway Patrol and Caltrans to place a message about the case on Changeable Message Signs (CMS) on highways in 13 Northern California counties.
While not an Amber Alert, the message appeared today and will continue to appear through the Thanksgiving holiday weekend, which the sheriff’s office notes is the busiest and most traveled time of the year. The message on the sign reads:
‘87 Gry Olds 4DR
The 15-year-old is believed to be with her uncle Charles Berlinghoff, 43, of Los Angeles. A $100,000 warrant is out for his arrest for keeping Jean from her parents. Charles Berlinghoff was convicted of indecent exposure in Shasta County in 1993, and charged with four counts of misdemeanor child molestation and one felony count of indecent exposure in 1998 in Tehama County.
Caltrans agreed to activate the signs so long as they are not needed to publicize emergency traffic or road information due to winter storms or other emergencies, the sheriff’s office announced.
“I’m glad, and at least it’s something,” said Jean’s father Jake Berlinghoff on Wednesday. “I think it could still be broader and wider. It’s been two weeks, so they could be anywhere. But hopefully that helps get a lead that’s viable that leads to finding Jean.”
Charles Berlinghoff’s prior charges of misdemeanor child molestation were not known by Jean’s parents, says Jake Berlinghoff, who added that his brother somehow had the charges expunged.
Had he known, Jake Berlinghoff says, he wouldn’t have allowed his brother into the house where Jake lives with his mother Kathy and younger brother Jon. Jake Berlinghoff says he confronted Charles about text messages he found on Jean’s phone that suggested that Charles and Jean were having a sexual relationship. In one text message, he says, Charles called his daughter “Baby.”
When Jake confronted Charles about the message, Charles became very defensive and the situation nearly lead to a fight, Jake said.
“At that point, I think he knew I was going to find out some stuff he didn’t want me to find out about and he got scared because he knew he was going to be in trouble,” Jake said Wednesday. “At that point, he must have made the decision to get out of the situation as soon as possible.”
Jake Berlinghoff maintains that Jean was likely taken against her will. He says the disappearance came at a time when the family was trying to send Charles “out of the door and back to Los Angeles” where he lives and plays in a heavy metal band.
“My plan at that point (after Charles was gone) was to talk to Jean, figure out what going on and put more stuff together,” Jake Berlinghoff said.
A $10,000 reward by Secret Witness of Shasta County has been offered for anyone who provides information that leads to Charlie’s arrest and conviction. Anyone with information about the case should call (530) 245-6025.
Jake Berlinghoff says he has been in daily contact with Marc Klaas, father of 12-year-old Polly Klaas, who was kidnapped in 1993 and later found strangled in a case that received international media attention. Marc Klaas since formed a non-profit KlaasKids Foundation that promotes programs for at-risk youth and pushes for stronger sentencing for violent criminals. Klaas is a well-known advocate for missing children and their parents.
“He said, ‘Keep bugging the national media as much as possible because at this point they could be anywhere,'” Jake said of his conversations with Klaas. “He said, ‘Keep your chin up because you don’t know what’s happened yet.’
“Tomorrow’s Thanksgiving and obviously this is awful. It’s our first Thanksgiving without Jean and I just keep hoping she somehow manages to show up before Thanksgiving. I lost my dad two years ago and that was really hard for me. But this just seems a million times worse. Every night I keep thinking this is worst nightmare in the world. Every morning I wake up and it’s all the same as it was. Everything is out of place.”
Jim Dyar is a news, arts and entertainment journalist for A News Cafe and the former arts and entertainment editor for the Record Searchlight’s D.A.T.E. section. Jim is also a songwriter and leader of the Jim Dyar Band. He lives in Redding. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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