Jean Marie Berlinghoff
Law enforcement officials have their first significant piece of evidence in the case of missing Redding teenager Jean Marie Berlinghoff. The 1987 four-door Oldsmobile that Jean and her uncle Charles Berlinghoff were believed to be driving was found along Sims Road south of Dunsmuir on Friday afternoon.
The 15-year-old Enterprise High School sophomore disappeared with her 44-year-old uncle on Nov. 10. The disappearance followed a confrontation between Charles Berlinghoff and Jean Marie’s father Jake Berlinghoff about text messages that may have suggested that Charles and Jean were having a sexual relationship.
California Highway Patrol and Shasta County Sheriff’s investigators swept the car for evidence and then had it towed to Redding. They interviewed a number of people in the area and plan to do the same today, though a snowstorm is hampering the investigation.
“It is the vehicle (that the two disappeared in),” said Sheriff Detective John Hubbard, the lead investigator on the case. “Obviously we went through the vehicle and we don’t want to let out what we may or may not have found in terms of evidence. Today we’ll be canvassing the area and interviewing and talking people. We did some of that last night and we had a few people say they think they saw a guy similar to (Charles Berlinghoff).”
Charles Berlinghoff has a history of sex crimes but is not a registered sex offender and his convictions had been expunged or dismissed. He played in a number of heavy metal bands in the Los Angeles area and would periodically travel to Redding to visit with family in the area.
In mid-October when Charles was in the area, Jake Berlinghoff said he noticed a “weird closeness” between Jean Marie and her uncle. Both Jake Berlinghoff and Jean Marie’s mother Heather Vega say they were unaware of Charles’ past sex crimes because his record was expunged and he’s not listed on Megan’s List for sex offenders.
A $100,000 warrant is out for Charles Berlinghoff’s arrest for keeping Jean from her parents. 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. Those with information about the case should call (530) 245-6025.
The vehicle, abandoned along Sims Road, was reported by a man who called the sheriff’s dispatch.
Detective Hubbard said the man who reported the car had been out for a drive and thought it was suspicious. Hubbard did not have the name of the man who reported the car and wasn’t sure if he’d learned about it from the recent notification on Caltrans highway signs over the holiday weekend.
“We’re going to see what we can do at this point,” Hubbard said. “A search in snow conditions is not too productive and it’s coming down good right now. We need better conditions. But we’ll be up there knocking on doors and passing out new flyers trying to gather any form of evidence of any kind.”
From the initial investigation, Hubbard said the vehicle may have been abandoned for a week to 10 days, but reports from people in the area were conflicting. Determining how long the car had been sitting in the area will be one goal for detectives today.
“(Finding the car) is a step in right direction,” Hubbard said. “We know they were in that area and my hope is that they still are. We’re hopeful something will pop open and we can find them.”
Jean Marie’s mother said the discovering of the car is at least something new in the excruciating case.
“They found the car and that’s all we know,” Heather Vega said. “I’m hoping this will bring her home faster. I hate waiting.”