The relieved parents of Redding teenager Jean Marie Berlinghoff said the 15-year-old is happy to be home and with family again. And though plenty of questions still linger about what happened during the 31 days she was missing and with her uncle Charles Berlinghoff, 44, of Los Angeles, a few details are coming forth.
Not long after the two disappeared on Nov. 10, they abandoned the 1987 Oldsmobile they were driving near Sims Road south of Dunsmuir. They apparently jumped on a boxcar and rode a train north to Portland, said Shasta County Sheriff Detective John Hubbard.
“They were pretty much living from soup kitchen to soup kitchen until they ran into this gentleman who said he had to go to San Francisco, and they hitched a ride with him,” said Hubbard on Monday afternoon.
The two likely spent most of the time they were missing in the Portland area before traveling with the man to San Francisco. They were spotted on Saturday in the Mission District of San Francisco by Jean Berlinghoff’s cousin Jennifer Berlinghoff. Jennifer Berlinghoff called 911 and followed the pair for a short time and later identified them to police.
San Francisco police arrested Charles Berlinghoff on two felony warrants related to Jean’s disappearance and he remains in custody in the city on $1 million bail. He is expected to be transported to Redding this week, where he will be arraigned and charged.
The man who gave Jean and Charles a ride to San Francisco likely didn’t know they were wanted by police or that they were the focus of an intense search that had attracted national media attention, said Hubbard. Hubbard said the man’s name would like be released by Tuesday.
“My (investigators) think he was pretty honest and he had no idea (there was a search for them),” Hubbard said. “It’s a big sigh of relief, but now the work comes into play. We’ll try to find out if anyone helped them, how did they get from here to there. Everything that went on is important. Obviously we want to find out if any kind of abuse whatsoever took place.”
Though plenty of questions still linger, Jean’s parents say that for now, the girl needs rest.
“Right now she’s just relaxing, spending time with her family and taking one day at a time,” said mother Heather Vega. “We’re very grateful to the community, and as soon as we get all the facts straight, we’re going to let people know more (information).”
Vega added that Jean was very happy to be home and “very much missing her family during the entire time.”
Though he knows people would like to know more about the case, Jean’s father Jacob Berlinghoff said the focus is on letting the situation calm down for now.
“Right now the effort is to protect Jean,” Jacob Berlinghoff said. “We haven’t even really talked a whole lot to her about it. There’s a lot of speculation and I know that’s human nature. But we’re just so glad she’s home and safe.
“We haven’t shut anyone out and we’ll share details as we go. There’s a long way to go as far as Jean’s healing process,” he said.
Both parents thanked law enforcement, the community and the media for the effort in locating their daughter.
Jacob Berlinghoff said he’s heard all kinds of rumors related to the case, including that he staged the entire thing to get media attention. He said that the fact that Jean’s own cousin spotted her was pretty miraculous, but he also has a huge family and everyone was on the lookout.
“I told Jennifer she probably had better chances of winning the lottery than spotting Jean,” Jake Berlinghoff said. “She was in the right place at right time. We got extremely lucky and found her. Any parent who loses a kid is going to do anything they can to find them.”
Though he doesn’t know much in the way of details, Jacob Berlinghoff said he doesn’t think his daughter knew she was the subject of such an intense search.
In regard to his brother, Jacob Berlinghoff added that “obviously there was some manipulation going on. He had her for 31 days and my understanding is he did not let her out of his sight. I think that says a lot.”
When Jean reunited with her parents and family there were a lot of tears of joy, Jacob Berlinghoff said.
“Jean said yesterday that she’s really glad to be home,” he said. “It’s an amazing feeling, absolutely amazing. Seeing her, I can’t put together words for that. Right now the focus is on Jean and helping get her into a good process of mental health.”
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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