New Details in Found Teen’s Case: Boxcar, Soup Kitchens

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.

Officers arrest Charles Berlinghoff in this photo, posted on Facebook.

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

A News Cafe, founded in Shasta County by Redding, CA journalist Doni Greenberg, is the place for people craving local Northern California news, commentary, food, arts and entertainment. Views and opinions expressed here are not necessarily those of

is a journalist who focuses on arts, entertainment, music and the outdoors. He is a songwriter and leader of the Jim Dyar Band. He lives in Redding and can be reached at
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21 Responses

  1. Avatar Loves to Eat says:

    my only question is: traveling south from Portland, didn't the red Oregon vehicle have to pass thru what we refer to as "a bug station"? didn't the workers know about the Berlinghoff folks before allowing them to re-enter the state? or…. were they hidden and the 3rd person is telling a lie?

    • Avatar Andi says:

      No more bug stations coming into California from Oregon on I-5. another victim of budget cuts several years ago.

      • Avatar Loves to Eat says:

        unless they were closed in the last 21 days I beg to differ. when we returned from Oregon in November we were stopped and asked whether we had any fresh fruits or veggies at the station.

  2. Avatar Loves to Eat says:

    i guess i really have multiple questions above. sorry

    • Avatar Jim Dyar says:

      Those are good questions. I assume they must have passed through Redding on the way to San Francisco and that must have been an interesting stretch of time.

  3. Avatar Grammy says:

    What are the odds that a guy trying to raise funds to make a movie about Tara Smith, has his own daughter obducted and then found by a neice? One far fetch possible maybe but two….???

    • Avatar IAmNoOne says:

      I agree Grammy. At least on this site we are able to post and ask these questions….

      • Avatar Serena says:

        Divine intervention perhaps??? Someone who is going to the trouble of such an elaborate hoax would not make it that obvious….

  4. Avatar IAmNoOne says:

    Remember the Balloon Boy ordeal? Just another publicity stunt-My thoughts. The local paper doesn't let new people comment without being approved and then deletes comments that are negative. Talk about censorship. There is a story with the father about twice a day in order to keep his 15 minutes of fame going. Talk about craving the spotlight…

    • Dear IAmNoOne,

      Welcome to 🙂

      We do welcome comments. But what we welcome even more are civilized, respectful conversations – even disagreements – posted by thoughtful readers who are brave enough to include their real names with their opinions.

      • Avatar IAmNoOne says:

        Thank you for the "welcome" Miss(Mrs.)Greenberg. I apologize for my abruptness as it was rude to post such a comment on your boards. Something a little birdie told me prompted the comment. Not sure if including my real name makes much difference or any sense actually when most people don't(See above comments). For the sake of conversation, my name is John.

        • Avatar gamerjohn says:

          I have known Jake Berlinghoff for several years. If he was looking for attention, he would be using his professional name that he uses for his movie career. I haven't read anything about his movies in any of the articles. I know he fought many battles in family court for his kids. Consider me a big fat bird that overrules little birdies.

  5. Avatar Charlie says:

    Come on….if this was a set up then they would have paid someone else to make the call…why would they choose a cousin?

    I believe in miracles …they happen everyday.

  6. Avatar Carolyn Jones says:

    Seriously, people? Think about it. You MIGHT be able to talk a teenage girl into feigning a "run away" episode and you MIGHT be able to talk a cousin into making a "rescue" call but talk the uncle into felony jail time for the sake of publicity? NOT gonna happen.

  7. Avatar Kira says:

    The father is my friend and has been for 15 years. I don't expect you guys to blindly believe me, but I feel I should say that there was no set-up. Jake was terrified the whole time. Just FYI

  8. Avatar Mike says:

    No way was this staged. Just another tragedy at the hands of an older criminal and a young, vulnerable teen.

  9. Avatar Troy Hawkins says:

    This sounds like a stream from not A News Cafe. We've missed the point.

    She's home and she's safe. Let law enforcement do their jobs and investigate the details.

    I for one would be a complete wreck if my daughter went missing. Welcome home Jean.


    Give your kids a hug and tell them you love them everyday!

  10. Avatar Grammy says:

    After reading all of the articles and the comments, I think the Father is probably not part of this. But this is just like a 16 year old girl's mind to come up with something like this to help her Dad out.

    Every thing I have read, has a girl not talking and doing everything to avoid talking to anyone about what happened.

    Time will tell. It always does.

  11. Avatar pmarshall says:

    Can't believe this was a "set up", but one never knows. Stay tuned….

  12. Avatar IAmNoOne says:

    Well the latest news is out on this case. Mr. Berlinghoff has been arrested for sex related crimes. Jacob Berlinghoff that is……..