The next chapter of the saga of a Redding teenager who was missing for 31 days with her 44-year-old uncle continues in Shasta County Superior Court on Dec. 29. Charles Berlinghoff now faces 96 counts of felonies and misdemeanors, including incest, lewd acts with a minor, oral copulation, child stealing, contributing to the delinquency of a minor, providing lewd material to a minor and arranging a meeting with a minor for a lewd purpose.
The list of charges against Charles Berlinghoff expanded by 75 counts this week, the Shasta County Court’s Criminal Division office confirmed today.
The new charges were brought forth by the District Attorney’s Office during an in-custody hearing on Tuesday afternoon. The new counts were for lewd acts with a minor, incest and oral copulation.
New court records released Tuesday reveal that Berlinghoff and the teen told sheriff’s detectives they had engaged in a sexual relationship from October to December.
According to the records, the teen told detectives that Berlinghoff “didn’t rape me.” She also said, “I love him, more than an uncle,” according to the records.
Berlinghoff is expected to enter a plea at the Dec. 29 arraignment hearing. After Tuesday’s hearing he had not yet retained an attorney, but indicated that he wished to.
In the initial round of investigative reports, text messages and witness statements detailed evidence supporting the allegations against the Los Angeles man.
Berlinghoff had been staying at his brother Jacob Berlinghoff’s Redding residence when he disappeared with his 15-year-old niece on Nov. 10. The uncle and niece were the subject of a wide-ranging search that involved law enforcement agencies from throughout California and attracted national media coverage.
They were spotted in San Francisco’s Mission District on Dec. 11 by the teen’s cousin Jennifer Berlinghoff, who notified police. Charles Berlinghoff was later arrested and the teen was taken into protective custody.
While missing, the teen’s name was used in posts on A News Café and widely publicized by a variety of media outlets. Her name is now being withheld because of the sexual nature of the charges pending against Charles Berlinghoff. A News Café does not name victims of alleged sex crimes.
Charles Berlinghoff was arraigned in Shasta County Superior Court on Friday but did not enter a plea. As of Monday afternoon, he had not retained a lawyer for his defense, though he stated that was his intent during his initial arraignment hearing, a court clerk said. Wednesday’s appearance is a continuation of the arraignment.
Shasta County Sheriff’s Department investigative reports, released as court record last week, build the case that the relationship between Charles Berlinghoff and the teen was inappropriate, considering her minor status.
The girl’s father told investigators that he grounded his daughter after an evening when she and her uncle stayed out until the early morning. Jacob Berlinghoff told investigators that he took the teen’s cell phone and discovered text messages that he deemed inappropriate.
Text messages from Charles Berlinghoff’s phone to the teen included: “I’m going to miss you so bad, it’s hard to leave I don’t ever want to” on Nov. 9, and “Good morning baby I love you I cant wait to hold you again XOXO” on Nov. 10.
There was also an outgoing text message from the alleged victim’s cell phone that read: “I know baby” on Nov. 9, the report shows.
After discovering the text messages, Jacob Berlinghoff told investigators he confronted his brother, which led to a near fight. Jacob Berlinghoff left the room to let the situation cool down and later fell asleep, he told investigators.
Other details from the investigative report include a statement by a friend of the teen who said she saw digital photographs and text messages that indicated that the teen and Charles Berlinghoff were having a sexual relationship. Charles Berlinghoff also told his San Bernardino roommate Nate Tabor that he had a “hot” 18-year-old girlfriend in Redding and, if given the chance, would like to have sex with her, the report states.
After disappearing on Nov. 10, sheriff’s officials say the two drove to the Sims Road area south of Dunsmuir and stayed in the woods for several days before jumping on a slow moving boxcar and riding a train north to Oregon. Eventually they reached Portland, where they lived for three weeks, staying in a homeless shelter and working in a soup kitchen, the report shows.
They befriended a man who, unaware they were the subjects of an extensive search, gave them a ride to San Francisco, where they were spotted by the teen’s cousin, who resides in the city.
Earlier this month, Jacob Berlinghoff told A News Café that he’s aware that people following the case may find it suspicious that a family member would randomly spot the pair in the large city, thus accomplishing what a wide net of law enforcement and other agencies could not in a month’s time. Jacob Berlinghoff denied accusations by people commenting on online forums that he himself was somehow involved in the case to seek publicity or for any other reason beyond wanting to find his daughter.
“I think any parent who had a missing kid would do whatever that could to find her,” Jacob Berlinghoff told A News Café on Dec. 13.
A $10,000 reward by Secret Witness of Shasta County was being offered in the case for discovery of Charles Berlinghoff and the teen while she was missing. The non-profit organization did receive tips about the case. However, no reward money has been paid at this point, said Sharon Lassiter, president of the volunteer board.
The investigating agency (in this case the Shasta County Sheriff’s Office) receives the tip information and also makes the decision pertaining to any reward money being distributed.
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.
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 anewscafe.com.