News

Search shifts to Arlington

The parents of Elaine Sepulveda left their vigil at their home in Navy base housing in Oak Harbor Friday morning and traveled to Arlington to hand out fliers of their missing daughter, Oak Harbor Police Sgt. Jerry Baker said.

The 15-year-old girl has been missing since around 2 a.m. Saturday, Nov. 6, after she left her home in the Navy’s Saratoga Heights housing. Police called her disappearance suspicious because she left without any money, identification, her purse, cell phone or a change of clothes.

A major break in the search came Thursday night when three firefighters at a fire station in North Snohomish County and a nearby resident positively identified seeing the girl Wednesday at about 5:30 p.m.

Baker said the girl, who looked “cold, wet and dirty” went to the door of an elderly woman who lived in a rural area outside of Arlington. The girl asked for a glass of water, but the woman told her to go to the nearby fire station.

The firefighters gave her a cup of hot chocolate, Baker said, but she turned down an offer for food. She left on foot after finishing the warm drink. The firefighters hadn’t watched the news, Baker said, so they weren’t aware of the giant search effort for the girl.

Baker said police had to wait before getting a positive identification from the witnesses until Sepulveda’s mother and stepfather, Mary and Juan Jimenez, could get a recent photograph of her enlarged. Based on that photo, Baker said the witnesses said they were “100 percent certain” that the mysterious girl was Sepulveda.

The police and Navy security called off the search in Oak Harbor Thursday night. More than 100 volunteers and a number of search dogs scoured acres of dense woods between Regatta Drive and the Seaplane base, but found noting. Sepulveda’s home is within a few blocks of the woods.

Baker said the search effort is now focused on the Snohomish County area. He said he is coordinating with law enforcement there to look for Sepulveda and get out the word to the residents.

Her family and police are still very worried about her.

“It’s been cold at night and she isn’t dressed warmly...” Baker said. “If she’s hitchhiking, I’m going to be very nervous. She’s less than five feet tall, which makes her a very easy pickup for someone with bad intentions.”

Baker also said he’s concerned that the girl may be experiencing mental health problems.

While the major focus is finding the girl, Baker said he still had a lot of unanswered questions. He wants to know how Sepulveda got off the island, how she ended up in a rural area and if she’s been staying anywhere. He said the stories don’t seem to add up very well.

According to Baker, Sepulveda was seen by a neighbor sneaking out of her home at about 1 a.m. Saturday. An 18-year-old high school student claims he met with her briefly near the Baptist Church on Regatta Drive and for some reason she gave him a bag full of her clothes. The young man told police that Sepulveda walked away and that was the last he saw of her.

After she disappeared, her parents discovered that she had stopped taking Zoloft, a prescription anti-depressant medication. Friends have also said Sepulveda was rumored to be four-months pregnant, though her parents couldn’t confirm that.

Sepulveda’s father lives in Texas, Baker said, but police don’t believe she was heading there.

You can reach Jessie Stensland at jstensland@whidbeynewstimes.com or 675-6611.

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