Editor's note: The Californian had named the child when she was missing and law enforcement sought the public's help in finding her. Her name has now been removed given the nature of the allegations regarding what happened to her.
A mystery surrounds how a girl who turns 8 years old Thursday went missing from her home in central Bakersfield early Wednesday and was discovered safe several hours later on the far east side of town.
The girl was found by a passerby in the 9400 block of Eucalyptus Drive at 10:24 a.m., Kern County sheriff’s spokesman Ray Pruitt said. The passerby stayed with the child until deputies arrived in the area, which is thick with brush but also has residences nearby.
She was taken to Kern Medical Center for observation.
Hours after the girl turned up, authorities had released no further details and much of the case remained a complete mystery to the public — and to the girl’s worried neighbors: how she disappeared, how she came to be found nine miles away, who might be involved and what she or family members had said.
“We want people to know that we’re working as hard as we can to find out what happened,” Pruitt said.
He said that will take time. Deputies are investigating what happened as a crime until they can prove otherwise. Detectives and crime scene investigators were expected to be at the residence from which she disappeared late into the evening Wednesday gathering potential evidence and searching through the home.
The girl was put to bed about 10 p.m. Tuesday; she was gone when a relative awoke and checked on her at about 3:45 a.m. Wednesday, the sheriff’s department reported. Deputies spent much of the morning searching for the girl after she was reported missing at 4 a.m. from her home in the 600 block of Loch Lomond Drive, east of Highway 99 and north of Belle Terrace. Numerous deputies swarmed the area, plus a helicopter circled the neighborhood.
Tammy Walker, who lives near the girl's home, told deputies her son woke her up at about 3 a.m. telling her he had heard a noise at his window.
Several neighbors, who talked about the girl’s disappearance about an hour before she was found, were shaken that something like this could happen on their street.
“That’s very scary,” said 22-year-old Ashley Harte, who lives a few houses north of the the family. “I have goosebumps.”
Harte said she’s two months pregnant and news of the chid's disappearance had her very upset.
Another neighbor, Anthony Alvarado, said he knows the girl's father and that his life revolves around his kids.
“They’re very nice, very humble people,” Alvarado said. “You don’t find people like that anymore nowadays.”
Alvarado said he’d be distraught if his 11-month-old Rottweiler, named Lord, went missing, and he can’t imagine how distressed parents would be with a child missing.
DJ Nolan, 22, used to live in the neighborhood and drove there Wednesday to see if he could comfort the father, who he’s known for years. Crime scene tape roped off the intersection of Terrace Way and Loch Lomond, including the house where the girl went missing, so Nolan stood down the street and discussed the situation with friends.
He wasn’t sure what to make of the little gir's disappearance.
“I don’t know if she got out of the house, or what happened,” Nolan said.
— Californian staff photographer Henry A. Barrios and staff writer John Cox contributed to this report.