A local investigator in the case of missing Escondido teenager Amber Dubois, said a woman, who looks a lot like the missing 14-year-old, told him that some men got out of a van February 2 near Escondido High School and approached her.
When the men asked her to get in the van, she said no, and they chased her, Bill Garcia said. The woman said she ran into an elementary school and escaped.
Garcia said that he is describing Amber’s disappearance as a "stranger abduction." The teen disappeared on her way to school last Friday morning and was spotted once or twice last weekend but has not been seen since. The girl's parents said she was especially excited to get to school to exchange Valentine's Day gifts with friends.
Garcia said he was brought into the case because the Escondido police are no longer actively searching for the girl.
Amber’s family is working on a reward for anyone who helps to find their daughter. They said they’re not sure how much yet, but they will announce the amount at a vigil being held Friday at 6 p.m. at Escondido High School at 1535 Broadway.
A search was also scheduled to resume Saturday morning at 6 a.m. in Escondido. Searchers will comb the area from Interstate-15 to Harrah’s Casino.
The mother of murdered 24-year-old Brittany Hart will join the search, Amber’s parents said. Robert Carson murdered the Santee woman in 2007.
In other developments in the case, Amber's parents, who are separated, along with the mother's boyfriend, all voluntarily took and passed polygraph tests, the North County Times reported. They have been ruled out as suspects, Lt. Bob Benton told the paper.
Searchers have been looking in sheds and backhouses in North Escondido, days after Amber was last seen about a block from the high school.
“We're canvassing the whole neighborhood,” volunteer Mike Fisher said. “All these are big properties, they all have outhouses, and so if you're trying to hide out, there's a lot of places you could hide. We don’t know what's going on, but we’re checking it out.”
Officers have interviewed numerous friends and classmates and watched hours of surveillance tape to try to find clues about the teen's disappearance.
Dozens of people with the sheriff's department and Escondido police have been going door-to-door searching for Amber after a student said she had seen Amber near Rincon Middle School on Sunday with someone else. The student didn't know if that person was male or female. The search is in a one-mile radius of that sighting.
“The sighting on Sunday night was deemed to be as reliable as it could be,” Sgt. Don Parker said. “That's actually a really good sign, because according to the witness, she wasn't in any kind of duress. It didn't seem she was doing anything against her will,” Sgt. Parker said.
Amber's father, Maurice Dubois, said he was encouraged to hear of the latest lead. Amber's mother, who describes her daughter as a responsible student with good friends, says she finds it hard to believe only one person would have seen Amber walking around, given there are so many posters up. But she thanks all those searching for her daughter.
“I think it's the biggest break police have had, so I'm praying to God it was her. It makes me feel hopeful, but I don’t believe it so much,” Carrie McGonicle said.
On Saturday, police received a report of Amber seen walking near Palomar Medical Center with two other teens but have been unable to confirm that report, according to the North County Times. The teen's cell phone was activated for a few seconds Saturday afternoon, but other than that, her parents said, it has been off since she disappeared.
“This has been ongoing for several days, so as it goes on, we get more worried. But we're hoping this will have a good outcome,” Fisher said.
Escondido Union High School District released a statement to parents suggesting they remind their own children to pay attention to their surroundings and walk in groups.
"We are concerned about Amber and are working in conjunction with the Escondido Police Department," the statement reads.
Anyone with information about Amber is asked to call Escondido police at 760-839-4722.