VALLEJO -- Newly released evidence gives detectives good reason to believe that 15-year-old Pearl Pinson, who was kidnapped from a Vallejo overpass in May of 2016, is still alive.
Christine Castillo with the Solano County Sheriff's Office tells FOX40 that detectives have spent the nine months since her disappearance sifting through countless hours of private surveillance video and finally tied Pearl's alleged abductor, 19-year-old Fernando Castro, to the area near Jenner in Sonoma County where they initially suspected he took her.
"Our detectives and volunteers sifted through hundreds of hours of surveillance footage from businesses and traffic cameras, private persons' homes, anything along a route we thought he may have taken, in hopes we may have seen him, Pearl or the car. And we did in fact spot him on some surveillance from a gas station in the Bodega Bay area. So that reaffirmed the initial belief that he was in that area," Castillo said.
FOX40 obtained an exclusive image pulled from that surveillance video.
Castillo said that video led investigators back to Jenner to do a second search along the coastline. She says that happened in October, but that once again, there was no sign of Pearl.
Even so, Castillo says detectives are not operating under the assumption that Castro killed Pearl.
"There's nothing at this point, even nine months later, that would suggest he did," Castillo said.
To the contrary, newly released evidence suggests that Pearl survived her injuries.
Never before released 911 calls detail an eye-witness account of Pearl's abduction. A man can be heard saying that he saw a man in a hoodie dragging Pearl across the overpass, and that Pearl asked the witness to help her because someone was trying to shoot her. The witness said Pearl's mouth was bloody and reported hearing a gunshot. Another caller said a man was dragging a girl and trying to rape her.
A small pool of blood was initially found on the overpass and was believed to be Pearl's. Castillo now says that blood was confirmed to be Pearl's, and that her blood was also found in Fernando Castro's trunk.
As foreboding as that may sound, Castillo says finding her blood in Castro's trunk gave investigators hope.
"The trace of blood we found in the trunk of the car is consistent with whatever injury she had when she was abducted, but it wasn't a significant enough amount of blood to indicate that it wasn't survivable. So we still very much hold onto hope that we are going to bring Pearl home. That she's being held somewhere against her will, or she's being passed from person to person, but that she is alive," Castillo said.
One of the theories floating around is that Peal was forced in sex trafficking. Her family prefers that fate over finding Pearl dead.
"Honestly, I think she's in sex trafficking. She could be anywhere with anybody, but I believe she's still alive, and I'm not gonna stop believing until I have proof that she's not," Pearl's big sister Rose Pinson said.
Rose said she believed that her sister would have been home by now, had authorities issued an Amber Alert sooner.
"It was upsetting because they knew who he was, and they knew what car he was in. They didn't have the license plate number, but they knew what car he was in and who he was, and I was upset because they refused to put it up. They had to wait 32 hours to put it up, and in those 32 hours he could have done whatever he wanted with her," Rose said.
Castillo said detectives did not know right away what car Castro was in, but that when they put out that information, and learned that Castro was leading CHP on a chase through Southern California, they all held their breath.
"You know the room went silent. The room went silent because everybody was holding on and waiting for every word that was said on that radio. And you know is there any sign of Pearl? I think that feeling, regardless of the outcome of this case, is gonna sit with everybody involved. Forever," Castillo said.
Castillo said once Castro was killed in a shootout in near Santa Barbara, detectives recovered items from his car and his home in Vallejo that led them to Jenner. They are still not releasing what those items are.
When Pearl was abducted on May 25, 2016, she was just walking to school. Though she and Castro lived minutes apart, Rose says they never even talked to each other.
"She's a young, sweet girl. She always liked having fun.She was always outside, she loved being outside, that was her thing. She would call me, 'hey this weekend we're going to the beach, I don't care what you say, we're going, no matter what.' And other times...if you were upset she would come and make you happy, and I miss that," Rose said.
It's that spunk and strength in Pearl's personality that her family believes can get her through whatever she may be experiencing, if she is still alive.
"No matter who you're with, how they're treating you, do not give up. I mean, I love you, and I'm not gonna stop," Rose said.
Pearl Pinson is 5-feet-3-inches tall. At the time of her abduction she weighed 130 pounds, had blonde hair dyed green and wore a lip ring. She was carrying a very distinctive black and green Joker backpack, that Rose said another unidentified witness saw being thrown into Castro's trunk along with her.
Detectives still believe she may be in or near Jenner, but also that she could be anywhere else in the detour Fernando Castro took from Vallejo to Jenner, back down to Santa Barbara County.
Information about Fernando Castro is just as important to investigators as information about Pearl Pinson. If you know where Castro was known to frequent, known to associate with, or know of a specific point near Jenner investigators should take a look at, there are several ways to share that information.
The Solano County Sheriff's Office has a tip line dedicate specifically to Pearl Pinson. You can submit tips here anonymously. That number is: (707) 784-1963
Rose Pinson is also providing her cell phone numer (925) 812-2059 and email address: firstname.lastname@example.org for anyone who does not want to contact law enforcement. She says anyone can contact her with tips without fear of being reported to authorities.