The second largest city in the North Bay region of California is Vallejo. It’s located on the shores of San Pablo Bay and has a population of over 126,000 according to the 2020 census. Vallejo, California is the home to Touro University, Six Flags Discovery Kingdom, the Maritime Academy, and Pearl Pinson.
Pearl was described as a typical teenage girl, she loved to skateboard, be outdoors, play with her dog, and spend time with her friends. At 15 years old she attended Bethel High School in Vallejo, California and by May 25th, 2016 she neared completion of her freshman year.
On the morning of May 25th, 2016, Pearl would wake up and rush around to get ready for school. Saying a quick goodbye to her parents, she would walk a short distance to her high school using a footbridge over Interstate 780 near Home Acres and Taylor Avenue. Pearl’s bus stop was just on the other side of the footbridge and the bus ride was very short to the school. This was a route she took daily on her way to school.
As she crossed that bridge, she was attacked by a man with a gun. Passersby and other pedestrians witnessed 19-year-old Fernando Castro violently dragging Pearl to his car by gunpoint. Her screams could be heard by all in the area. A good Samaritan attempted to intervene but Castro turned his gun to this person, threatening to shoot.
Some state they witnessed Pearl being forced into the trunk of Castro’s car. That would be the last time Pearl was seen.
Fernando Castro lived in Pearl’s neighborhood, though the two had never met and had never had any type of connection, not even on social media.
Some believe Castro stalked Pearl and others believe this may have simply been a crime of opportunity.
While trying to collect information to create an Amber Alert, detectives interview members of Castro’s family. None seemed to know where he was and all were very shocked at the crime he was accused of committing.
An Amber Alert was finally issued and Information regarding the gold/tan four door 1997 Saturn was included in the Amber Alert.
Authorities announced that night that the vehicle, a 1997 Saturn driven by Fernando Castro, was spotted on surveillance cameras in Marin County at 9:30 am that morning within the area of Sir Frances Drake Blvd near the San Rafael Bridge.
The next day he was spotted around 3:00 pm driving the same vehicle on Highway 101 in the town of Solvang, which is located in Santa Barbara county. Authorities attempted to pull him over but he refused to stop and a high-speed chase ensued. The chase was intense and Castro did everything he could to evade police… Even driving the wrong way down the highway.
The chase included the California Highway Patrol and Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s department. Castro eventually exited the highway into Buellton, California. Authorities had called ahead to create a road block, but this didn’t stop him. He continued on and crashed right into the roadblock. Once crashing through the roadblock, his car no longer would run.
Though Fernando Castro did not surrender. Instead he ran and while running he fired a few shots at the officers who were pursuing him. At this time, Castro ran into a Solvang mobile home park. He was trying to hide from authorities.
While in the mobile home park he broke into one of the homes and attempted to take a woman hostage, but she was able to escape. Residents of the area were asked to remain in their homes during this time as authorities were afraid Castro would begin shooting again.
Negotiating attempts failed and Castro refused to peacefully surrender. He attempted to escape one last time… Finding the homeowners truck keys, he decided he would steal her vehicle to get away. On his way to the truck he fired a few shots in the air to keep authorities away and as he began to drive away in the truck he fired a few more shots at the police.
But this time…. Authorities fired back.
Fernando Castro was pronounced dead at the scene from multiple gunshot wounds and Pearl… was still nowhere to be found. Pearl’s abductor was killed only 32 hours after her abduction. This gave him time to leave the bay area of California and drive to the Southern California area.
And this is where the story ends… There are no further details on Pearl’s whereabouts, no further details on Fernando Castro, why he took her or where he took her. All we know is that authorities caught up with him in the city of Solvang.
There are so many scenarios… was he obsessed with her, was he a sexual predator, or the obvious thought in most everyone’s thoughts… Was she sold into sex trafficking.
In January of 2020, the executive director of the Solvang Chamber, Tracy Beard, stated, “…we are a center for human trafficking” during a City Council Special Session meeting. The Santa Barbara Sheriff Department and District Attorney’s office do not corroborate her claim.
Though, it is a fact that the Southern California area is plagued with human trafficking as it is close to the Mexico border. Was Pearl trafficked over the border or was she held captive in the U.S.
Normally, I leave these things to the realms of the unexplained…. But this time we simply cannot. If you have information on Pearl’s whereabouts, please contact the Vallejo Police Department at 707-421-7090.
If you have information regarding Pearl Pinson please contact the Vallejo Police Department at 707-421-7090.