Helen Thompson, 81, was last seen going for a walk from her home on Capistrano Avenue in Shell Beach on Aug. 5, 2008. She was heading west, toward the ocean, just as she did almost every day.
The 5-foot-5-inch, 95-pound woman with gray hair and hazel eyes lived alone and was known for being independent. She had dementia and likely got confused easily.
Neighbors kept a careful eye on her, but knew that if they offered too much help it would be declined.
"It was one of those cases that there wasn't much information to go on," Pismo Beach police Sgt. Tom Portz said. "She was very independent and had lived on her own for most of her life."
Her closest relative lived on the East Coast, he said.
Portz said a large search was done in the area surrounding her home but nothing came of it. A Sheriff's Department search-and-rescue dog was able to pick up her scent leading toward the beach, but nothing else was found.
"There were a few neighbors that really took her situation to heart and would check in to make sure she had food and was remembering to eat," Portz said. "People called with concerns about her welfare, but she always refused help from Adult Protective Services."
Portz said that detectives occasionally revisit the case and check with the people who knew her, but that no new leads have surfaced.
"As things go on, we try to keep going with it," Portz said. "It never quite goes away — a case like this hits home for everybody."