After a huge two-day search effort for 12-year-old Mikayla Andersen, her father brought her into a makeshift command post in the Huasna Valley on Friday afternoon, ending what is looking less and less like a missing person case, according to officials with the San Luis Obispo County Sheriff’s Office.
Mikayla was making her way to the command post about 3:30 p.m. when her father saw her and picked her up in his car, sheriff’s spokesman Tony Cipolla said. She was taken to a local hospital shortly afterward for observation.
Mikayla was reported missing Thursday after leaving school and going to her grandparents’ house in remote Huasna Valley to ride her horse. The horse was found abandoned later that day, which prompted the massive search that included more than 200 people from as far away as Ventura. The girl told officials she spent Thursday night in a tree, explaining that her father said it was a safe place to pass the night in the backcountry.
Why she rode off on her horse and spent a night in the tree remains unclear, Cipolla said, noting that investigators interviewed her Friday to find out. She told officials that she went off to “clear her head.”
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Sheriff Ian Parkinson said Friday he suspected the girl had been eluding searchers. Earlier in the day, he described her as “someone who evidently does not want to be found.”
During a search-and-rescue briefing, Sheriff’s Office officials said the girl had been on Prozac but had been off it for several days before she disappeared.
It was not clear whether that played any role in her disappearance.
Mikayla has been living in Grover Beach with her father, Aaron Andersen, since October. Before that, she lived with her grandparents in the Huasna area. Her mother lives in Virginia, according to Cipolla.
Mikayla was reported missing just after 4 p.m. Thursday some time after school let out.
A family friend drove her from Paulding Middle School, which she attends, to her grandparents’ house.
Once there she changed into camouflage clothing and took her horse into the backcountry. Her backpack was later found on her grandparents’ front porch, and her discarded school clothes were also discovered.
Her horse was found about 5 p.m. tied to a fence near a cattle crossing, with her riding helmet abandoned as well.
Search-and-rescue personnel — in a helicopter, on all-terrain vehicles and on horseback — converged on the Huasna Valley to help search for Mikayla.