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January 3, 2013
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Friends, family, officials look for leads in missing person case

Police, family members and search and rescue teams intensified their search for a missing teenager Thursday evening.

In a press conference Thursday afternoon, officials stated they had no leads on the the whereabouts of Petaluma resident Alyssa Byrne, 19, who was reported missing on Jan. 1 after she came to the area to attend SnowGlobe.

"It's moments of utter despair and a lot of hope. It's something I wouldn't wish on any parent. I want everyone to know she's a wonderful kid. We love her and miss her," her father, Kevin Byrne, said. Byrne arrived in South Lake Tahoe Wednesday to help find his daughter.

Tahoe Search and Rescue joined the search Thursday morning, according to sheriff's deputy Greg Almos. Teams started setting up a search area near Horizon Casino Resort, the place where she was last seen early on New Year's Day.

Byrne, classmate Jay Donnellan and two other friends from Napa left Sonoma County about 9 a.m. Saturday to head to South Lake Tahoe, according to Byrne's father. She and her friends checked into Horizon Casino Resort on Saturday. She texted her mother Saturday and both parents Sunday, he said.

"She was very good about checking in," Kevin Byrne said. "We sent her a text at midnight (on New Year's Eve) but there was no response. We figured she was out having a good time."

Douglas County Undersheriff Paul Howell said authorities know Alyssa Byrne attended SnowGlobe on New Year's Eve before leaving the concert alone for Horizon. When her friends arrived at the hotel later that night, they saw Byrne in the casino and said "hello" before going to bed.

The last friend to see her, Micah Alex of Petaluma, said it was his impression that Byrne was altered by alcohol or drugs when they embraced and greeted in a ground-floor passage near the lobby of the Horizon Casino Resort before she went missing, according to the Press Democrat in Santa Rosa.

"She just seemed like something was wrong with her," Alex said Thursday, "like she wasn't all there, you know?"

Kevin Byrne said he texted her on New Year's Day, but the friends she was with contacted her parents to tell them they couldn't find her.

"The last time anyone claims to have seen her was a little after 12:30 a.m. on New Year's Day," he said. "She was in the bar area of Horizon casino and saw someone she knew, said a brief hello and they went in different directions."

But no one foresaw days of waiting and worrying as law enforcement got involved in the effort to find the missing woman and as details about her last interactions with friends created confusion and misunderstanding, the Press Democrat reported.

"We're all really scared," Alex said Thursday morning.

Donnellan told the Press Democrat that he did not believe that she had consumed anything other than beer that day that would have impaired her behavior.

Alex was among those with whom Donnellan talked to that night as the hours went by and he and his friends were unable to locate Byrne.

Donnellan and the others in their party went out until about 5:30 a.m., in part enjoying the evening and in part looking for Byrne. Two other friends stayed back at the hotel room in case she returned, he said.

Donnellan said he figured, at the time, Byrne might have gone off with a girlfriend, though she'd made no mention of meeting anyone new or running into someone the others weren't aware of.

He told the Press Democrat that Byrne is strong and smart enough to take care of herself, and would never "wander off with some random guy."

"It was almost like she was ignoring our phone calls for some reason. I mean, I don't know - like she was meeting up with somebody (and) she didn't want us to know where she was doing. I don't know."

Kevin Byrne said her cell phone is either turned off or her battery is dead, and the friends she was with took her stuff with them - including her cell phone charger - when they checked out of the hotel after they couldn't find her, so she has no way to communicate.

Douglas County Sheriff's Office received a report on Jan. 2 that stated her cell phone was last used just after midnight on Jan. 1, according to Howell. Police do not know the the location or content of the cell activity, which was either a call or a text.

"We're very concerned. We have no evidence that there's criminal activity or foul play involved, but from our interviews with the family and the friends who are being very cooperative, this is highly unusual for Alyssa, this is out of character. She has not called work, she has not called friends, she has not called school, she has not called her father, her mother or her brother," Howell said.

One of the authorities major concerns is that 19-year-old Byrne is not prepared for cold weather if she's had to spend nights outside, Howell said. Kevin Byrne said his daughter isn't equipped for lows that hover around zero degrees even though she is studying to be a firefighter and paramedic at Santa Rosa Junior College.

"I got up here about noon and went straight to the police," Byrne said Wednesday. "I went walking through the casinos and went to the community college and hiked around in the snow to make sure I didn't find her laying in the snow somewhere."

Byrne is described as 5 feet, 3 inches tall, 125 pounds with black hair and blue eyes. A Thursday release from the sheriff's office stated that she was last seen wearing black yoga-type pants, black snow boots and her hair was pulled back.

Urban and wildland interface searches stopped at dark Thursday and were expected to continue this morning.

Friends and family have also started a Facebook page at www.facebook.com/AlyssaByrnemissing and Twitter feed at #findalyssabryne to aid the search parties.

Anyone who sees Alyssa Byrne or knows of her whereabouts are asked to call Kevin Byrne at 239-823-0923, Douglas County Dispatch at 775-782-5126, Investigator Dennis Slater at 775-586-7255 or Secret Witness at 775-782-7463. A $1,000 reward has been offered for information about the teen.

South Lake Tahoe Police Department, Douglas County and El Dorado County sheriff's departments, Douglas County Search and Rescue and air support from the Washoe County Sheriff's Office are currently working on the case.


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Tahoe Daily Tribune Updated Jan 3, 2013 08:49PM Published Jan 3, 2013 08:46PM Copyright 2013 Tahoe Daily Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.