Search for missing San Luis Obispo man George Carpenter to resume this weekend

By AnnMarie Cornejo

A San Luis Obispo rescue team is expected to travel to rural Monterey County this weekend in hopes of finding 74-year-old George Carpenter, who has been missing since December.

Investigators with the Monterey County Sheriff’s Department spent most of the past weekend searching the rugged terrain between Big Sur and Fort Hunter Liggett in southern Monterey County where the San Luis Obispo man’s 1989 Jeep Comanche truck was discovered Saturday.

Those search efforts were suspended Monday after concerns arose about increasingly stormy weather and a lack of clues indicating where to search next.

The San Luis Obispo rescue team, which will likely be deployed to the rural mountainous area this weekend, will receive some assistance from Monterey officials, authorities said Monday.

“We want to do more,” said Capt. Chris Staley of the San Luis Obispo Police Department. “We want to make sure we do everything we can to locate him.”

The two-day search yielded no new signs of Carpenter, who has dementia, according to the Monterey County Sheriff’s Department.

Carpenter went missing Dec. 23 after he drove to Laguna Lake Park in San Luis Obispo with his black Labrador retriever, Scooter.

A resident in a remote area about seven miles inland from the coastal hamlet of Gorda found Carpenter’s dog Wednesday, nearly a month after Carpenter was first reported missing.

His truck was located during an aerial search Saturday at Los Burros and South Coast Ridge roads — a rugged area at 3,300 feet elevation. The area is near the Fort Hunter Liggett Army National Guard base about 50 miles northwest of Paso Robles.

Authorities said Scooter traveled about three to five miles from where the truck was located, adding that there is no way to tell how long the dog wandered before being found.

On Sunday, nine members of the Monterey Sheriff Department’s search and rescue team, two San Luis Obispo detectives, four ATVs, a helicopter, six rescue and cadaver dogs and one forest ranger combed the area near where Carpenter’s truck was found.

They extended their search about a mile-and-a-half from the truck, said Cmdr. Tracy Brown of the Monterey County Sheriff’s Department.

The truck was dusted with snow and unlocked, with the parking break set, he said. It did not appear that Carpenter had spent much time in the truck nor were there any signs of a campsite in the immediate area. No signs of foul play were found either, Brown said.

“It looked like he just parked there,” he said.

Brown cautioned Carpenter’s loved ones not to conduct their own search of the area because of the “treacherous” terrain that’s described as heavily brushed, with steep declines.

Carpenter’s family members say they have learned that the area is also full of mines and jade claims — something that they say would have enticed Carpenter to the area because of his affinity for collecting rocks.

“We are hoping that they will be able to search some of the mine areas, but we also respect that between the rain, snow, mudslides and terrain, that they are doing all they can,” said Beth Wonson, Carpenter’s daughter-in-law.

“We don’t feel very confident that he will be found alive. So we absolutely don’t want anyone to be at risk.”

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