SACRAMENTO – A missing Michigan girl and her adult convicted murderer companion were believed spotted in South Lake Tahoe heading east several days ago, the FBI said Saturday.
The gas station attendant who believes she spotted the pair Wednesday evening didn't recognize the significance until Friday night, when she heard a description of the missing pair.
Investigators spent Saturday reviewing a surveillance tape before announcing what they called a "probable" sighting of Lindsey Ryan, 14, and convicted murderer Terry Drake, 56.
Officials alerted Nevada authorities that the pair appeared to be heading there, said FBI spokesman Nick Rossi, but with several days gone by he said Ryan and Drake could be anywhere.
The tape wasn't clear enough to show a license plate or other details, but the tape and a description from station attendant Jan Mickelson were enough that investigators believe it is the second of just two confirmed California sightings of the pair.
The only verified sighting was earlier Wednesday at a hotel in Grass Valley, northwest of Lake Tahoe. At that point, the man believed to be Drake said he planned to camp along the Yuba River in Downieville, about 30 miles north of Grass Valley.
However, Mickelson told authorities a tattooed man and a girl with braces and obviously dyed-black hair came into her Beacon station along Highway 50 about 5:30 p.m. Wednesday. The pair purchased $20 worth of gasoline and a pack of cigarettes, and then drove off eastbound in a white pickup truck.
The pair is believed to be traveling in a 1995 white Dodge Dakota extended cab pickup truck with Indiana license plates.
"The girl she saw did not appear to be under duress," Rossi said. However, "we remain concerned about the ability of a 14-year-old girl to resist the manipulation of a 56-year-old man who has killed before."
Because Drake is believed to be armed with several firearms, "this situation involves a risk of serious danger to Lindsey and anyone who confronts Drake," Rossi said. He encouraged anyone who believes they spot the pair to call authorities.
"As soon as they described her I was sick to my stomach because I had waited on her," Mickelson told San Francisco's KRON-TV. "She just acted happy and she had a big smile on her face and everything," she told Sacramento's KCRA-TV.
The pair now has been missing for a week, and has been the subject of a California Amber Alert since Thursday.
Drake pleaded guilty to the 1977 kidnapping and murder of Linda Kearschner. He was sentenced to 30 years in prison, but was released in 1993.
Ryan, of Jones, Mich., was discovered missing March 1 by her parents. Authorities there said they believe she left voluntarily with Drake, but issued a warrant for Drake's arrest on a felony charge of child endangerment.
Witnesses reported seeing them several times in Wyoming and near the Utah-Nevada border.
At a news conference Tuesday in Cassopolis, Mich., Lindsey's mother, Carol Ryan, said her daughter met Drake at a small church that the family attended in Goshen. The man and the girl communicated over the Internet, police said.