A “psychotic break” may have led to a young woman’s disappearance.
Weight: 140 lbs.
Defining Characteristics: She has a deformed right thumb that is thick at the knuckle with the tip of the thumb curving inward; she has several large moles on her neck below her right cheek
Remarks: Last seen 8/9/93
Her car was abandoned and she was gone
August 10, 1993, in a remote corner of redwood forest just east of Mendocino, California, a car was found stuck in the mud. The radio had been ripped out. There were small traces of blood on the dashboard and the front seat, along with shredded identification papers. A few torn-up photographs were scattered nearby. The photos, the papers, and the car were all traced to 22-year-old Kristi Krebs. She had worked as a chef just seven miles from where her car was found.
For Kristi's parents, the scene was all too familiar. When Kristi graduated from high school in 1989, she went to work full-time in a local restaurant. She was cheerful and upbeat, but she also became infatuated, and then obsessed, with a married man. Then, on April 30, 1990, three years before her disappearance, Kristi apparently began to fantasize about marrying this man. She drove around in a euphoric daze for hours and lost her way on a country road. Her car became hopelessly stuck in the mud, then burst into flames. When found, the interior had been totally destroyed and Kristi was nowhere to be seen.
Search team looked for Kristi
The morning after the incident, railroad workers saw a dazed and disoriented young woman wandering along the tracks. The car fire had apparently sent Kristi into a traumatic mental breakdown. One of the men recognized Kristi and called her parents. Bob Krebs is Kristi's father:
"Initially, we thought things were o.k. But as we were driving back into town, the behavior we were getting from her was very bizarre, chanting and doing very weird things. And I looked at my wife and said, 'We're not going home. We're going to the hospital.'"
Susan's mother wondered if her daughter would ever be well again:
"At first they thought she might have been on drugs, but they were able to test her and see that there were no drugs in her system."
Over the next few months, Kristi was in and out of the hospital and was eventually diagnosed as having had a psychotic, trauma-related break. After therapy and drug treatment, she made rapid progress. And after six months, things were looking up. Kristi was released from the hospital. Her therapists recommended that she go back to work, but only part-time. Kristi's father said he was thrilled with Kristi's progress:
"I think it was suggested she work 20 hours a week to start with. And she did incredibly well. And she was very proud of herself. She got herself a second job in a local fast-food restaurant."
Eventually Kristi began working 10 to 12 hours a day. Three years went by. Kristi's parents worried about her manic pace. Yet she insisted that she was ok, right up to the night she disappeared.
That night, August 9, 1993, Kristi left work in high spirits. But she didn't go straight home. Kristi drove around until, at some point, she veered onto a dirt road. She ended up just seven miles from the spot where her previous car fire had occurred. Once again, deep in the redwoods, her car got stuck in the mud. Kristi's father believes his daughter suffered another psychotic break:
"I think that she probably had flashbacks. It was like reliving that nightmare. And all of that, I think, just overloaded all the circuits. In my mind, the last thing she did, she went through her wallet in total frustration, whether she's looking at pictures of family and friends, she ripped them up and scattered them around. Whether she was destroying her past and trying to get away from it, I really don't know. I know that my daughter went through a really tough time out there for 2 or 3 hours."
The authorities think that before she abandoned her car, Kristi changed into a gym outfit that she always carried with her. Her work clothes were found, sopping wet and neatly folded, on the backseat.
The next morning, a full-scale search was launched, but there was no trace of Kristi. However, over the next few months, several sightings were reported in Texas, then in Salt Lake City, and finally, a year later, in California.
On June 30, 1994 , just outside the farming town of Visalia, California, an off-duty highway worker named Mike Case picked up a hitchhiker who looked like Kristi. Mike said it was 300 miles south of the spot where Kristi's car was abandoned:
"At first, I thought possibly she was on some type of drugs. But talking with her a little bit at the beginning, I knew that possibly she was in a world of her own. I did happen to notice that there were two slash marks on her wrist. And I asked her directly, 'Well, what happened there?' And she said, 'I had a breakdown.'"
Mike dropped Kristi off at an intersection near Hanford, California. A week later, he read an article about Kristi's disappearance and contacted her parents. They immediately sent photographs, which Mike reviewed:
"I went through several of the pictures and my personal feeling was that this is the girl I picked up on the freeway. I'm positive that it is her. I'm positive.
Kristi's mother is hopeful that Kristy is still alive:
"I believe that Kristi is out there somewhere and that she's alive, because Kristi is a survivor. She has a lot of strength. She's very friendly. I believe that she would not be a loner, that she would hook up with someone."Kristi's parents now believe one of the most credible sightings is from a woman who picked up a girl hitchhiking between Salt Lake City and Park City, Utah. The woman was able to describe details about her clothing that had never been released to the public.