Detectives pored through phone records and social networking websites for potential clues. Others knocked on the doors of local registered sex offenders and parolees with violent pasts.
“We thought the worst,” said Glendale Police Sgt. Tom Lorenz.
Salas was found Thursday afternoon unharmed 270 miles north in Merced after she entered a downtown carpet store and said she’d been abducted. At that point, Glendale police secured an airplane, and the department’s air unit flew detectives up to aid in the investigation and bring Salas home.
But shortly before reuniting with her family in Glendale, Salas told investigators she had made up the kidnapping story.
She said she had traveled to Merced by bus and train fearing repercussions from lying to her friends and family about dropping out of UCLA more than a year ago. Her family was planning a graduation party for her in June.
“She told detectives, ‘I’m being idolized by my parents. I’m being idolized by my friends. I just couldn’t take the pressure. The only way out was to leave,’” Lorenz said.
While police officials said they were glad to see Salas safe and reunited with her family, they acknowledged her actions sparked an exhaustive use of city resources that cost thousands of dollars.
“It did cause a search, and it did expend an enormous amount of resources, resources that could have been used to investigate other cases,” Lorenz said. “And it certainly is on the taxpayer’s dime.”
Glendale police would not seek charges against Salas because she did not break any laws, Lorenz said.
“She is an adult,” he said. “And she has a right to do as she pleases, and if she wants to leave her family and her friends, that is her right.”