Hurdles plague Harvey search

Rebecca Neipp

News Review Staff Writer

As nearly two weeks have passed since Ventura resident Lisa Harvey went missing, with no sign of her unearthed by a legion of family, friends and strangers who have joined the grassroots search, loved ones are growing increasingly concerned as the days pass with no new leads.

“I can’t just sit back and wait it out,” said her daughter, Clarissa Harvey. “We’ve gone out looking for her every day, and we’re going to keep looking.”

The development in the case was stymied by an early report that led to a search in the wrong area, which triggered an apparent round of jurisdictional hot-potato as law enforcement agencies have failed to identify a lead to aggressively pursue the disappearance.

Harvey reportedly left her home in Ventura on Saturday, April 29, and apparently stopped in Fillmore on her way to visit family in Lake Isabella. When she never arrived, Jennifer Cotterell of Ridgecrest, Harvey’s cousin, joined her family in alerting authorities and leading a search for her whereabouts.

Family members said they were informed that Harvey called someone at 11:50 p.m. saying she had missed her turn. Another call from her phone went out at 12:30 a.m. Sunday morning, though the listener could not make out anything on the other end of the line. That was the last anyone heard from her. Family pieced together an assumption that Harvey must have been traveling on Highway 99, missing the turn onto Highway 178.

For days, hundreds of collaborators shared information, made inquiries and conducted searches by air, automobile and foot to comb through a vast mountainous region in search of Harvey.

But after six days, law-enforcement officials reported to the family that Harvey’s last call came from Palmdale, not Tulare as was earlier reported. After refocusing her search on the Antelope Valley, Cotterell said she found a gas station attendant who remembered giving directions to Harvey. After speaking with the family, he realized he had mistakenly sent her to Lake Elizabeth, not Lake Isabella.

“We need to pray for him, too,” said Cotterell. “I know he feels horrible.”

The family now believes that her last known whereabouts must have been somewhere along Pearblossom Highway, or Highway, or the 138, which would have taken her east from the AV.

“I’m so lost right now, trying to understand why she ended up in Palmdale,” said Clarissa. “And we are still having trouble getting the authorities to cooperate.”

When family members discovered the new lead, they tried to engage authorities in Palmdale. “They wouldn’t even come outside of the glass to let us hand them a flyer,” she said. “We have a federal agent in our family who has been working as a liaison to try and connect the right authorities, but everywhere we go, we’ve been shut down.”

Clarissa said that during the first several days of the search, Senior Deputy Mark Chambliss of the Kern County Sheriff’s Office, Kern River Valley Substation, was very helpful. But she said that when new information came out about her mother’s whereabouts, he said that her mother was lying and he couldn’t help. “We don’t know that she lied. My cousin could have misheard the information she gave on the phone; it could have been relayed incorrectly. I understand that law enforcement has to consider all scenarios, but I don’t understand why they are not also considering the fact that she could have been in an accident and she’s in trouble — that scenario is not even being entertained.”

From the beginning, said Clarissa, KSCO deputies said they could not send out search and rescue parties because it was too large an area. “So we said, ‘Fine, we’ll look for her ourselves.’”

Sgt. Josh Nicholson of the KRV substation said that KCSO has attempted to transfer the case to Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Office, “But they basically brushed us off.”

When the News Review asked the KCSO for any information they had on the case, staff was directed to “look on Facebook.” The only information posted there at the time was the original flyer with outdated reports of Harvey’s last known location.

Calls to LACSO confirmed that it was not taking up the case, stating that since the case was originally reported in Kern County, agency protocols designate the county as the lead for the duration of the investigation.

“But it’s not being investigated — by anyone,” said Clarissa.

Nicholson said he is hoping that Ventura County authorities will pick up the case, since that was the point of origin.

In the meantime, Clarissa said, the family will continue searching, but is deeply disappointed by the lack of engagement from authorities.

“Everyone deserves to have their disappearance investigated, regardless of their financial or social status. I don’t understand why nobody is willing to take up her case.”

Harvey is described as 5 feet 6 inches tall and weighing between 230-270 pounds. She was driving a white 2000 Toyota Solara, License Plate 4KKU552.

For updates or more information, see also “Help bring Lisa Harvey home” on Facebook.

Story First Published: 2017-05-12