Three months after a California man disappeared after his vehicle got stuck on a remote wilderness road, his family is still desperate for answers.
Erik Lamberg, 51, of Hermosa Beach, Calif., has not been seen since May 28, when he checked out of a hotel in Laytonville. His vehicle was later found abandoned in Northern California. Despite several searches, authorities have been unable to locate the missing computer security technician.
Samantha Lamberg, the man’s wife of 21 years and mother of his two children, said her husband has not used his credit cards or cell phone since the day he disappeared.
“My instinct is that something bad happened,” Samantha Lamberg told The Huffington Post. “It’s very unlike him not to use his credit cards or phone.”
Erik Lamberg is bi-polar and has exhibited increasingly erratic and unpredictable behavior since his father died of pancreatic cancer a couple years ago. The two were very close and his father’s death put tremendous stress him. As a result, Lamberg moved out of his home and in his mother in nearby Redondo Beach, Samantha Lamberg said.
“He stopped taking his medication on a regular basis and was self-medicating,” she said.
According to his wife, Erik Lamberg was not blind to the downward spiral his life had taken. In May he decided to travel to Oregon to seek sober living treatment.
By May 23, Lamberg was on the road to Oregon, but not all went as planned. Roughly three days later, at about 11:30 p.m., he called his wife and told her his 2004 Honda Odyssey broke down in Leggett. He said he had to have the vehicle towed to nearby Laytonville for repair.
Because the vehicle broke down on a Memorial Day weekend, Lamberg was forced to get a room at the Budget Inn in Laytonville. On May 27, Lamberg apparently grew tired of waiting on his vehicle and recovered it from the garage before a mechanic could examine it. It remains unclear how he started the vehicle, however hotel staff later told police that Lamberg had returned to the hotel with it.
The following day, Lamberg checked out of the Budget Inn. He told staff members he was headed toward Willits. Credit card receipts show he shopped at a market in Laytonville before he left town. He has not been seen since.
On June 1, a group of ATV riders reported an abandoned vehicle stuck in the mud about 20 miles west of Willits, on Sherwood Road. The road is rugged and is typically traversed with SUV’s and all-terrain vehicles. When authorities examined the vehicle, they found sticks and bark had been placed under the vehicles tires. They believe this was done in a failed attempt to free the vehicle. A check of the vehicle registration revealed it belonged to Lamberg.
“They told me the following day they had found car,” Samantha Lamberg said. “The car was intact when the ATV people found it, but by the time police had it towed, it had been broken into. There were things in the car when he left – a pretty expensive camera and a couple of computers – but those were not there.”
The location where the vehicle was recovered suggests Erik Lamberg had changed his mind about Oregon and was returning home. The road it was found on is surrounded by approximately 700-square-miles of dense ground cover. The foliage on the trees has made aerial searches impossible, so authorities conducted a ground search of the immediate area with a local search and rescue team.
According to Samantha Lamberg, search dogs picked up on a possible scent about a mile west of the scene. The back tracked it toward the vehicle and about seven miles along the dense forested road, where the dogs lost the trail.
The ground search for Erik Lamberg soon fizzled, but that did not stop his wife and family from posting flyers, spreading the word online and speaking with local media outlets. It was during a radio interview with KZYX in late July that Samantha Lamberg was contacted by a female listener.
The woman told Lamberg that her boyfriend had been conducting owl sound surveys on the night of May 31, when he heard someone screaming near Clare Mill, a station along the Skunk Train line. The historic passenger railway is not far from where Erik Lamberg’s car was found abandoned.
“Based on feasibility of him traveling from his car to the depot line –- the distance is about eight to 10 miles as the crow flies –- authorities launched another search on July 31,” Samantha Lamberg said. “They took five dogs out and four of them indicated that they thought something was in area. However, they searched and searched and nothing was found. They conducted a follow-up search on Aug. 8 and again found nothing. Now we’re back to square one.”
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The Mendocino County Sheriff’s Office, did not return a call for comment from HuffPost on Wednesday
On Aug. 28, Lt. Shannon Barney of the sheriff’s office told Lake County News that ground searches for Erik Lamberg are been suspended, pending new leads.
“It’s basically in hold mode … Due to the length of time he’s been out there, he could technically be anywhere,” Barney said.
Despite the reluctance of authorities to conduct further searches, Samantha Lamberg has continued to do everything in her power to keep the story alive. She said the newest hurtle she is facing is getting additional coverage from Mendocino media outlets.
“For instance, I called some of the media [Tuesday] and they said, ‘This is not news anymore — We’re not going to dedicate column space to this,'” she said. “It’s harsh. So many avenues are closing up.”
Lamberg is described as 6’5″, 200 pounds with sandy blond hair and blue eyes. His wife said he has never shown any violent tendencies and is not believed to be suicidal.
“I’m in the middle of reality on this. I know, given the passage of time, what the possibilities are and I live with that. My kids are trying to get their heads wrapped around it too. I just so much want for my two kids and me to get some sort of closure,” Samantha Lamberg said.
Anyone who may have seen Erik Lamberg or has information about his whereabouts is asked to call the Mendocino County Sheriff’s Office at (707) 463-4086. Alternatively, a website and Facebook page have been created to share information in the case.