UPDATED at 1:54 p.m. Nov. 8: The search for a missing Wildomar teen has ended, four days after it began.
According to Lt. Zach Hall of the Lake Elsinore Sheriff's Station, David Allen Soto, 18, was found safe near Lakeland Village at approximately 12:30 p.m. Friday.
He was located in the hills above Grand Avenue and Ontario.
"He looks good. He was waving and happy to see us. We called out to him, he called out to us," Hall said.
The teen, who is autistic, was transported to an area hospital, but Hall characterized his condition as "good."
A citizen tip ultimately led to Soto's discovery. A resident who lives in the area reported seeing him. Search teams and at least one bloodhound were brought to the area, tracks were found, and the discovery made.
Soto has been reunited with his family.
He was reported missing Tuesday morning after he climbed a fence at Elsinore High School and walked off campus, according to Sgt. Lisa McConnell of the Riverside County Sheriff's Department.
An extensive search had been underway, utilizing law enforcement and volunteers.
UPDATE NOV 8: The search for David Allen Soto, 18, a special needs student from Wildomar, continues today and the sheriff's department has released more photos of the teen in an effort to find him (see attached). Last night, an intensive search was conducted in the Cleveland National Forest, but Soto has not been located as of 8:34 a.m. Friday. The search is now in its fourth day. According to the teen's mother Anna Espinoza, this is the longest time he has ever gone missing. Volunteers who want to assist with the search should go to the sheriff's incident command post set up at the Mission Trail Library, 34303 Mission Trail.
POSTED NOV. 7: Sheriff’s deputies are still without solid leads in the case
of missing special needs student David Allen Soto, 18, of Wildomar, but new
information may help bring him home.
Tonight investigators will primarily focus their search in the Cleveland National Forest, although law enforcement units will remain on high alert in the Elsinore and Temecula valleys.
“We have thoroughly canvassed neighborhoods and businesses down here,” Lt. Zach Hall said Thursday afternoon as he worked an incident command center set up at Wildomar’s Mission Trail Library.
Reported sightings of Soto have tapered off since he disappeared from Elsinore High School Tuesday morning, and family members told investigators the teen enjoys hiking in open spaces.
“He’s fascinated by those foothills,” said Soto’s mother, Anna Espinoza. “He doesn’t understand that he’s in danger.”
Espinoza isn’t sure if her son has gone to higher ground, but she said he’s unafraid.
“He likes animals and the wilderness,” she explained.
Soto, who is autistic and was recently diagnosed with schizophrenia, has wandered off before and has been found in the hills above Wildomar. Espinoza recalled asking him if he was scared at night, outdoors by himself. He told her the “stars were pretty” and he reported hearing wild animals. To keep warm, he told his mother he covered himself in leaves.
“I believe him,” she said.
If Soto becomes thirsty, hungry or cold, Espinoza said he will seek food and shelter, but doubts he would knock first.
“I don’t think so,” she said.
The search for Soto will continue throughout the night. In addition to search parties comprised of law enforcement and volunteers on the ground, two sheriff’s helicopters equipped with heat-seeking instruments will be in the air over the Cleveland National Forest tonight, Hall said.
Approximately 20 volunteers turned out to assist Thursday, and more are expected tomorrow, including mounted posse, Riverside County Search Dogs, Mountain Rescue Units, and others, Hall continued.
Soto’s brother Frank Ontiveros, 37, was at the incident command post Thursday afternoon signing a waiver to join the search effort. The Wildomar resident is a Cal Fire/Riverside County Fire Department firefighter. He told Patch his brother is a kind and gentle teen who has the mental capacity of a 12-year-old.
When Soto disappeared in the past, he told his family he was out panning for gold.
Ontiveros could not say why Soto wanders off.
“I don’t know what triggers this,” he said. “He’s intelligent, but he’s in his own world.”
Soto does take prescription medications; Ontiveros said that without the meds, his brother may be less able to think critically.
Both Espinoza and Ontiveros say Soto will be wearing his yellow Lakers sweatshirt (see attached photo), no matter how hot and dirty he gets.
“He won’t take that off,” they both said. “He loves the Lakers.”
Espinoza confirmed that Soto does wear eyeglasses, but they were found at home after he disappeared.
Ontiveros and Espinoza thanked the community over and over.
“I know this take a lot of resources,” Ontiveros said. “I can’t thank the community enough.”
Espinoza broke into tears.
“We live in such a wonderful community,” she said. “It is overwhelming.”
Soto is described as Hispanic, 6’ tall, 130 pounds, with brown hair and brown eyes. He was last seen wearing a long-sleeve Laker’s hoodie with blue Levi pants and black tennis shoes.
The sheriff’s department is seeking the public’s assistance regarding Soto's disappearance. Refer any and all information to Lt. Zach Hall by calling (951) 445-7951 or dispatch personnel by calling (951) 776-1099.