Rescued hiker says she got lost fleeing a man who threatened her with a knife; police remain tight-lipped about investigation

A woman missing for four days in the California desert was found safely on Monday, and says she escaped a knife-wielding attacker before getting lost.

NBC News reports that a search and rescue team found Sheryl Powell, 60, near the Grandview Campground in Bishop, California, on Monday. Powell’s husband Joe Powell reported her missing on Friday, telling police that he had only separated from his wife and dog for a few minutes to park his car before returning to find them gone.

According to the report, Powell told police that she was taking a bathroom break when a “burly” man approached her and threatened her with a knife, allegedly saying, “The first thing that’s going to happen here, I’m going to use this knife on the dog, and then if you don’t let me have my way with you, I’ll use it on you.”

Powell reportedly said she was able to escape the man, but he continued to pursue her.

“I had to concentrate on how to get through this,” Powell told the news station.

Rescue crews first heard Powell’s dog barking on Monday morning, and later found Powell about 200 yards from where her dog had been found. She was taken to a hospital where she was reportedly treated for superficial injuries and dehydration.

Authorities have not said if they have identified or are searching for a suspect. In a Facebook post, the Inyo County Sheriff’s office wrote: “Our office is actively investigating the circumstances surrounding her disappearance … We have no further information at this time.”

The Inyo County Sheriff’s Office did not immediately respond to CrimeOnline’s request for comment.

A man believed to be Powell’s son, Greg Powell, posted a more detailed account on Facebook of what the alleged assailant said to his mother when he found her urinating behind a tree. His account included more graphic language than what his mother told NBC News. The son also said in the post that his mother ran away from the assailant despite hearing her husband “beeping and yelling” because she feared the man would rape her. She then stayed off the main trail and hiked only at night until she was confident the man was no longer trailing her.

Over the weekend, before Powell was found, the family launched a GoFundMe campaign to raise funds for additional search efforts. The campaign statement indicated that the family was frustrated with authorities for not more aggressively pursuing the possibility that Sheryl had been kidnapped or otherwise harmed.

The campaign raised nearly $30,000 of a $100,000 goal. A woman identifying herself on Facebook as Sheryl’s daughter Farrah Powell posted a message on Monday saying that all donations would be returned, and included a screenshot of an email she reportedly sent to GoFundMe asking for the contributions to be refunded directly to the donors. At the time of publication, the GoFundMe campaign was still accepting donations. An update on the campaign page said that the family was planning on hiring a private investigator, presumably to help track down the alleged assailant. It is unclear if the update was posted before of after Farrah Powell’s Facebook post.

“Unfortunately on the criminal side of things, there has been very little momentum generated,” the update reads. “We plan to hire a private investigator and will use these funds for that in addition to SAR [Search and Rescue] efforts.”

This is a developing story. CrimeOnline will provide further updates when more information is available.

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