Police: Sunnyside woman disappeared just before boyfriend’s ‘crime spree’ in Washington, Oregon

'We're not going to give up hope'

Authorities continue to look for 23-year-old Jennifer Caridad, who was reported missing the same day investigators say her boyfriend went on a multi-state “crime spree” that began with him shooting a Yakima man and ended in a high-speed chase and shootout with police in Medford, Ore.

Family members told police they had last seen Caridad about 5 p.m. on Aug. 8, driving away from their Sunnyside home — she never made it back and no one has heard from her since.

“[Jennifer’s father] mentioned he had been unable to contact Jennifer due to her cell phone being turned off, which [he] added was abnormal for Jennifer,” police said in court documents. “Jennifer was last seen with her boyfriend, who was identified as Aurelio J. Escobar.”

Caridad’s family reported her missing to the Sunnyside Police Department the following day, Aug. 9. Police found her car abandoned at the scene of a shooting near Berglund Lake they believe her boyfriend, Escobar, was involved in.

When officers began going over the crime scene, they decided to take a look at an SUV that the victim and other witnesses told officers Escobar had been driving. Investigators found the back seat covered in blood and what appeared to be a bloody tarp nearby.

“Detectives have been searching around Berglund Lake and they found an area where it looks like he may have dumped a bunch of his girlfriend’s clothing,” Yakima Police Capt. Jay Seely said. “We definitely believe there is foul play.”

Officers contacted the registered owner of the car, Caridad’s father, who alerted Yakima police to the possible connection between his daughter’s disappearance out of Sunnyside, the abandoned car and her boyfriend’s following “crime spree.”

Police: Escobar shoots, carjacks Yakima man out fishing with his daughter

Just after 5:30 p.m. on Aug. 9 — a little over 24 hours since Caridad was last seen — police were dispatched the 1800 block of Gordon Road, near Berglund Lake, to a shooting. A man called 911 to report he’d been shot and the person who’d shot him had also stolen his car.

The victim reportedly told police he’d come to the lake to fish with his daughter and two friends and when he arrived, he saw a man — later identified as Escobar — acting suspiciously and climbing in and out of an SUV.

According to court documents, the man had been fishing for a little less than a half-hour when Escobar came up to him and demanded he give up the keys to his vehicle; when he refused, Escobar lifted his shirt up to show him the revolver-style pistol in his waistband.

“Due to his daughter being present, he reluctantly gave Escobar the keys to his vehicle,” police said in court documents.

The victim told police when Escobar ran away with his keys, he grabbed two bricks and ran after him; as they were running, the gun slipped from Escobar’s waistband and fell to the ground.

“[The victim] increased his speed on Escobar before Escobar could grab the firearm,” police said in court documents. “[The victim] was at an arm’s length from Escobar once Escobar regained possession of the firearm.”

According to court documents, the victim told Escobar, “You have no bullets,” explaining to police that he thought Escobar would have shot him already if he had any ammunition loaded in the firearm.

Court documents show Escobar pointed the gun at the victim and shot him in the back of the neck.

“[The victim] couldn’t remember his reaction or thoughts at the time, but advised he heard another shot and felt pain in his left thigh area,” court documents said.

Escobar reportedly fired at the man again as he ran, hitting the victim in the thigh and yelling out his gang affiliation, before getting in the stolen car and driving away. An officer provided first aid to the victim, who was treated and released from a local hospital.

Police: “He’s been a one-man crime spree across the Northwest.”

Seely said after Escobar took off from Berglund Lake, he drove to Wapato and attempted to do another carjacking, but failed; he drove the stolen car all the way to Goldendale, where he dropped it off and stole another car and kept heading south.

“He’s been a one-man crime spree across the Northwest,” Seely said.

When Escobar reached Portland, he reportedly walked up to someone sleeping in their car, pulled the person out of the vehicle and drove off with it.

“I can’t tell you if he displayed a pistol at every single one of these carjackings, but he took the cars by force,” Seely said.

Police said after another carjacking in Canyonville, Ore., he made his way to Medford, Ore., where police caught up with him early Wednesday morning. Medford police officers recognized the stolen car traveling on Interstate 5 and tried to pull Escobar over, but he sped away.

“There was about a 30 minute pursuit and that culminated in a officer-involved shooting at the end,” Seely said.

According to a social media post by the Medford Police Department, Escobar fired a revolver at the gathered law enforcement and an officer and Jackson County sheriff’s deputies returned fire.  Escobar was shot three times and treated at a local hospital.

No officers or deputies were injured in the shooting. Per standard protocol, those law enforcement officers involved in the shooting have been place on administrative leave pending further investigation.

Escobar in custody, Caridad still missing

Escobar has been charged with first-degree assault, first-degree robbery, drive-by shooting and first-degree unlawful possession of a firearm in connection with the Yakima shooting. He’s being held in the Jackson County Jail in Oregon on $250,000 bail, pending extradition to Yakima County.

The Sunnyside Police Department has been working with Caridad’s friends, family members and other police jurisdictions to look for Caridad.

“Jennifer Caridad is listed as a missing person, we are continuing to search for her, continuing to partner with surrounding law enforcement agencies and utilizing the resources available in an attempt to locate her,” Sunnyside Police Commander Scott Bailey said.

Seely said they suspect foul play and the case may turn into a homicide investigation, but they’re still looking and hoping for the best.

“We’re not going to give up hope,” Seely said. “Hopefully, we will find her somewhere.”

Anyone with information about Jennifer Caridad’s disappearance or her current whereabouts can contact the Sunnyside Police Department at 509-836-6200 and ask to speak to Det. Melissa Heeran.

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