6 days lost in forest, family thanks rescuers & community after woman’s rescue

UPDATE: Sunday, Sept. 27, 2:30 p.m.

See Original Story below.

WHITMORE, Calif. — Friends and family of a Redding woman found missing after spending six days lost in the forest are praising the efforts of the Whitmore community and other volunteers who helped search for the missing woman, as well as search and rescue members who ultimately found and rescued her. She was discovered in extremely remote and rugged terrain along the South Cow Creek in the Whitmore area north of Shingletown.

The victim, 27-year-old, Raylena Herrera Heile, was ultimately found by Shasta County Search and Rescue team members on Saturday, Sept. 19. She had last been seen the previous Monday, six days earlier, when she left for a solo-hike.

Heile was found to be dehydrated and had numerous scratches, cuts and bruises, as well as a sprained ankle, but was otherwise uninjured, according to officials. After being airlifted from the forest she was flown to an area hospital, where she was treated for extreme dehydration. She has since been released and is back home recovering from her terrifying ordeal.


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Heile’s sister, Melissa Martinez, of Yuba City – who spearheaded much of the online search efforts for her missing sibling – was instrumental in spreading word about Heile’s disappearance; posting numerous social media pleas for information about her missing sister.

Although Martinez was not able to help directly with the search efforts due to health concerns, she said many family members from as far away as Hawaii joined the victim’s friends in the search. They were aided by residents of the Whitmore community and other volunteers from around the North State area.

According to Martinez, her sister left Monday and was supposed to return on Tuesday. When she failed to return as expected, family members immediately began a search for their missing loved one that spanned the next five days.

With help from a scent tracking K-9 and a CHP helicopter, on Saturday morning search and rescue members found 27-year-old, Raylena Herrera Heile, of Redding, in extremely remote and rugged terrain along the South Cow Creek in the Whitmore area. She had last been seen the previous Monday. Shasta County Sheriff’s Office photo

Early on in Heile’s disappearance, family members also tried to get area law enforcement agencies to join in the search. However, their pleas for help were initially stalled when the family was told by Shasta County Sheriff’s Office that they would need to get special permission to search the heavily forested, but privately owned and managed area where Heile was believed to have gone hiking.

“We made so many calls, trying to get any law enforcement agencies or local news channels to help finding Raylena or getting word out about her disappearance, but nobody was willing to do a thing for us,” Martinez described; saying, “It was breaking my heart that we couldn’t get the help we needed.”

“It was just so frustrating, because other than your paper (SCNS), we never got a single call back from any of the mainstream news organizations we contacted for help,” said Martinez.

“Just knowing my sister was out there, alone, afraid, and possibly injured, was heartbreaking,” Martinez continued; adding, “Like any other sister would think, I was wondering if I would ever see her again or if she was safe or injured. It was just haunting me, not knowing.”

With no immediate help coming from official agencies or news organizations, the victim’s sister, Katrina Herrera – who flew in from Hawaii, along with brother, Robert Chavarría and dad, Raymond Herrera – both from San Jose, joined friends and area residents – as many as 20 to 40 at a time – in the search.

Rescuers prepare the victim to be airlifted from the area where she was found, six days after going for a solo-hiking trip. Shasta County Sheriff’s Office photo

Their first big break came on Tuesday, when family, friends and local volunteers found Heile’s vehicle parked in the South Cow Creek area. After finding her vehicle, searchers began focusing their efforts on that area and discovered one of Heile’s shoes and her cell phone on Friday morning.

Based on the new information, Shasta County Sheriff’s officials joined in the search for Heile Friday evening, sending deputies to the area to assist in the ongoing efforts to find the missing woman.

The next day, Shasta County Sheriff’s Office activated the county’s Search and Rescue team, and deployed them to the area to begin searching. They were assisted by William Beatty and Associates, the land management company that manages much of the surrounding area where the victim was believed to be.

With scent tracking K-9’s on the ground and help from CHP’s H-14 searching from above, SAR members eventually located Heile near an isolated cliff area along the creek, amidst thick foliage in extremely remote and rugged terrain.

Extremely dehydrated, and suffering from cuts, bruises and a sprained ankle, the victim is airlifted from the creek where she was found before being flown to an area hospital for further treatment. Shasta County Sheriff’s Office photo

“CHP H-14 was utilized to extricate her and transport her to the hospital,” Shasta County Sheriff’s officials later reported in a social media post. “She was dehydrated and had numerous scratches and bruises but otherwise uninjured.” 

“She became disoriented and was unable to find her way,” officials said after Heile’s successful rescue.

After learning her sister had been found alive and was being airlifted to an area hospital, Martinez once again took to social media, proclaiming online, “UPDATE: THEY FOUND MY SISTER ALIVE!!!!”

“Thanks for all your prayers and support and love,” Martinez enthused in her post. “Because (of your) prayers we found her alive!!”

“Prayer is powerful”

In a follow up telephone interview today Martinez told SCNS, “I honestly feel that without the prayers, love and support from the community my sister never would have been found or she would have been found under much worse circumstances.”

“Prayer is powerful,” Martinez continued; adding, “I can’t tell you how many people were praying for Raylena’s safe return and were keeping her in their thoughts and prayers.”


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“They don’t even know my sister but their shares of my Facebook posts, along with their prayers and support, really helped. It all helped so much more than they could ever know,” Martinez continued; adding, “It truly meant so much to us and I’m just so thankful for all the love and support we’ve received from the community.”

“I just wish I could tell everyone involved how thankful our whole family is for all their prayers and support. I want to thank them from the bottom of my heart for finding Raylena alive,” Martinez tearfully said while choking back tears. “My sister means the world to me and it was just amazing that with everyone’s help we were able to find her alive.”

“Nobody knows the pain a mother feels when she’s told that her daughter is missing,” the victim’s mother, Tina Chavez relayed to SCNS after her daughter’s safe recovery.

“The only comfort I got was in prayer and the fact that I knew there were a lot of good people out there looking for her,” Chavez continued.

Saying she wanted to send out her love and gratitude for everybody that participated in searching for her daughter, Chavez added, “Everyone’s help means the world to me and I’m so thankful my daughter was found safe.”

Original Story: Family pleads for answers, clues in Redding woman’s Whitmore disappearance

Originally Published: Friday, Sept 18, 8:36 p.m.

WHITMORE, Calif. — Family and friends are pleading for information about a woman’s disappearance after she went hiking in the Whitmore area Monday, Sept. 14. The missing woman, 27-year-old, Raylena Herrera Heile, has not been seen since.

Frantic family members eventually found the missing woman’s car in the area of South Cow Creek. One of the missing woman’s shoes and her cell phone were found on Friday morning.

The discoveries led the victim’s sister to take to social media for help finding her sibling.

“*MISSING* PLEASE SHARE THIS POST!!” Heile’s sister, Melissa Martinez, wrote in a social media post on Friday, after family members, friends and volunteer searchers from around the community discovered the first clues as to the area where her sister might be. 


Anyone with information about Heile or who knows her current whereabouts is encouraged to immediately contact Martinez at (530) 204-9830 or the victim’s mother, Tina Chavez, at (530) 844-6098.

This is a developing story that will be updated as new information becomes available.

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Contact the writer: trevor.rcns@gmail.com

Trevor Montgomery, 49, moved in 2017 to the Intermountain area of Shasta County from Riverside County and runs Riverside County News Source and Shasta County News Source. Additionally, he writes or has written for several other news organizations; including Riverside County based newspapers, Valley News, (the now defunct) Valley Chronicle, Anza Valley Outlook, and Hemet & San Jacinto Chronicle; as well as Bonsall/Fallbrook Village News in San Diego County and Mountain Echo in Shasta County.

Trevor spent 10 years in the U.S. Army as an Orthopedic Specialist before joining the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department in 1998. He was medically retired after losing his leg, breaking his back, and suffering both spinal cord and brain injuries in an off-duty accident. (Click here to see segment of Discovery Channel documentary of Trevor’s accident.)

During his time with the sheriff’s department, Trevor worked at several different stations; including Robert Presley Detention Center, Southwest Station in Temecula, Hemet/Valle Vista Station, Ben Clark Public Safety Training Center, and Lake Elsinore Station; along with other locations.

Trevor’s assignments included Corrections, Patrol, DUI Enforcement, Boat and Personal Water-Craft based Lake Patrol, Off-Road Vehicle Enforcement, Problem Oriented Policing Team, and Personnel/Background Investigations. He finished his career while working as a Sex Crimes and Child Abuse Investigator and was a court-designated expert in child abuse and child sex-related crimes.

Trevor has been married for more than 30 years and was a foster parent to more than 60 children over 13 years. He is now an adoptive parent and his “fluid family” includes 13 children and 18 grandchildren.