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March 25, 2020: The search and rescue operation for Thomas Freeman, a 63-year-old Murrieta resident, flew into action Tuesday morning, four days after his wife, Jeannie, reported him missing on Friday afternoon, March 20.

Hikers returning to the North Clevenger Trailhead staging area on state Route 78, six miles west of Ramona, came across Freeman?s vehicle, crashed and wedged between two boulders on the edge of the steep canyon at the end of the parking area?abandoned with its engine still running.

Around 9:30 a.m. Tuesday, San Diego Police Department?s Airborne Law Enforcement (ABLE) helicopter was first on scene, swooping low into the canyon.

Later Tuesday afternoon, operations coordinators and volunteer teams from San Diego County Sheriff?s Department Search and Rescue (SAR), San Diego Mountain Rescue Team (SDMRT) and the American Red Cross gathered with volunteers, drones and dog teams to begin a coordinated search effort from a command post at the trailhead.

In an exclusive interview with the Sentinel, Freeman?s wife, Jeannie, said the situation ?has a lot to do with the coronavirus.?

Jeannie said that after getting increasingly concerned over COVID-19 and what was happening globally, Freeman on Friday morning began pacing incessantly around their home, repeating over and over that the stock markets are going to crash, everyone is going to lose all their money, and anguishing that it was the end of the world?in a whispery voice, his breathing labored.

?It was completely out of character for Tom,? Jeannie said of her husband, a retired attorney and substitute teacher for San Marcos Unified School District.

?I tried to reason with him,? she recalls, ?saying ?we?re all gonna be OK.? I told him ?Honey, can I take you to the hospital? What are you feeling and thinking?? But he couldn?t get the words out and went to our room to lie down.?

Jeannie said around 11:30 a.m., she had to head out ?to take care of an issue at our old house.? The couple had just moved from Escondido to Murrieta the day before, Thursday, March 19, and, she says were also coping with the general stress of moving.

?When I came home about 2:30, he was gone. His car was gone, his wallet was gone?but he had left his cell phone at home.?

Thomas Freeman, pictured with wife Jeannie, has been missing since Friday, March 20, after being distraught over the belief that stock markets will crash, everyone will lose all their money, and the world will come to an end due to the global corona virus situation.

At 9:30 p.m. that evening, ?overly worried at his state and that he may be having a nervous breakdown,? Jeannie called her best friend, Davona Reed in Escondido, and a close friend who was retired SDPD.

?They told me to call the police and file a missing person?s report, which I did. Then I didn?t hear anything for two days until Monday, after repeatedly calling and leaving messages with no response.?

A teacher in the Escondido Union School District, Jeannie says she realized her school laptop was in her husband?s car and on Monday, school being closed, called the district?s help desk, who ?somehow tracked the laptop and said, strangely, it had last been used in Huntington Park, Los Angeles.?

Jeannie says they only found out Freeman?s car had been found on SR-78 when, confused by the L.A. location, she called Huntington Park Police Department, who looked up his license plate number and told her it had been impounded in Ramona.

?We called the Ramona tow truck company,? unknown at press time, ?and the driver told us where he found Tom?s car. I grabbed my hiking boots and drove out to look for him. The truck driver met us there and a small group of us hiked down the trails into the canyon?but it?s so huge and thick with brush.

?We couldn?t find him,? Jeannie said, sedated but clearly anguished. ?We then went to the tow truck company to look at his car. All four airbags had gone off, front and sides. There was no blood, but the window was down, and it was wet inside from the rain.?

The tow truck driver told her that when he arrived at the trailhead and found Tom?s car crashed between the boulders on the canyon rim, he called it in, and California Highway Patrol arrived on scene along with a firetruck and SDPD.

Jeannie says her best friend Reed then made hours of calls to Escondido Police Department, SDPD and CHP. ?We kept calling and saying we were worried about the condition Tom was in, but they gave us the runaround and bounced us between departments.?

After leaving ?lots of messages? with the Murrieta Police Department (MPD) over the weekend of March 21, Jeannie said ?Detective Miguel Garcia from MPD finally contacted me on Monday [March 23] and was making calls.? (Detective Garcia could not be reached for comment at the time of reporting. The missing person flier below incorrectly states his first name as Mario).

She said Detective Garcia interviewed her at her home on Tuesday afternoon, March 24, and took some of her husband?s belongings for his scent for the search dogs and told her the canyon search operation was beginning at the trailhead, including helicopters, drones and search parties on foot.

At the trailhead command post yesterday afternoon (Wednesday, March 25)?after the Sentinel saw Jeannie?s missing person flier on Ramona Facebook pages but no media coverage and spoke with her exclusively?Sgt. Daniel Vengler with Search and Rescue confirmed the operation had begun around 4 p.m. on Tuesday, continuing until 11 p.m. when the combination of darkness, rain and steep terrain made the ?risk versus reward? of the search continuing unsafe.

A team of Search and Rescue volunteers (center) heads back up North Clevenger Trail, six to the trail head command post. Teams are searching the canyon and up to and over the far ridge summit and back for missing Murrieta man Thomas Freeman, 63, missing for six days.

San Diego Mountain Rescue Operations Leader Dennis Peck (whose volunteers train in harsh winter conditions and are called in by SAR when search areas involve difficult terrain, high elevations, and/or severe weather conditions), said on Tuesday around 50 searchers across both agencies were deployed down into the canyon, along the creek water and up the opposite side to the summit, over and back, searching off-trail deep into the thick brush.

Peck said drones where flown close up to rock faces and around the giant boulders that dot the canyon, investigating overhangs and crevices, and were brought back Wednesday to keep looking, while around 30 volunteers continued to search on foot.

Asked what clues they were looking for, SAR Sgt. Vengler said, ?Anytime we do a search we?re grasping at straws, looking for any clue the person may leave behind?a shoe, clothing, dropped wallet?anything that tells us they were here.?

Peck said ?Ultimately we?re hoping to find Tom alive. But the POD?Probability of Detection, which we calculate taking many variables into consideration, including conditions, terrain, weather, age, length of time missing?is low, only about 10 percent, and the situation is not producing results.?

The command post at North Clevenger Trailhead on Rte. 78, where operations leaders from San Diego Search and Rescue (SAR) and San Diego Mountain Rescue are deploying volunteer SAR teams in the search for Thomas Freeman, missing for 6 days.

He underscored that while the search continues, detectives are researching other possible leads, including looking at the vehicle?s computer system and any credit card usage.

As to whether Freeman was in L.A., Jeannie, for one, believes the help desk report of her laptop ?pinging there? was a mistake, but is grateful the call to Huntington Park police led her to the tow truck company in Ramona.

While Detective Garcia had not returned calls at the time of this writing, Vengler at the command post said, ?The current working theory is that [Freeman] drove the car here himself, but there is nothing in the car that either confirms or denies he was in it, so additional theories are likely being considered.?

At the spot where Freeman?s car was recovered, Vengler pointed to fresh earth displacement under a very large boulder sitting precariously on the cliff edge. ?The impact of a vehicle?could be his or perhaps the tow truck, we don?t know?was forceful enough to dislodge and move the boulder.?

The vehicle was found with driver side damage and the door against the boulder, leaving the only exit through the passenger side door, which would have opened directly onto the canyon edge.

Asked how she was doing Wednesday evening, her voice breaking with emotion, Freeman?s wife Jeannie said:

?I?m torn between my heart wanting to believe someone found him disoriented on the road and picked him up, and the other part of my heart thinking it?s been too long. It?s a roller coaster. There are moments I?m angry and crying, then I?m drained and numb.?

Thomas Freeman is 5 feet 8 inches and weighs approximately 175 pounds. He was last seen wearing black long sleeves, blue jeans and gray or white shoes. He may also be wearing a black leather jacket. If you witnessed anything or have any information, contact Detective Miguel Garcia, Murrieta Police Department, 951-461-6362, or email help.find.tom.now@gmail.com.