UKIAH - A Washington state woman remained at a Ukiah Valley hospital Wednesday while authorities worked to unravel her mysterious disappearance and subsequent discovery in a mound of garbage.
Rebecca Huston, 32, was reported in good condition at Ukiah Valley Medical Center, where she was taken after being found Tuesday morning in a truckload of trash at a garbage transfer station on the south end of Ukiah.
Huston told authorities she was kidnapped in Washington and was forced to travel to California, ultimately ending up alone in a trash bin.
Relatives, friends and co-workers of Huston in Kennewick, Wash., were jubilant Wednesday after learning she had been found alive.
"There was a lot of crying, a lot of relief," said Laurie Salazar, office manager of a veterinary clinic where Huston works in nearby Richland.
But as puzzling details about the case emerged Wednesday, law enforcement authorities said they were proceeding with caution.
"We're waiting for her return so we can interview her in person. We need some answers," said Kennewick Police Sgt. Randy Maynard.
Huston could leave Ukiah in the company of a sister as early as today, according to authorities.
Sgt. Ken Lattin, Kennewick police spokesman, said Huston and a sister might drive her vehicle back home. But Lattin said a company based in the neighboring city of Pasco also has offered to fly the two back home on a corporate jet. Lattin said no decision had been made by late Wednesday.
Huston has spoken with Mendocino County investigators, but she declined Wednesday to be interviewed publicly about her disappearance. Hospital spokesman Jarrod McNaughton said Huston told him she was "not up to that."
Huston's small 1994 blue Geo Metro has been searched by Mendocino investigators for evidence, and some fingerprints were found and submitted to the state Department of Justice crime lab for analysis. If fingerprints other than Huston's are discovered, it might speed up the investigation.
"At this point, it could be several days before we know anything," Mendocino Sheriff's Capt. Kurt Smallcomb said.
Mendocino and Washington authorities agreed Wednesday that they are taking Huston's kidnap claim seriously despite a lack of specific details.
Huston, for example, told Mendocino investigators that she spent four days traveling 800 miles down the West Coast with her armed kidnapper, who wore a ski mask. Huston, however, has been unable to give any other details about the alleged abductor, including his ethnic makeup, his speech pattern or his behavior.
Huston said after the two arrived in Ukiah on Monday night, her kidnapper ordered her to get into a garbage bin next to a Ukiah supermarket and stay there. Early Tuesday morning, a garbage truck picked up the bin with Huston in it and drove to a garbage transfer station about four miles away. Employees stared in amazement as Huston tumbled out of the bin along with the garbage.
Huston's car was found in the supermarket parking lot near the garbage bin. There was no trace of the abductor.
Kennewick authorities said Huston apparently withdrew about $500 from her bank account a few days before she disappeared last week. "We're checking credit card receipts and other related items to see if there's some kind of paper trail," Maynard said.
Maynard and Mendocino Capt. Smallcomb concurred Wednesday that despite the case's unusual nature, it must be taken seriously.