Mendocino County authorities have resumed the search for a missing Southern California man following a tip about late-night screams coming from a defunct lumber mill bunkhouse in the woods.
The tip dates back to May 31, shortly after Erik Lamberg, 51, vanished, but it only recently was linked to the troubled man's disappearance, said Mendocino County Sheriff's Lt. Shannon Barney, who coordinates the department's search and rescue team. A man heard the screams while tracking owls for a timber management company, he said.
The screams were heard within walking range of where Lamberg's vehicle was found June 1, stuck in a ditch between Fort Bragg and Willits.
"It's definitely worth looking at," Barney said.
He said it was apparent that someone had stayed in the old bunkhouse sometime this year. There were fir boughs on the floor, apparently for bedding, and there was evidence of a fire.
More than 40 people from Mendocino and Marin counties search and rescue teams, along with a search-dog organization, on Wednesday scoured the forest around the bunk house at Clare Mill, he said.
They will return next week to conduct another search during morning hours, when scents are lower to the ground and easier for dogs to track, Barney said. He said several dogs appeared to have picked up a scent on Wednesday afternoon but could not follow the smell.
The new search was triggered by a tip to Lamberg's wife, Samantha Lamberg, following a public radio program dedicated to her husband's disappearance.
A woman listening to the program connected the disappearance to the screams her boyfriend, Michael Stephens, had heard May 31, Samantha Lamberg said.
Stephens was calling to owls, a method used to find and survey the birds for timber harvest plans, when he heard the "chilling" screams, Samantha Lamberg said.
"I can only imagine how fearful that made him," she said.
The old mill is located in a forest range in which double murder suspect Aaron Bassler evaded law enforcement for more than a month in the summer of 2011 before being killed in a hail of gunfire.
After hearing the screams, Stephens left the scene and notified his employer. A subsequent search of the structure failed to find the apparently terrified, screaming man, Samantha Lamberg said.
The tip is the most significant since Erik Lamberg's Honda van was found in a ditch on Sherwood Road.
Samantha Lamberg said she last spoke with her husband and father of her two children, ages 10 and 15, on May 28, when he was staying at a motel in Laytonville. Her husband, who suffered from bipolar disease, was on his way to Oregon to enter a treatment facility.
Samantha Lamberg said she's hopeful something will come of the latest search.
"I feel like I have to know what happened," she said.
You can reach Staff Writer Glenda Anderson at 462-6473 or firstname.lastname@example.org.