Police say a 19-year-old woman who went missing Wednesday evening under suspicious circumstances staged the disappearance to make it appear that she was the victim of foul play.
According to the La Mesa Police Department, Sara Rafou, an employee at the Bank of America in the Grossmont Center mall, was found safe Thursday night and had made a decision to separate herself from her family.
Rafou's family reported her missing after she did not return home from her job on Wednesday night. According to police, her vehicle was still in the bank's parking lot near a Target store on Thursday morning. Thursday evening, her family and friends gathered outside the bank to pray for her safe return at a candlelight vigil.
Detectives reviewed surveillance camera footage showing her getting out of her car before reporting to work for the day.
"Video never showed her returning to her vehicle, although co-workers at the bank saw her exit the front doors of the bank at the end of her shift,'' La Mesa police Capt. Ed Aceves said.
Investigators searched the car, and found possible signs of criminal involvement in Rafou's disappearance, Aceves said. Chemicals had been used inside the car in what appeared to be an attempt to hide blood stains, investigators said.
Police said no charges were pending against Rafou because she had not broken any laws. She didn't file a false police report. It was her worried parents who contacted authorities. Police said it is also not a crime to apply chemicals to the interior of a car.