Kristi Krebs told her coworkers that she was going straight home when she left work at 10 p.m. on Monday, August 9, 1993. As she walked through the Round Tree Pizza parking lot and toward her red 1990 Toyota Tercel, she seemed happy and upbeat. Even though her 22-year-old coworkers saw her get into her car and drive off, she never got home.
Kristi Krebs lived in Fort Bragg, California, with her parents, Don and Susan Krebs. When their daughter didn’t come home from work on Monday night, they were worried. They thought she might have gone out with friends. When Kristi still wasn’t home the next morning, Bob called the Mendocino County Sheriff’s Department to say she wasn’t there.
There was proof that Kristi had left alone the night before after deputies talked to some of her coworkers at Round Tree Pizza. They told the police that Kristi seemed incredibly irritable during her shift on Monday, but it didn’t look like she was upset about anything. Friends and coworkers of Kristi couldn’t help her figure out where she might have gone because they thought her only plan was to go home and sleep. Before leaving the restaurant, she hadn’t changed out of her uniform. When she got into her car, she was still wearing her uniform, which was blue jeans and a dark blue Round House Pizza shirt.
The Mendocino County Sheriff’s Department put out a missing person bulletin with Kristi’s information, but they didn’t have much else to go on, and there was no official search for her on Tuesday. Since there was no sign of foul play, it was thought that the 22-year-old was going missing on their own and would soon be back home.
On Tuesday afternoon, campers in Mendocino Woodlands State Park found Kristi’s car stuck in a creek bed. This put an end to all hopes that she would soon be pulling into her driveway. Kristi was nowhere to be found.
At first, it wasn’t clear if Kristi had taken her own car into Mendocino Woodlands State Park or if there had been some kind of crime. Investigators asked anyone who saw Kristi after she left work on Monday night to get in touch with them. They soon got a call from a park ranger at 20-mile-north of Mendocino Woodlands State Park, MacKerricher State Park. He knew for sure that he had talked to Kristi soon after she was seen leaving Round House Pizza.
There was a park ranger walking through MacKerricher State Park on his normal route on Monday night at 10:30 pm when he saw a red Toyota Tercel parked in one of the park’s lots. The park closed at 10 pm, so the ranger pulled up next to the Toyota to see if anyone was inside. The car only had one person inside: a woman in the driver’s seat. The ranger saw a picture of Kristi and knew that she was the driver of the car.
The park ranger told Kristi that she couldn’t stay in the parking lot overnight because the park was closed. She didn’t seem mad about the answer and said she was going to leave. The park ranger said that the talk was friendly and that Kristi didn’t seem to be having any problems at the time. She pulled out of the parking lot and left MacKerricher State Park after a short time. There were no signs that she was drunk or otherwise impaired.
The police think that Kristi drove straight to Mendocino Woodlands State Park when she left the parking lot. When she got there, it looked like she had driven through a remote camping area and ended up on a winding dirt road that led to the bed of the Big River, where she got stuck. She had clearly tried many times to get her car out of the creek bed. Detectives found that she had cranked up the engine so fast that two of the tires had blown out. Kristi’s car jack was found next to one of her front tires. She had either tried to change the tire or jack up the car to get it out of the mud. She tried many times but failed, which made her angry, as she hit the car’s hood over and over with a rock she found in the creek bed.
When Kristi got back to the car, she was even more angry than before. She took a few pictures out of her wallet, tore them up, and threw the pieces on the front seat. She also took the stereo from the dashboard of her car and threw it on the seat.
Kristi’s jeans and shirt that she wore to work were found in the backseat of her Tercel. They were neatly folded when they were found, but they were wet, probably from her failed attempts to free her car. Her gym clothes, which included pink Spandex shorts and a white T-shirt with a neon pink and chartreuse design, were not in the Toyota. This made the police think that Kristi had changed into them before leaving her car and walking away.
When Bob and Susan heard that their daughter’s car was found stuck in a creek, they immediately thought of something that had happened more than three years before. My friend Kristi got her car stuck in the woods east of Fort Bragg in May 1990. In an effort to get her car free, she revved the engine for so long that it got too hot and caught fire. Kristi left her car and ran through the woods because she was scared and lost.
In the first case, Kristi had been out all night walking around, probably trying to find her way home. A group of men working on railroad tracks more than 13 miles away from where her car had been left found her the next morning. She was lost and confused. One of the men knew Kristi’s family and recognized her right away. He called her parents, who came right away to pick her up.
Bob said Kristi seemed fine when they got in the car to go home, but it was clear after a few minutes that something was wrong with her. It looked like she was having a mental breakdown because she couldn’t remember what had happened to her. Because they were worried, her parents took her straight to the hospital. She got better in a private mental hospital for the next four weeks, but it would be months before she could fully remember things.
In the years after this happened, Kristi seemed fine and didn’t show any signs of mental illness. The stress of getting lost in the woods and then having her car catch fire was said to have caused her breakdown. It seemed like a one-time event that wouldn’t happen again. But in August 1993, more than three years later, it looked like the same thing was happening again.
She had been working too hard in the months before she went missing, her father said now that they knew what happened. Between Round House Pizza and Burger King, she worked two jobs and often put in more than 12 hours a day. She went to the gym more often and slept less, even though she seemed to be very happy with her life. Bob started to wonder if these were small signs that Kristi’s mental health was getting worse. He thought that when Kristi got her car stuck in the woods again, it made him remember the first time it happened. “I believe it was too much for her.”
A large search was done in Mendocino Woods State Park and the area around where Kristi’s car was found by the Mendocino County Sheriff’s Department, volunteers, and search dogs. There was no evidence that she had been harmed in any way, and detectives thought she had walked away from her car on her own, though it wasn’t clear what she was thinking at the time. Her parents thought she was probably lost and might have been having trouble remembering things.
Through the whole week, people searched Mendocino Woodlands State Park. People on foot searched all the main roads that led into and out of the park, and the Mendocino County Air Squadron searched from the air along the many logging trails that wound through the dense forests. Every search turned up nothing.
The search for Kristi in Mendocino Woodlands State Park was called off by the Mendocino County Sheriff’s Department on Monday, one week after she went missing. Over 1800 square miles had been searched on the ground and in the air, but Kristi had not been found. Mendocino County Lt. Rich Wiseman said that the area had been thoroughly searched and that there was no sign that Kristi was still in the state park. “We don’t think we can do anything else until we get more information.”
Even though the park search didn’t turn up any clues, several people called police to say they saw Kristi in the days after she went missing. One man was sure he saw the woman who went missing hitchhiking on Highway 20 near Fort Bragg. “She was with the several people who were hitchhiking near the road that leads up to Harvest Market.” For a moment, the man thought the young woman was his niece. He slowed down as he got closer to the hitchhikers to get a better look at the woman he thought was Kristi.
The person was seen on August 10, one day after Kristi went missing. It was true that the man could describe the woman’s hot pink shorts, and Susan was sure that the man had seen her daughter. Investigators checked out the reported sighting, but the hitchhikers were not in the area when they got there.
Kristi’s parents hoped that their daughter would be found quickly, but as the days and weeks went by with no new information, it became harder for them to stay positive. “Our daughter is out there and doesn’t know who she is,” Bob told the press. We hope to get her back with the public’s help.
Kristi hadn’t been seen in four months by December. They had to get through the holidays without their daughter, which was very hard, and they worked hard to keep her story in the public eye. At that point, they knew Kristi could be pretty much anywhere, so they searched in several western states besides California.
Community members in Fort Bragg set up a fund to help pay for the search for Kristi to go on and to offer a reward for her safe return. More than $40,000 had been raised by March 1994. Even though there was a reward for information about where Kristi might be, tips stopped coming in.
There was a poster for Kristi’s disappearance in a Salt Lake City, Utah, gas station nine months after she went missing. The woman saw it and recognized Kristi as the hitchhiker she had picked up in August 2007. Alicia Larson called the tip line right away and said she was sure she had picked up Kristi in Salt Lake City a few days after the last time she was seen in California. When she didn’t hear back from the police, she called Kristi’s parents because she was so sure that the hitchhiker was Kristi.
Alessandra told Bob and Susan that she met Kristi near I-80 in Salt Lake City on August 11, two days after she was last seen in California. She told them exactly what Kristi was wearing—hot pink shorts and a unique t-shirt—and said that the hitchhiker had said her name was Kris. “You’re looking at the happiest girl in the world,” she said as she got into Alicia’s car. Susan confirmed that this was a phrase her daughter often used.
Kristi had been happy and talkative, Alicia said. She said she was in love with a truck driver and was going to Amarillo, Texas, to marry him. Alicia could tell that something wasn’t quite right with Kristi as she talked, though. Alicia knew “the story she was telling me wasn’t real” when the young woman told her that she was being chased by police and couldn’t go home because it would put her family in danger. I could tell right away that she was alone.
The hitchhiker was finally dropped off by Alicia at a McDonald’s in Park City, Utah. When the girl got out of the car, she said, “Burger King is better.” For Kristi, this is likely what she would have said since she worked at Burger King at the time she went missing. Her parents confirmed this.
The parents of Kristi were sure that Alicia had picked up their daughter. Susan said, “She told us about conversations and behaviors that were completely true and that anyone who knew Kristi would recognize. We know she hitched from Fort Bragg to Salt Lake City while very happy but delusional.” After that, she couldn’t be found.
Kristi’s disappearance was shown on an episode of America’s Most Wanted in May 1994. The show did this to bring more attention to the case and hopefully find some good leads. The broadcast led to many reports of sightings, but none of them could be proven.
The case of Kristi was shown on Unsolved Mysteries for 12 minutes in February 1995. More than 20 million people watched it. Once more, a lot of new tips came in, but none of them led to Kristi.
Kristi’s case stopped being in the news for a while. Kristi’s parents have always hoped that she would be found alive, but the police are not as sure. Even though Kristi has been seen many times, some investigators say they have never been able to confirm that she left the Fort Bragg area, and they don’t know if she is still alive.
In 2012, Officer Jeanine Gregory of the Fort Bragg Police Department asked the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children to make an age-progression picture of Kristi to show what she might look like when she is 40 years old. Officer Gregory was still sure that the case could be solved. “She must be out there somewhere, or someone knows something about it,” she said.
Kristi Krebs was 22 years old when she didn’t show up for work in 1993. She fell and was last seen with brown hair and blue eyes. She was 5 feet 2 inches tall and weighed 140 pounds. The last time anyone saw her, she was wearing neon pink, chartreuse, and blue gym shorts and a t-shirt. The middle part of her right thumb is thick and misshapen, and she speaks with a slight lisp. She was likely going through some kind of mental trauma when she went missing, and she may have had trouble remembering things. Please call the Fort Bragg Police Department at 707–961–2820 if you know anything about Kristi.