Woman who disappeared on shopping trip found dead in Sierra

A Fresno woman who never returned home from a shopping trip in December was found dead in the Sierra Nevada, the Fresno County sheriff’s office said.

Samantha Tomlinson. (From Fresno County Sheriff’s Office)

Samantha Tomlinson, 37, had previously lived in the East Bay.

She had last been seen on Dec. 3 at a Costco store in Fresno. A roommate reported her missing when she failed to return home.

Tomlinson had said she was going to run some errands, and she left behind her beloved dog. Surveillance video confirmed she was at the Costco around noon.

Because Tomlinson was an avid hiker who frequently visited the Sierra National Forest and Sequoia National Park, searchers from the sheriff’s office, the Forest Service and the California Highway Patrol focused on those areas but found no sign of her or her silver 2002 Honda Civic. Tomlinson had not taken outdoors gear with her and was not dressed for winter hiking when she disappeared.

On May 2, a Civic was reported abandoned off Dinkey Creek road, in the Sierra National Forest 10 miles east of the community of Shaver Lake and about a 60-mile drive from Fresno. The license plate matched that of Tomlinson’s car.

It is believed the car had been covered by snow since December.

About 20 search-and-rescue team members went to the area, and on May 4 bones were found about a half-mile from the car. On Friday, May 6, comparison with dental records confirmed the remains were Tomlinson’s.

No foul play is suspected, the sheriff’s office said.

Tomlinson had attended Diablo Valley College and Cal State Fresno. She worked for the agricultural departments in Alameda and Contra Costa counties before moving in 2013 to Fresno, where she trained and handled dogs that assist in county agricultural inspections.

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