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Case of missing California teen leads to Nevada

Updated October 8, 2023 - 9:15 am

Five years after teenager Karlie Gusé disappeared from alongside U.S. Highway 6 in eastern California, authorities are searching for clues in Tonopah.

Karlie, then 16, went missing on Oct. 13, 2018, in Chalfant Valley, California, about 30 miles south of the Nevada state line.

In a recent episode of “People Magazine Investigates,” Jason Pelichowski, an investigator with the sheriff’s office in Mono County, California, said that in March 2021, his office received a call from a witness who claimed to have seen Karlie at a party in Tonopah.

Tonopah, a historic mining town and the county seat of sparsely populated Nye County, is about 100 miles away from Karlie’s home in Chalfant Valley.

Pelichowski did not disclose the witness’s name or say when the sighting of Karlie allegedly occurred.

But he did say that authorities located a vehicle that may have been used to pick up Karlie from alongside Highway 6 and transport her to Tonopah.

Mono County Sheriff Ingrid Braun confirmed this month that the Tonopah lead is one of the angles “actively being investigated” by her office and the FBI.

‘She was frantic’

On Friday, Oct. 12, 2018, Karlie called her stepmother, Melissa Gusé, then 34, and said she planned to attend a football game at her high school in Bishop, California.

Instead, Karlie went to a house party and smoked marijuana with her boyfriend, Donald Arrowood III, and another teenager, Jaymes Dulin.

Arrowood told the Las Vegas Review-Journal in 2018 that after Karlie got high, she started to panic.

“She got scared of the music,” he said. “She got scared of me.”

Karlie used her iPhone to call her stepmother.

“She was frantic,” Melissa Gusé told the Review- Journal in 2018. “She wanted me to pick her up.”

Back home in Chalfant Valley, the woman spent a long night comforting Karlie as the troubled teen alternated between lucidity and paranoia.

Hoping to use the incident as a teaching moment, Melissa Gusé recorded eight minutes of their conversation.

“I really messed up today,” Karlie says at one point.

Her stepmother responds, “We all do things in life that we regret. Drugs especially.”

After the woman urges Karlie to get some sleep, the distraught girl says, “You’re going to kill me.” Her stepmother tries to reason with her. “Why would I kill you? That’s preposterous.”

“I’m just thinking all this demonic stuff,” Karlie sobs. “I can’t help it.”

‘I know her. I saw her.’

Melissa Gusé awoke on Saturday, Oct. 13, 2018, to find Karlie missing. The teenager’s cellphone was sitting on a counter in the kitchen.

Melissa and her husband, Zachary Gusé, then 42, frantically searched the neighborhood before calling 911.

That afternoon, the Mono County Sheriff’s Office launched a search operation that in the following days would grow to include multiple agencies and hundreds of volunteers.

Meanwhile, three eyewitnesses told the Sheriff’s Office that they had seen someone fitting Karlie’s description on the morning of Oct. 13.

One of the witnesses, Richard Eddy, who lived near the Gusé home, told the Review-Journal in 2018 that around daybreak on Oct, 13, he noticed a tall, slender female with long hair walk by, holding a piece of paper in her hand.

“She was looking up, looking around at the sky,” he said.

A second witness, Kenneth Dutton, a schoolteacher who lived a few doors farther down, told the Review-Journal in 2019 that he was out in his driveway when Karlie walked by, holding a piece of paper, headed in the direction of Highway 6.

“I know her,” he said. “I saw her.”

The Sheriff’s Office said a third eyewitness, who has not been publicly identified, spotted a girl fitting Karlie’s description standing in the sagebrush near Highway 6.

This was the same area where tracking dogs lost Karlie’s scent.

‘Every parent’s worst nightmare’

Shortly after Karlie disappeared, Melissa Gusé began posting Facebook Live videos urging viewers to help with the search. But many people on social media remarked that her demeanor seemed suspicious.

In 2019, Karlie’s mother, Lindsay Fairley of Yerington, appeared on the “Dr. Phil” show and questioned whether Karlie made it out of the Gusé house alive.

However, the Sheriff’s Office determined that cellphone data corroborated the accounts of Melissa and Zachary Gusé, Arrowood, and Dulin.

A search of the Gusé home and forensic examination of Karlie’s phone and computer likewise did not yield any incriminating evidence.

Gina Swankie, a public affairs officer for the FBI, said authorities are continuing to seek the public’s help in solving the case.

“This case is every parent’s worst nightmare,” Swankie said. “Any credible lead is worth following if it will help locate Karlie.”

The FBI can be reached online at tips.fbi.gov and by calling 1-800-CALL-FBI.

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