A Santa Barbara television news anchor has gone missing.
Station KEYT News Channel 3 announced this afternoon that its own Paula Lopez was reported missing this morning.
The station says the Santa Barbara County Sheriff Department is "leading the effort" to find her:
We reached out to the department but had yet to hear back.
KEYT's general manager, Mark Danielson, released this statement:
This morning we learned that a beloved member of the KEYT family, Paula Lopez has gone missing. We have been in touch with her family and know they, as well as local authorities, are doing everything possible to find her safe and sound. It is clearly a difficult time for her family and our own family at KEYT. All of us at KEYT stand ready to assist in any way we can. For now, on behalf of KEYT and NPG of California our thoughts and prayers are extended to Paula as well as her family and those searching to find her. We hope for her safe and speedy return.
[Added at 4:48 p.m.]: Her bio on the station's website says Lopez worked at KCAL News in Los Angeles from 1990 to 1996 before heading to Santa Barbara "to return home permanently to spend more time with her young son."
She has two other children, twin daughters, and is married to Frank Ochoa, the presiding judge of Santa Barbara Superior Court, the station says.
According to the bio:
She is a ninth-generation Santa Barbaran, and a direct descendant of Lt. Pablo Cota, one of the founding officers of the Royal Presidio in Santa Barbara.
[Added at 5:23 p.m.]: The sheriff's department said in a statement this evening that "no foul play is suspected" in the disappearance.
Still, according to the statement, "Her family is concerned about her welfare."
Lopez was reported missing about 10 a.m. and her last known location was her home near Cathedral Oaks and North San Marcos roads, the department said. Family members had talked to her at about 9:30 this morning, their last known contact with the newswoman, according to the statement.
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Sheriff's officials sent in the cavalry to look for her, including K-9 units and a helicopter, they said: The search continued tonight.
Lopez is 48, 5 feet, 2 inches tall, and was was believed to have been wearing a black sweatsuit today.
Seen her? Call 805-681-4150.
[Update at 7:51 p.m.]: The station tonight reports that Lopez returned to her residence and was "safe at home" tonight. It says family members notified KEYT of her return about 5:30 p.m.
So what happened? They're not saying. KEYT:
The family will not make any further comments regarding the circumstances surrounding her disappearance.
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[Added at 3:03 p.m. Friday]: In a statement to the station, her family blamed the episode on an undisclosed medical issue:
As a family we were very alarmed because Paula was experiencing a medical condition that caused her to be unable to communicate with us. She is now receiving the appropriate medical care and we hope and expect that her treatment will enable her to recover quickly.
The Santa Barbara Independent (via LA Observed) says that Lopez recently "let it be known" that her days at the station "are numbered."