The woman who went missing for four days while camping in California’s White Mountains said Tuesday she was relieved to be reunited with her family after a harrowing encounter with a knife-wielding man sent her running into the wilderness.
Sheryl Powell, 60, said on NBC’s TODAY show that she was taking a short walk with her 5-pound Yorkipoo Miley to explore the area while her husband repositioned the couple’s Jeep at their campsite — a task, her family said, that only took around five minutes.
She said that during that short time she was approached suddenly by a knife-wielding man.
“He really just surprised me and scared me,” she said. “I thought my dog was going to be hacked up by him.”
Powell said she was told that if she did what the man said, he would “refrain from using the knife” on her and her dog.
“It scared me enough to act pretty docile and let him think that I was going to go along with him,” she said. As soon as she saw an opportunity, she took off with her dog and ran. The man pursued her, she said, but she and her dog escaped.
She said she never saw the man again after the first day, and from that point, she “just had to concentrate on how to get through this.”
“I just wasn’t sure where my husband exactly was,” she said.
Her husband Joseph Powell searched for an hour on his own before using his satellite device to notify officers of his wife’s disappearance.
Authorities from the Inyo County Sheriff’s Office launched air and land searches in the remote area around 275 miles north of Los Angeles. Sheryl Powell described the frustration of being able to hear and see the search team but not being able to do anything about it.
“I wasn’t in the area they were searching at first, and that was disheartening,” she said. When she walked down into a canyon to get water for her and her dog, she said, she lost sight of the helicopters and could no longer hear them overhead.
“There was a green belt below, in the canyon at the bottom, and I thought, ‘There must be water.'”
She said she found “some kind of little spring or something” with clean-tasting water.
“I had to get water. I had to drink,” she said.
Search and rescue teams found Sheryl Powell and her dog on Monday.
Joseph Powell told TODAY that during his wife’s disappearance he “became a man who was half a man.”
“I was so unhappy and so depressed — I had to keep my act together. I had to do everything I could to help her,” he said.
The couple’s son Greg Powell said he quickly suspected that his mother met with foul play. In a Facebook post Saturday he said his parents “have an extremely loving relationship and my dad (who has refused to leave the campsite) is on the verge of breakdown.”
Sheryl Powell said Tuesday that she’s doing okay.
“I’m just happy to be back with my family. I’m happy to be here to tell my story. I didn’t know if I’d make it.”
Joseph Powell said getting his wife back was “a miracle.”
“Yesterday I was the saddest man on the planet, and today I am the happiest man on the planet,” he said.
There’s been no sign of the knife-wielding man. The sheriff’s office is investigating.