Cell Phone Signal Narrows Search for Missing CNET Editor and Family

By Leslie Katz, and Michelle Meyers, CNET News.com

After searches in Oregon's Curry and Douglas counties, new information on missing CNET senior editor James Kim and his family is narrowing the search back to the Bear Camp area in Josephine County, according to reports Monday.

A cell phone tower received a signal from one of the family's cell phones last Saturday near Glendale, but officials say the signal is only an indicator the family could have been within 26 miles of Glendale late Saturday night, local news reports say.

Glendale is located off Interstate 5, south of Roseburg, where the Kims were confirmed to have stopped at a Denny's restaurant on the night of Saturday, November 25.

A news conference will be held Monday at 3 p.m. PST to provide an update on search efforts. It will be held at Josephine County Search & Rescue Headquarters in Merlin, Ore.

The search for the Kims continued through the weekend, with search-and- rescue teams from the ground and air checking secondary rural routes in southwest Oregon, state police said.

Helicopter support was to be discontinued at darkness Sunday, but ground search crews were prepared to continue searching into the evening, according to a police statement.

The 35-year-old Kim, his 30-year-old wife, Kati, and daughters Penelope (4 years) and Sabine (7 months) left their home in San Francisco last week on a Thanksgiving road trip to the Pacific Northwest. Before the sighting at the Denny's in Roseburg, they had last been seen earlier that day in Portland, Ore., according to the San Francisco Police Department's missing persons' report.

Approximately 40 state and federal personnel were searching remote area roads on Sunday, according to Oregon police. Some of those roads are difficult to travel, described by authorities as narrow and curvy with steep bordering embankments. Sno-Cats are assisting with the search in sections covered with up to 6 inches of frozen snow.

Private resources secured by family members, including helicopters, have been assisting in the hunt, and friends and family have traveled to Oregon to join the search. Loved ones have also set up a Web site where the public can receive updates on the Kims and share their thoughts.

Meanwhile, hundreds of CNET readers have sent e-mails and posted notes of concern and support on the site's message boards. Some have mapped out possible routes using navigation devices, and others in the Oregon area have joined the search effort.

Following confirmed sightings last Saturday night of Kim and his family at the Denny's in Roseburg, search efforts shifted north to Douglas County, Oregon police said Saturday morning.

Search efforts had been busy in Curry County, the location of Gold Beach, the family's reported destination for last Saturday evening. But after a multiagency search involving snowmobiles, a Sno-Cat and a UH-60 Blackhawk, among other helicopters, there was still no sign of the Kims'

2005 silver Saab 9-2X station wagon with California personalized plates of "DOESF."

Those fruitless efforts, combined with news of the Denny's sighting in Roseberg at about 8 p.m. on November 25, gave Lt. Dennis Dinsmore of the Curry County Sheriffs' Department "no indication in any way that they ever reached" his county.

"We're going to start backing away from the investigation," he said, adding that the search will shift to roads off state Highway 42 instead of Highway 38. Both are common routes taken to get from Interstate 5 to the Oregon coast.

Officials from the sheriff's office in Douglas County, where Roseburg is located, could not be reached for comment. But the Denny's sighting was confirmed in a press statement, and Dinsmore said the family's stop at Denny's had been corroborated by employees and a credit card receipt.

The National Guard, California Highway Patrol, Oregon State Police and Coast Guard are all participating in the search. In addition to patrolling highways running from Interstate 5 to the Oregon coast and along Highway 101, Oregon State Police troopers say they are checking hotels and resorts on the south coast.

Douglas County sheriffs have already done an extensive search of area roads, including Highway 42 from the Winston area to Myrtle Point in neighboring Coos County, according to the statement. Further search options are being explored.

According to Oregon State Police, about 100 tips had come in to a Pacific Northwest call center in Salem, Ore., as of Sunday afternoon. The number for the line is 1-800-452-7888.

Ryan Lee, a longtime friend of the Kims, told the San Francisco Chronicle that he had brunch with the Kims in Portland on Saturday. The Kims told their friend they planned to stop by a clothing boutique in Portland before driving to Gold Beach, where they said they had a hotel reservation at the Tu Tu Tun Lodge for Saturday night.

The hotel reportedly received an early-evening phone call from the Kims, saying they would be arriving at the hotel later than expected. They never showed up.

Inspector Kim Lewis of the SFPD's Missing Persons Unit said the last call recorded from James Kim's cell phone was made to a friend in San Francisco at 3 p.m. and suggested that the call to the hotel may have been made from a landline.

While some Saab models come equipped with the OnStar vehicle security and communications system, the model the Kims were driving did not offer OnStar as an option, said Mike Weinstein, a detective with the Portland Police Bureau's Missing Persons Unit, who said he also confirmed that information with OnStar using the Kims' vehicle identification number. The car did not have a LoJack car security system, either, Weinstein said.

Information provided by family members indicates that the car may have visible recent damage extending forward from the driver's door along the left quarter panel and wheel area, according to Oregon State Police. This damage was the result of a previous traffic-related incident in which the driver's door was reportedly repaired, but the other noted damage may still be visible.

On Saturday, the day the Kims were last seen, weather conditions in Southern Oregon were very hazardous, according to a spokesman for the Curry County Sheriff's Department.

At CNET, James Kim is a senior editor covering digital audio who also co-hosts a weekly video podcast for the Crave gadgets blog. He has been writing a book on Microsoft's Zune MP3 player. Formerly, he was an on-air personality on the now-defunct cable television network TechTV.

He and his wife own two stores in San Francisco -- Doe, a clothing store in the city's Lower Haight area, and the Church Street Apothecary in the Noe Valley neighborhood, where they live. Kati Kim also worked at CNET from 1998 to 1999.

The family was expected to return to San Francisco on Monday, November

  1. When both James and Kati failed to show up for appointments on Tuesday, November 28, co-workers began to worry for their safety. The Kims are known for keeping in touch daily with their friends and co-workers, either by phone or e-mail.

Those with information about the Kim family's whereabouts are asked to contact the SFPD immediately -- at 415-558-5508 during normal business hours and at 415-553-1071 after-hours.

CNET News.com's Greg Sandoval and Jennifer Guevin contributed to this report.

Copyright 2006 CNET.

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