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Reward offered in 2004 missing mom case

NEWBERRY SPRINGS - In the three years since April Beth Pitzer's disappearance, sheriff's detectives have followed one lead after another, each time coming up empty-handed. They've probed mine shafts, run DNA tests and analyzed the walls of a truck stop restroom in Oregon in search of the mom who went missing from Newberry Springs in June 2004.

Now, a $50,000 reward is being offered for the recovery of Pitzer and the arrest and conviction of those responsible for her disappearance. Let's Bring Then Home - a group of "advocates for the missing," according to the Web site, www. - is sponsoring the reward. Det. Steve Pennington of the San Bernardino County Homicide Detail hopes the reward will spark someone's interest in coming forward.

"We know that somebody knows something," he said. "It's just whether or not they will talk."

According to reports, Pitzer, a mother of two, went missing on her way from Newberry Springs to Arkansas, where she was originally from. Pennington began working on the case as a detective out of the Barstow station. When he was transferred to the homicide detail, he took the case with him and has worked on it since.

"She does have a family, she does have kids, and nobody's heard from her in three years," Pennington said.

The popular television show "America's Most Wanted" recently posted Pitzer's story on their Web site, According to the Web site, deputies received an early tip in September 2004 from a Douglas County Sheriff's Department in Oregon. A deputy found a cryptic message in a truck stop restroom in Roseberg, Ore., with apparent directions to Pitzer's body written in black.

"Want to find missing girl from Arkansas? I-15 3 miles east of Barstow," the message read.

Pennington said the Douglas County Sheriff's Department dusted the restroom for prints and San Bernardino County Sheriff's deputies followed up on the tip. Pennington was out near Interstate 15 looking for clues last weekend, he said.

"We've been picking it apart, piece by piece, on both sides of the freeway," he said. "But after three years, it's hard to know."

The nexus of the case shifted to the Ludlow area later in September 2004, when someone told deputies Pitzer's body had been stashed in a mine shaft. Since that time, Pennington said that deputies have search more than 25 mine shafts with no results.

Another potential break in the case happened when deputies found a mattress and sheet in the Ludlow desert stained with blood and bodily fluids. After a much-anticipated DNA test in 2006, the blood turned out not to be human and the trail turned cold again, Pennington said.

Pennington then turned to the last person to see Pitzer, Chuck Hollister.

"I was hoping this person she was last living with, Chuck Hollister, would shed some light on this before he died," he said.

Unfortunately, he did not.

In and out of the hospital with health complications, Hollister spoke with Pennington twice before he died of cancer in 2006.

Anyone with infor mation about the April Pitzer is asked to call the sheriff's department at 256-4838 or the free "no cops" Tip Line at 1-866-479-LBTH. To remain anonymous, call WeTip at (800) 78-CRIME.

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