Lake Tahoe authorities: No leads in missing woman case

Axie Navas and Trisha Leonard
Tahoe Daily Tribune
Courtesy photoAlyssa Byrne, 19, was reported missing on Jan. 1.

STATELINE, Nev. – A $1,000 reward has been offered for information about a teen who came to the area to attend SnowGlobe and has reportedly been missing since early New Year’s Day.

In a press conference Thursday afternoon, officials stated they had no leads on the whereabouts of Petaluma resident Alyssa Byrne, 19, who was reported missing on Jan. 1.

“It’s moments of utter despair and a lot of hope. It’s something I wouldn’t wish on any parent. I want everyone to know she’s a wonderful kid. We love her and miss her,” her father, Kevin Byrne, said. Byrne arrived in South Lake Tahoe Wednesday to help find his daughter.

Tahoe Search and Rescue joined the search Thursday morning, according to sheriff’s deputy Greg Almos. Teams started setting up a search area near Horizon Casino Resort, where she was last seen early on New Year’s Day.

Byrne, classmate Jay Donnellan and two other friends from Napa left Sonoma County about 9 a.m. Saturday to head to South Lake Tahoe, according to Byrne’s father. She and her friends checked into Horizon on Saturday. She texted her mother Saturday and both parents Sunday, he said.

“She was very good about checking in,” Kevin Byrne said. “We sent her a text at midnight (on New Year’s Eve) but there was no response. We figured she was out having a good time.”

Byrne said they texted her on New Year’s Day, but the friends she was with contacted her parents to tell them they couldn’t find her.

“The last time anyone claims to have seen her was a little after 12:30 a.m. on New Year’s Day,” he said. “She was in the bar area of Horizon casino and saw someone she knew, said a brief hello and they went in different directions.”

The last friend to see her, Micah Alex of Petaluma, said it was his impression that Byrne was altered by alcohol or drugs when they embraced and greeted in a ground-floor passage near the lobby of the Horizon Casino Resort before she went missing, according to the Press Democrat in Santa Rosa.

“She just seemed like something was wrong with her,” Alex said Thursday, “like she wasn’t all there, you know?”

Donnellan told the Press Democrat that he did not believe that she had consumed anything that day that would have impaired her behavior that day, other than beer.

Alex was among those with whom Donnellan talked that night as the hours went by and he and his friends were unable to locate Byrne.

Donnellan and the others in their party went out until about 5:30 a.m., in part enjoying the evening and in part looking for Byrne. Two other friends stayed back at the hotel room in case she returned, he said.

Donnellan said he figured, at the time, Byrne might have gone off with a girlfriend, though she’d made no mention of meeting anyone new or running into someone the others weren’t aware of.

Douglas County Nevada sheriff’s Sgt. Pat Brooks said people go missing at Tahoe often, but frigid winter temperatures add to the imperative to find Byrne.

A Thursday release from the sheriff’s office stated that she was last seen wearing black yoga-type pants, black snow boots and her hair was pulled back.

Byrne said her cellphone is either turned off or her battery is dead, and the friends she was with took her stuff with them – including her cellphone charger – when they checked out of the hotel after they couldn’t find her.

Douglas County Sheriff’s Office received a report on Jan. 2 that stated her cellphone was last used in the city of South Lake Tahoe prior to midnight on New Year’s Eve, according to a statement.

“I got up here about noon and went straight to the police,” Byrne said Wednesday. “I went walking through the casinos and went to the community college and hiked around in the snow to make sure I didn’t find her lying in the snow somewhere.”

One of the authorities’ major concerns is that 19-year-old Byrne is not prepared for cold weather if she’s had to spend nights outside, said Douglas County Undersheriff Paul Howell. Howell said she isn’t equipped for lows that hover around zero degrees. He added that the sheriff’s office doesn’t have any evidence of foul play in the case.

Byrne is described as 5 feet, 3 inches tall, 125 pounds with black hair and blue eyes.

Friends and family have also started a Facebook page at and Twitter feed at #findalyssabryne to aid the search parties.

Anyone who sees Alyssa Byrne or knows of her whereabouts are asked to call Kevin Byrne at 239-823-0923, Douglas County Dispatch at 775-782-5126, Investigator Dennis Slater at 775-586-7255 or Secret Witness at 775-782-7463.

South Lake Tahoe Police Department, Douglas County and El Dorado County sheriff’s departments, Douglas County Search and Rescue and air support from the Washoe County Sheriff’s Office are working on the case.

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