There is a flyer on a lamp post near the Las Palmas Park in San Fernando, displaying a photograph of a bespectacled young man wearing a beanie, along with a phone number and a reward offered to anyone who’s seen him.
San Fernando is one of the last locations Luis Fernando Prado Perez is believed to have been seen. Someone called his family saying they’d seen him here. The person who called even sent them a picture of someone from behind that looks very much like Luis.
His family promptly left their home in Salinas and came to San Fernando to spend several days scouring that park and others nearby for their son, without any luck.
They have been searching for him now for four months.
“We have not stopped looking for him, not for one minute,” said Josefina Gallegos, Luis’ mother, during a phone interview.
“We went looking for him in the parks, on the streets, through Sylmar, but we didn’t have any luck. We simply ask for help to find him. The San Fernando Police are helping us. We’ve done everything.”
The family is troubled by the circumstances surrounding the 19-year-old’s disappearance near Magic Mountain.
On July 29, Luis and several friends were leaving the Santa Clarita Valley for Salinas. As their car approached Templin Highway, it blew a tire and pulled off onto the shoulder.
According to those friends, Luis became anxious. He got out of the car and ran across the northbound lanes of the Interstate 5 freeway to get to the other side. However, he was not seen crossing the southbound lanes. The friends said they tried, but could not catch up with him.
That’s the last time anyone saw him.
When the family did not hear from Luis that day, they filed a missing person’s report with the Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff’s Station.
Gallegos describes her youngest son as a “quiet” and “shy” young man of few words.
She noted that he had never ran away or disappeared before, and “he always came home.”
When the family questioned the friends Luis was traveling with that day, they were told that Luis had decided to leave. But Gallegos doesn’t know what to make of that explanation.
Luis vanished on a Friday. By Monday, Aug. 1, five men from the family — and the driver of the vehicle Luis was traveling in — returned to the site. Gallegos said they found a hat he was wearing the day of his disappearance near a tree.
They searched the hills in the area and came upon a forest cabin. The owner told them Luis had apparently slept there at night, but had moved on afterwards.
His trail has been cold ever since.
Luis, who worked in lettuce harvesting, was a homebody and rarely went out, according to his family. He didn’t know anybody in the area. He and his friends simply came down that day to visit this region, his mother said she was told by the friends.
A Santa Clarita Sheriff’s station detective called the family a month after the disappearance, asking questions but not offering any answers.
Authorities seem to think that Luis — being an adult — simply left on his own.
The family accepts that. They just want to know he is safe, and remain baffled by the incident.
Gallegos said her son wasn’t acting strange or out of the norm previous to his disappearance.
But, she added, that Luis had been involved in a accident with his truck three weeks before the disappearance. He had flipped and damaged the vehicle, also hitting other cars.
“The bills started to come and we think that maybe he got depressed by that,” Gallegos said.
“He’s a young man who’s always been very quiet. He’s not aggressive or anything. We don’t understand what could have happened,” said his mother, adding, “you can’t imagine what I’m going through.”
The family continues driving several hours on the weekends and every other day they can, searching for Luis and worrying about him.
“(My family) tells me not to worry because if something bad had happened to him, we would know already,” Gallegos said.
But, when asked, she admits that they haven’t checked the coroners’ offices yet.
“Maybe that’s what we’re missing,” she said.
Luis Fernando Prado Perez, of Salinas, is described as 5-foot 9-inches tall and weighing 150 pounds, with black hair and green eyes. He speaks both English and Spanish. If you see him or know anything about him, please call the family at (831) 794-3340.