Riverside Police Department Press Release

For Immediate Release
  Date Tuesday, July 31, 2007
  Contact Steven Frasher, Press Information Officer
  Phone (951) 826-5147

Missing mother of two found
Arrested in Phoenix, woman faces child endangerment charges here

Riverside, Ca- A missing mother of two who disappeared from her Riverside home on July 24, leaving her two small children at home alone, was found and arrested Tuesday morning, July 31, in Phoenix, AZ, where she was discovered swimming in an urban irrigational canal.

Melissa Jo Lindstrom-Harnit, 35, was reported missing at 3:30 p.m., July 24, when a hired caregiver arrived at the home on Totem Court in Riverside, where the caregiver found an eight-year-old autistic boy and 1Ĺ-year-old girl unattended. The youngest child was bleeding from numerous lacerations. The children have been in protective custody. No one had seen or heard from the missing woman since approximately 8 p.m. the previous evening.

According to Phoenix Police, Lindstrom-Harnit was spotted climbing into the Grand Canal of the Salt River Project irrigation system at 8:30 a.m.; 30 minutes later and two miles downstream, she was coaxed out and arrested for trespass in the canal. Riverside Police detectives, in conjunction with the Riverside County District Attorney, have prepared an arrest warrant for Child Abuse/Neglect (273a(a) PC) and are seeking Lindstrom-Harnitís extradition back to California.

The missing woman had been the subject of intensive investigative effort, public pleas by family and authorities and a national missing person bulletin. Investigators received credible evidence that Lindstrom-Harnit was alive and on her own in San Bernardino at some time after her reported disappearance, ruling out the scenarios of homicide or abduction for the disappearance. The investigation continues.

Anyone with information helpful to this investigation may call Riverside Police Detective Julian Hutzler at (951) 353-7125.