Case of Disappearing Anchorwoman ‘Solved’

Paula Lopez’s Family Says She Was Experiencing a ‘Medical Condition’

Originally published 2:00 p.m., February 28, 2013
Updated 4:30 p.m., February 28, 2013
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KEYT anchorwoman Paula Lopez showed up at her home about 5:30 p.m. Wednesday evening under circumstances nearly as mysterious as those under which she disappeared.

KEYT and the Santa Barbara Sheriff’s Department released statements yesterday that Lopez had been reported missing at 10 a.m. after having spoken to family members half an hour earlier. The nature of the communication — and the identity of the parties involved — were not disclosed, but the contents apparently were sufficiently dire for the Sheriff’s Department to dispatch a helicopter and two K-9 units to track her down. Although the helicopter, in the air for 90 minutes, was seen by nearly everyone on the South Coast as it swept overhead, it apparently did not spot Lopez.

Paula Lopez
Click to enlarge photo


Paula Lopez

Lopez, a ninth generation Santa Barbaran and a mainstay of the local media world, has let it be known that her days at KEYT — which was recently acquired by new owners — are numbered. Lopez is also married to Judge Frank Ochoa — now a leading contender to be appointed to the Court of Appeal — who reportedly left the bench yesterday at 11 a.m.

Sheriff’s spokesperson Kelly Hoover denied that Lopez and Ochoa were afforded any special considerations because of their status. She said that such searches are called for when authorities have reason to believe the missing person is at risk. In this case, Hoover said the department had reason to be concerned that Lopez might need medical attention. She also said that such searches are initiated when the missing person has no history of running away or being missing. “We were concerned she needed medical attention, which is why she was considered at risk,” Hoover said.

She added the department was notified by the family that Lopez had returned and that it dispatched deputies to the scene to confirm. When asked whether the deputies determined whether Lopez did or did not need medical attention, Hoover said she was not at liberty to answer any question relating to medical conditions. Hoover added that the department took special pains not to report the exact location of the Lopez-Ochoa home out of deference to the fact that Ochoa is a judge. Hoover took exception to criticisms that Lopez received special treatment, stating such searches “are not that rare” and take place whenever anyone who fits the “at-risk” classification goes missing. She said the department does not charge the beneficiary of such attention. “It’s a service we provide,” she said.

Lopez’s family issued a statement to KEYT expressing gratitude to the Sheriff’s Department, adding, “As a family we were very alarmed because Paula was experiencing a medical condition that caused her to be unable to communicate with us. She is now receiving the appropriate medical care and we hope and expect that her treatment will enable her to recover quickly.”


Independent Discussion Guidelines

A contender for the court of appeals? God help us.

AZ2SB (anonymous profile)
February 28, 2013 at 3:32 p.m. (Suggest removal)

It made front pages nationally and in the UK, she's an international celebrity now. She could become one of the June Taylor Dancers or Keep Up with the Kardashian of her choice.

Ken_Volok (anonymous profile)
February 28, 2013 at 3:49 p.m. (Suggest removal)

(This comment was removed by the site staff for violation of use policy.)

SB2SB (anonymous profile)
February 28, 2013 at 3:50 p.m.

Heh, sounds like SOMEBODY has been through this process before, possibly more than once....ahem...

Torracat (anonymous profile)
February 28, 2013 at 4:11 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Here is something that is more likely: If Her days are now "numbered" after the recent purchase of KEYT, it is likely she was traveling doing interviews for other stations on the down low...

Torracat (anonymous profile)
February 28, 2013 at 4:14 p.m. (Suggest removal)

I sure hope that Judge Ochoa will be volunteering to pay the expense of yesterdays search and rescue. Speaking as a local taxpayer, I sure as hell don't want to pay for this. I am very happy she is safe, and the fact that he is a well known judge is notable on the short time line for an all out search, however as they refuse to go public on the reasons, I vote that they pay for the full price tag of yesterdays ridiculousness.

vonG (anonymous profile)
February 28, 2013 at 4:20 p.m. (Suggest removal)

(This comment was removed by the site staff for violation of use policy.)

topcat (anonymous profile)
February 28, 2013 at 4:26 p.m.

no attribution to where you're getting un-sourced information about her professional career. It's widely known she just signed a multi-year contract with KEYT. get the facts straight.

truthtooth (anonymous profile)
February 28, 2013 at 4:53 p.m. (Suggest removal)

As someone with bipolar disorder, I would guess the 'medical condition' is of a psychiatric nature. There are plenty of clues to support this ('missing' after 30 min, no foul play, but concern about her 'welfare').

In the end it doesn't matter. But *if* this event involves a mental health issue, the family's response is all too familiar. They 'hide' the truth from the public. They can't speak about it or it would 'embarrass' her/them and/or harm her career. If the incident had been caused by a diabetic episode, I doubt we'd be speculating about the nature of the condition. It would've been named. It's heartbreaking that mental illness is viewed as something to be ashamed of, something that could hurt your standing in the world.

Terra (anonymous profile)
February 28, 2013 at 6:14 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Well, this information is probably the sum total of what's going to be released to the public now. It sounded like she was considered an at-risk missing person, so I wasn't offended by the immediate, expensive and public search effort.

I felt they were hiding behind a "private family matter" smokescreen despite their status as both prominent members of the community and public figures, so I'm glad that there has now been at least some public acknowledgement of the Sheriff Department's efforts, as well as something of an explanation for what happened.

However, I agree that the opportunity for a "teachable moment" here was squandered. I hope Paula Lopez gets the help she needs so that this doesn't happen again.

LegendaryYeti (anonymous profile)
February 28, 2013 at 6:34 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Complete agreement with AZ2SB's comment. Surely, there are better, more judicial contenders for the appellate court!

As for his wife: glad she's safe and it is certainly not likely that Mrs John Doe would have gotten such a search after 30 minutes missing or whatever was reported by this public figure.

at_large (anonymous profile)
February 28, 2013 at 6:44 p.m. (Suggest removal)

It doesn't have to be a mental illness; diabetics can have incapacitating or odd behavioral reactions, as simply one example.

None of our business, and I'm happy she's safe.

djfranchise (anonymous profile)
February 28, 2013 at 6:45 p.m. (Suggest removal)

There are so many other things going on in this community than to waste time on one person...Bla Blaa...

miked442 (anonymous profile)
February 28, 2013 at 6:54 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Perhaps a nervous breakdown or panic attack. Either way, she'll recover more quickly if people leave her alone.

billclausen (anonymous profile)
February 28, 2013 at 7:03 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Ken Volok shows his true mental capacity.

RealityCheck22 (anonymous profile)
February 28, 2013 at 7:12 p.m. (Suggest removal)

I have no idea why the two comments above were removed. News media that invites public comment and censors comments that are offensive to the editorial opinion of the publisher are demonstrating a much more serious violation of freedom of speech than media that entirely avoids issues inconsistent with editorial opinion and that allows no public commentary. It's not recent, and it's not a minor issue, and it's largely an artifact of an investigative journalism vacuum, but it is sad to see the Indy emulate Noozhawk, NP, and (RIP) Daily Sound practices in intentionally manufacturing a false representation of community opinion by refusing to grant a voice to those whose opinions are repugnant to owners, editors, or publishers.

14noscams (anonymous profile)
February 28, 2013 at 8:26 p.m. (Suggest removal)

How can you " have no idea why the two comments above were removed" and then say the Independent "invites public comment and censors comments that are offensive to the editorial opinion of the publisher" ?

I saw one of the comments, and it was offensive to me, in that it speculated that Lopez was drunk. Hardly the attack on free speech you seem to believe without foundation.

Chester_Arthur_Burnett (anonymous profile)
February 28, 2013 at 8:59 p.m. (Suggest removal)

I for one don't begrudge the "taxpayer dollars" in trying to find her! I'm glad she is safe and hope she returns to the news soon. Paula - if you are reading this I appreciate your great public service over the years to so many organizations. I'm sure the tireless work you have given to many charities far outweighs the gas and time of the helicopter operator for all those bean counters out there. Get well soon and take care of yourself! Sending positive thoughts to your husband and children during what has got to be a difficult time.

SBHUMAN (anonymous profile)
February 28, 2013 at 9:22 p.m. (Suggest removal)

If paula needed help then by all means i'm glad she will receive it. I'm glad she is ok.
Now for the Santa Barbara Sheriff's and Police Department
that comment that they made about them going all out on there search when she was not missing for 24hr is straight BS. I have a friend that has been missing from Lompoc that was a AT RISK Adult and was reported missing and till this day is still missing and everyone who knows her feels there is FOUL PLAY and did not and has not received that kind of treament not to mention besides being a AT RISK Adult she also needed medication to keep her alive. Her name is CRYSTAL KINNEY MISSING from HOME DEPOT in LOMPOC so to the LAW ENFORCEMENT who gave the BS statement why didnt you give the same treatment to Crystal Kinney.?????????????????

Glad your ok Paula

jesscuz (anonymous profile)
February 28, 2013 at 9:52 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Legendary...The opportunity for a teachable moment has been squandered? Are you serious? Since when does someone in the public eye have an obligation to make their crisis a lesson for others, immediately or ever?
Gosh, we've become so enamored with everyone airing all things private, we can't respect a family dealing with an intimate, possibly life-threatening time for one of its members without demanding real time tweets and Facebook updates, and a new bracelet, public awareness campaign and non-profit. Take a breath folks, it's been 24 hours!

eddiekd (anonymous profile)
February 28, 2013 at 10:36 p.m. (Suggest removal)

I bet her ratings go up, this could be her Howard Beale moment.

Ken_Volok (anonymous profile)
February 28, 2013 at 10:56 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Count me among those who are glad Paula's okay---or at least not off wandering around.

However, the assertion that this type of helicopter and K-9 search is customary in such circumstances/ time frame is laughable. I don't understand how anyone could think that such a fabrication makes sense.

chilldrinfthenight (anonymous profile)
March 1, 2013 at 3:42 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Why does it bother anyone that as a local celebrity and wife of a judge that authorities may have acted more expeditiously than normal? This is just how the world works. So if one of the lowlife twenty somethings with a pit bull that hang out by the Habit were lost would anyone seriously expect authorities to look for them?
I would celebrate their desaparecido status.

italiansurg (anonymous profile)
March 1, 2013 at 5:59 a.m. (Suggest removal)

italiansurg: In a plutocratic political system more expeditious action by public safety agencies would be expected. The hypocrisy of preferential treatment in a nominal democracy should bother people.

14noscams (anonymous profile)
March 1, 2013 at 7:21 a.m. (Suggest removal)

There are only a few facts here. She's married to a judge, she went missing, she made up an excuse with no details for her absence. Then we taxpayers funded a search. If this is missing part #1, and it happens again, missing part #2 deserves explanation and monetary reimbursement.

When executives go to work, they are all powerful (like a judge), when they come home, it's an adjustment, some can't adjust....catch my drift?

khiggler (anonymous profile)
March 1, 2013 at 7:38 a.m. (Suggest removal)

I love the bumper sticker "not all who wander are lost". Is it possible that she was just going for walk and needed some alone time?

buckwheat (anonymous profile)
March 1, 2013 at 8:25 a.m. (Suggest removal)

The only thing that bothers me is that when people go missing and there are immediate announcements, they usually say, "there is concern because he/she is without medication, or may have a known (undisclosed) medical condition, which is why the search is so important". If you want to actually attract help from the public, you need to disclose needed and known information. I understand if she gave indications of suicide, but even that can be tactfully addressed in a public statement without divulging private matters.

skaterspoint (anonymous profile)
March 1, 2013 at 8:48 a.m. (Suggest removal)

I read that she supposedly had some sort of undisclosed medical problem. However, it seems like a flimsy excuse of why such an all-out search was conducted. As user "jesscuz" pointed out, there are other cases of individuals with real medical or mental conditions who have been missing in the past and I've never heard of such an extensive use of public resources. Obviously the judge has clout in the law enforcement and political community. It's just another example of misappropriating tax payers money.

805bailbonds (anonymous profile)
March 1, 2013 at 8:52 a.m. (Suggest removal)

What passes for news in the "Theme Park" truly baffles me sometimes !

I almost suffered a "medical condition." from having (2) helicopters hovering over my house for almost a half hour Wed afternoon, presumably with their cameras trained on the KEYT station on top of the Mesa.

I would also agree that this is an abuse of tax payer money and would like to see the Independent ( how bout it Nick Welsh isn't this what the Angry Poodle column is made for ?) disclose what the price tag was on this debacle.

yendopostal (anonymous profile)
March 1, 2013 at 10:15 a.m. (Suggest removal)

A ton of tax payer resources were used to find someone that wasn't missing. The public has a right to know what they paid for.

StevShep (anonymous profile)
March 1, 2013 at 10:32 a.m. (Suggest removal)

One other point: Since when do the press or the COPS "respect private family matters"? Any regular Joe would have had this #$%@#$% all over the place. When someones mug shot is distributed to the press, do the COPS care about that persons privacy? I always wonder how the COPS decide how much information to dole out to the general masses. Not to be aggressive passive, but I am glad she is OK.

bimboteskie (anonymous profile)
March 1, 2013 at 11:05 a.m. (Suggest removal)

(This comment was removed by the site staff for violation of use policy.)

Byrd (anonymous profile)
March 1, 2013 at 11:15 a.m.

There are numerous cases of "at risk" adults who prompted large scale searches with helicopters in short amounts of time. They usually involve seniors, for commenters who say otherwise it seems they are just misinformed or don't pay attention to local reports. Yes it cost money but the authorities did as would be expected and initiated a response, get over it.

I hope she gets better, and am looking forward to the special 5 part series submitted for regional emmy consideration on mental health issues... Good luck to KEYT on cutting her back over this, she didn't make the report and if she has a valid "medical issue" and they fire her the new owners may as well just sign over the station to her and avoid the lawsuit.

All is all its a good ending to what might have been a bad situation.

pointssouth (anonymous profile)
March 1, 2013 at 11:33 a.m. (Suggest removal)

1. Preferential treatment shown by law enforcement---Check.
2. Stigma of mental illness kept hidden intact---Check.
3. Chances of Ochoa named to appellate court nixed---Check.
4. Opposing voices quelled due to perceived acerbity---Check.

Carry on, please.

Draxor (anonymous profile)
March 1, 2013 at 12:43 p.m. (Suggest removal)

OK, mark my name in the column of people who are glad Paula is OK.

Now, are they freaking kidding me that this kind of response wasn't because Paula is the wife of a Judge? This is clearly the good ol' boys taking care of each other and sticking us taxpayers with the bill. I hope there is a thorough investigation by the taxpayers association as to why this many resources were used and in such a short amount of time. How much did this cost? How many people were called in for overtime? Will this now count toward their pension? We want answers. Otherwise, next time my daughter comes home late from school, I expect dogs on the ground and helicopters in the air. All I have to say is she 'has a medical condition". What a racket. Did the Judge bang his gavel and demand this response? Did the sheriff owe the judge a favor? Does the judge now owe the sheriff a favor?

EnolaGay (anonymous profile)
March 1, 2013 at 12:50 p.m. (Suggest removal)

I think we all learned our lesson after the assassination of Billy the Dog in those very hills.

Ken_Volok (anonymous profile)
March 1, 2013 at 2:20 p.m. (Suggest removal)

I see the Indy censors are very busy today protecting me from the ability to read comments which might be "offensive". Hmm..

Anyway...lots to chew on here, but distilling it down as much as possible: Yes, it's annoying that celebrities and judge's relatives get special treatment. Yes, it was possible that she could have been kidnapped or worse because she is a judges' wife, so that was something to consider.Yes it is VERY annoying that the family sends up the call to arms, the community is thrown into a tizzy of worry over the fate of someone who we all are very familiar with via her KEYT job, and then when she is located, the family issues this BS response essentially requesting privacy.

You don't get to have it both ways; you don't get to scare the crap out of the entire County, then when she's found safely, give us essentially no answer, then tell us to go home and be quiet. Sorry...if you leave that huge of a vacuum, people WILL fill it with speculations and some of those speculations might be "offensive" to folks who are always actively searching for reasons to be "offended".

A little truth would go a long way here. My speculation is that Paula is a brittle, insulin dependent diabetic and may have had a serious insulin least that is what it SEEMS by the non-answer the family has issued.

Maybe she has depression, and was in crisis...who knows? In either event, since we're all being so "offended" here by people's observations, how about the family grow up and tell the truth? What is wrong with being sick? Why does that have to be a secret?

You just can't make this stuff up...

Holly (anonymous profile)
March 1, 2013 at 4:07 p.m. (Suggest removal)

I guess I don't care they used helicopters, etc....good for them. She came home.

I also don't care if I never find out the whole story. But it looks like I'm in the minority here.

There are probably valid reasons why cops move immediately when a Judges family is involved. Who cares, it's a perk. Lots of people gets perks in their particular line of work.

lawdy (anonymous profile)
March 1, 2013 at 4:35 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Yes, lawdy, lots of people get perks in their lines of work, but few of them are so well-paid and get such publicly-funded perks. It is reasonable to ask (and be told) how much these "perks" cost the taxpayers!

at_large (anonymous profile)
March 2, 2013 at 8:20 a.m. (Suggest removal)

I remember the day that KV and bc and I were up in Rattle Snake Canyon, chillin' and smokin' at the old Lawson place, right next to the abandoned mine, and St. Billy the Dog found little Timmy(or was it Pedro?) in the well. Boy, that dog woulda' found Paula lickitysplit...

italiansurg (anonymous profile)
March 2, 2013 at 8:32 a.m. (Suggest removal)

And I doubt she would've shot him.

Ken_Volok (anonymous profile)
March 2, 2013 at 10:14 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Hank woulda'

italiansurg (anonymous profile)
March 2, 2013 at 5:08 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Just for a side dish.

Ken_Volok (anonymous profile)
March 2, 2013 at 7:08 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Yes, most of us would agree on the rapid seach procedure by looking at the source of the missing person and who the husband is. If it had been an ordinary citizen police would of acted differently and not in a timely manner. For some of us it would be less law enforcement, no copter and if we're lucky we'd get a sniffer dog. Maybe we'd still be out in a ditch somewhere.

We love you Paula, it wasn't something you asked to be done during your "disappearance", it's just our observation.

lmart61 (anonymous profile)
March 2, 2013 at 8:47 p.m. (Suggest removal)

And the only reason we make jokes is because is you're not lying in a ditch.

Ken_Volok (anonymous profile)
March 2, 2013 at 8:50 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Ken, you don't even make sense.

lmart61 (anonymous profile)
March 2, 2013 at 8:58 p.m. (Suggest removal)

I get Pennyroyal Tea.

Ken_Volok (anonymous profile)
March 2, 2013 at 9 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Hank woulda'

italiansurg (anonymous profile)
March 2, 2013 at 5:08 p.m.

Yes, he "woulda" but Mr. Hankie is doing jail time as a result of being depressed over his being banned from The Independent blog. The crime that landed him in prison was that he robbed a toy store in Goleta last month. In the highly publicized trial, it was revealed that Mr. Sarria didn't actually want any cash, but demanded (and received) a slinkie, a barbie doll, and three G.I. Joe's.

dullfin (anonymous profile)
March 2, 2013 at 10:49 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Finally some facts! Thanks dullfin. Stay vigilant and informed.

italiansurg (anonymous profile)
March 3, 2013 at 6:45 a.m. (Suggest removal)

I'm glad that you two make sense because I don't.

Ken_Volok (anonymous profile)
March 3, 2013 at 12:19 p.m. (Suggest removal)

I'm glad that you two make sense because I don't.

Ken_Volok (anonymous profile)
March 3, 2013 at 12:19 p.m.

Two wrongs don't make a right, and you are correct. My time at rattlesnake canyon with BC, KV, and Italiansurg (il bambino senza testa) was great, and the atmosphere was simply divine.

dullfin (anonymous profile)
March 3, 2013 at 4:33 p.m. (Suggest removal)

I am going to be honest.

She is my Tia and Frank is my Tio.

She was experiencing severe withdrawal symptoms due to Opiate Painkillers.

Plain and simple.

She was not abusing them and had legitimate recourse to them through Pain Management / Treatment.

Just like anything you put in your body that releases a reward benefit after consumption, you begin to increase the dosage to continue experiencing a sense of wellbeing / euphoria.

My younger brother (19) (I am 24) was visiting their house and stole my Tia's Medicine to re-sell.

Any honest doctor will not refill any controlled substance before the refill date.

She had never experienced withdrawal effects before and became ill. It was arranged to acquire a few Tablets to subdue / sustain the effects and that turned into a goose chase.

She is a wonderful woman that had a ordeal that 47 percent of Americans have already gone through.

Plain and Simple.

BraulioLGrijalva (anonymous profile)
August 19, 2013 at 6:49 a.m. (Suggest removal)

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