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Candlelight vigil held for missing Bend woman

Police release 2 photos of car in disappearance

Candlelight vigil held for missing Bend woman

BEND, Ore. - (Update: Photos released of car; police release make, model; Sunday evening vigil held)

Friends and family of Sara Gomez gathered at Riverbend Park Sunday evening for a candlelight vigil to offer hopes and prayers for the 24-year-old Bend woman, missing for nearly a week.

Songs were played for Gomez at the gathering, held hours after Bend police released two photos of a car associated with the case and asked the public if they had seen it last Sunday through Wednesday.

Bryan Michael Penner, 31, is being held on contempt of court charges,accused of violating a restraining order involving the missing woman.

Police said they want to hear from anyone who saw the car, a 2004 Chevy Malibu, between last Sunday, Feb. 18 and Wednesday, Feb. 21, at 541-693-6911 or through the Bend Police Department's Facebook page or Twitter feed.

"The color of the vehicle is sea foam green and it has a Carolina Panthers sticker on it," Lt. Clint Burleigh said in an updated news release that offered no other details on who's car it is or its connection to the case.

Authorities said Friday that Deschutes County Sheriff's Search and Rescue volunteers are helping investigators in the hunt for Gomez, but wouldn't disclose the locations they are searching. 

Tanya Lytle, Gomez's roommate, said Friday she last saw her on Sunday, when she was leaving with her ex-boyfriend. 

Penner, initially arrested on a kidnap charge, currently is facing only two counts of contempt of court for violating a restraining order filed by Gomez. He was described by Bend police as a "person of interest" in the case and officers said a raid of his northeast Bend apartment turned up evidence linking him to the 24-year-old woman's disappearance. 

Lytle became roommates with Gomez in November after Gomez moved out of the Sienna Pointe Apartments, located on Northeast Lotus Drive.

According to the property management team, Penner and Gomez moved in on April 1 of last year, but moved out just a few months after.

Detectives and Oregon State Police forensics officers were at Penner's apartment on Thursday and Friday, collecting evidence.

Lytle and other friends have been passing out flyers to local businesses across Central Oregon. 

She said she's keeping up the hope that Gomez is found alive. 

"I want her to come home really bad," she said. "I mean -- I really want her to know she really is -- even just me, I've known her a very small amount of time, and she's important to a lot of people. We want her back."

District Attorney John Hummel said the evidence so far leaves him confident that Penner is directly involved in her disappearance. 

He said Penner was the last person who saw Gomez alive, and investigators believe no one else is involved. 

"(From) evidence we gathered in the search of Penner's apartment, we believe that Penner was directly involved in Sara's disappearance," Hummel said. "And we are aware of the tips that people have called in, but we hope those tips keep coming in.

"We've chased down every lead and every tip. We do not know where she is. We're actively looking for her. We're concerned for her safety and well-being." 

Hummel said friends and family can help them with tips and passing out flyers.

And he said the main goal right now is to locate Gomez. 

On Thursday, a prosecutor told Circuit Judge Alta Brady the evidence collected at the apartment showed Gomez might have met with foul play, and could be in danger. 

Penner is being held at the county jail on $100,000 bail and is due back in court next Thursday.  


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