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Mom Seeks Answers in Daughter's Disappearance

Mar 13, 2010 – 10:45 AM
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David Lohr

David Lohr Senior Crime Reporter

(March 13) -- Nearly a year and a half after Christine Lindsey Walters vanished, police have no idea what happened to her. But her mother is determined to find the truth and says she won't stop until she does.

"She is just a very happy and caring person," Anita Walters told AOL News. "She is always positive and looking for the best in all people and situations. She is just full of life. There were so many things she wanted to do."

In 2008, Christine lived in Deerfield, Wis., and was a junior at the University of Wisconsin at Stevens Point, where she studied botany and ethnobotany. During summer vacation, she went to Portland, Ore., to spend time with some of her friends. While there, Christine changed her plans and traveled to Eureka, Calif.
Courtesy of Anita Walters
On Nov. 12, 2008, Christine Lindsey Walters turned up on a doorstep of a rural home in Arcata, Calif., nude and covered in scratches. After being hospitalized, she was taken to a hotel, but she soon vanished. Here, she is shown in an undated family photo.

"Before she left we would have conversations on the phone at least three times a week and sometimes a couple times a day, but then when she got out there all of a sudden I wasn't hearing from her as frequently," her mother said. "Her ideas were changing -- she was distancing herself from the Internet and other materialistic things and she was just kind of bumming around more or less, with not too many cares in the world."

By fall, the 23-year-old had decided to forgo returning to college for a while. She had made new friends in California and was becoming involved in spirituality and alternate lifestyles.

"I believe in emitting love, peace and positive energy," Christine wrote in the "About Me" section of her MySpace profile. "I'm loving life, wonderful experiences, enlightenment and beautiful people! Starting ... yoga [training] which is going to be a great journey. Playing in the dirt at an organic farm, which is one of the most beautiful communities I've been a part of."

On Nov. 12, 2008, Christine showed up on the doorstep of a rural home outside of Arcata, Calif. She was naked and had briar scratches on her body. The homeowner called police and she was taken to a hospital.

"She called from a hospital in Eureka and she was very scared," Anita Walters said. "She wasn't making any sense to me and was acting paranoid. She said that she was at some type of ceremony where they blew smoke in her face. She said someone was after her, and then she just stopped talking."

After she was released from the hospital, Christine was taken to a nearby hotel where her parents had arranged accommodations for her until she could return home. She had lost her identification, so her mother was working on getting her documentation so that she could travel.

"I spoke with her at about 3:30 in the afternoon on Nov. 14," Anita said. "It was the last communication I had with her. She wanted me to send her some stuff so she could get a driver's license or some way to get back home, so I faxed her some stuff to a local copy center. The employees there later told us she was acting very paranoid and tried to hide the papers.
Courtesy of Anita Walters
"I believe in emitting love, peace and positive energy," Christine wrote in the "About Me" section of her MySpace profile. "I'm loving life, wonderful experiences, enlightenment and beautiful people!"

"She left after that and they said she was standing on the street outside looking like she was wondering, 'Where should I go and what to do?' and then all of a sudden she was gone. That was the last time anyone saw her."

Christine was officially reported missing on Nov. 17, 2008. Authorities launched an extensive investigation but were unable to find any leads. The Walters family hired a private investigator.

"Christine's case is somewhat unusual," private investigator Thomas Lauth told AOL News. "She seemed to be a person that was experimenting in life and looking into different sorts of cultures, trying to learn as much about her inner self as possible. I think that sometimes when a person is exploring like that, they perhaps meet bad people. In Christine's case, I think that the people she met probably allowed her to explore but didn't realize some of her naivety."

According to Lauth, Christine was involved in a "tea ceremony" prior to the events that led to her admittance to the hospital.

"Tea ceremonies are actually illegal in the Unites States," Lauth said. "The people who hold these gatherings pose them as cleansing ceremonies. They are potentially dangerous because some people can have such adverse reactions to them that if they have an illness or disorder like bipolarity or depression, it can surface."

Lauth said the drug used at the tea ceremonies is called ayahuasca.

According to Dr. Andrew Weil, founder of Weil Lifestyle LLC and author of the book "From Chocolate to Morphine," ayahuasca is a psychedelic drink made from a vine found in the Amazon forest and leaves from another plant, usually Psychotria viridis. The components are generally pounded with a stone and mixed with water.

"They use the drink in traditional all-night vision-seeking rituals with shamans or in large tribal ceremonies, such as coming-of-age rites for adolescent boys," Weil writes on his Web site. "The vine's active component is a drug called harmine, which is not a controlled substance in the U.S., but the leaves provide another drug, DMT (dimethyltryptamine), which is illegal. DMT is responsible for the visual hallucinations that characterize the ayahuasca experience."

The tea, Weil writes, first causes "intense vomiting" and "diarrhea" and then a hallucinogenic state that can last for up to 10 hours. It is considered a powerful psychoactive drug but few studies have been conducted on it. Weil writes that it "can be psychologically risky" if taken under the wrong circumstances.

Lauth believes that "wrong circumstances" can easily be used to describe what happened in Christine's case.

"I don't think she was properly warned about the potential side effects and I don't think she could handle it," he said. "As a result, she experienced paranoia and for the next two or three days, ended up walking aimlessly and that is what brought her to the gentleman's doorstep the day she was admitted to the hospital. There is no evidence to suggest otherwise or that some person had attempted to abduct or rape her."

Humboldt County Sheriff's Department investigator Dan Paris said there is no evidence suggesting Christine had been harmed before or after her admittance to the hospital, but acknowledges there's no way for investigators to be sure the petite strawberry blonde disappeared of her own accord.

"We are as baffled as anyone else by what happened," Paris told AOL News. "Is this a young lady who decided to go off and cut all ties with society? Is this a young lady who had a mental breakdown of some sort, or is she the victim of foul play? We really don't know. I wish we did, but we have no idea."

Paris said the case remains active but until new leads come up, there is little his department can do other than post fliers and attempt to raise awareness.

"We keep it alive, but we just haven't gotten anything," he said. "Sometimes they show up alive, but in most cases, unfortunately, they show up dead. However, until we know different, we're still going to hold out hope."

Anita Walters also wants to hold on to hope, but with each passing day, that task becomes more and more difficult.

"I don't believe she would purposely take off and never call us again," she said. "I know my daughter. At the very least she would have let us know that she was OK. This haunts me. I have nightmares about it all the time.

"She is just a little peanut of a girl, so I fear for her, being out there all alone and disoriented. If someone saw her like that she could have met her demise. I don't know what to do. I don't want to just sit and wait. I don't know what I am waiting for. I love her. I want to help her and I want to find her."
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