ATWATER -- Friends and family members of missing Winton teenager Pamela Pedro remembered her Saturday as a vibrant girl with dreams of becoming a veterinarian.
Around 50 people gathered Saturday night in front of Atwater High for a candlelight vigil to remember Pamela.
It was held just a few steps away from where many last saw the 17-year-old senior before she disappeared without a trace on Sept. 13, 1982.
Pamela's mother, Patricia McDougall, traveled from Portland for the vigil. She still hopes someone, somewhere will come forward with information about what happened to her daughter.
"Who is Pam to me? She's my baby," McDougall said. "Apparently a lot of people love her. As you can see, a lot of family and classmates are here. She was, is -- I don't like to use the word 'was' -- a very high achiever, and just a very gentle, gentle spirit."
The last time McDougall saw her daughter was Sept. 13, 1982, when she dropped her off at Atwater High School. McDougall later returned to pick up her daughter, who was nowhere to be found. Since then, there have been no clues to her whereabouts.
Pamela's friends and family had positive memories of their time with her.
Her cousin Markus Agbulos, 48, of Sacramento described her as "the kindest, sweetest cousin" anyone could hope for. "I pray for her safe return every day," he said.
Carol Van Hoogmoed, who met Pamela in high school at a karate studio owned by Pamela's father, said she was fun to be around and always had a quick smile. "You can tell by her pictures that she loved to smile," said Van Hoogmoed. "She loved to draw -- she used to doodle all the time on notes," she added. "She was just a good friend."
Pamela's cousin Kellie Piombo of Linden, who lived in Stockton while growing up, would come to Merced County for family occasions and started to connect with Pamela during junior high. Piombo, 51, was engaged the year Pamela disappeared, and wanted Pamela to be in her wedding.
Piombo kept Pamela's bedroom set, and recently gave it to her 4-month-old granddaughter.
Piombo sent pictures of the set to McDougall, saying that it made her happy.
Merced County Sheriff Mark Pazin said his department remains committed to finding Pamela. Pazin noted that the television term "cold case" doesn't accurately describe Pamela's case, saying that it remains an "active" case.
"We come here this evening to recommit, reconfirm, and rededicate ourselves to those that have not come home," Pazin said.
Detective Mike Ruiz, who has been assigned to the case for almost two years, said he's working with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children to get the word out about Pamela. He said that the Doe Network, which matches DNA profiles of missing persons to those of human remains, constantly is being checked.
As more people find out about Pamela, "it's good to have a fresh set of eyes on the case over the years," said Ruiz. "Hopefully the case can move forward with other leads."
Anyone with any information about Pamela's case can call (209) 385-7472, ext. 4993. Tips are confidential, and callers can remain anonymous.
Chris Winterfeldt can be reached at email@example.com.