Missing woman is found

MERCED — A 22-year-old woman whose disappearance led to a massive canyon search in Southern California has been found alive in downtown Merced.

The missing woman, Nancy Salas, walked into Carpet One at 312 W. Main St. about 11 a.m. Thursday, according to Lt. Andre Matthews, Merced police spokesman.

Salas was in tears and asked Melanie Mittelsteadt, showroom coordinator for Carpet One, to call 911. "I could tell she had been crying," Mittelsteadt said.

Salas' appearance in Merced is the latest wrinkle in a baffling case.

Glendale police Sgt. Tom Lorenz said Salas vanished Wednesday morning after telling her family she was going for a run in Chevy Chase Canyon, north of Los Angeles. She left her cell phone, keys and car at the family home.

Lorenz said earlier that Salas deceived her family by telling them she was attending UCLA, although the university says she hadn't been enrolled since 2008. Lorenz said the family had been planning a graduation party for her when she vanished.

"There is obviously deception; I don't want to call it a double life," Lorenz said.

Lorenz said Salas is healthy. It's unclear how or why Salas ended up in Merced, he added, although it doesn't appear a crime was committed.

During her conversation with the dispatcher at the Merced store, Salas mentioned something about a knife and a kidnapping, Mittelsteadt said.

Police later said she was not abducted; she fled because of stress and pressure.

Salas was wearing black windbreaker pants, running shoes and a T-shirt and her hair was pulled back. She didn't appear to be injured, Mittelsteadt said.

Salas cried off and on during her conversation with the dispatcher, Mittelsteadt said. The showroom employee gave her a glass of water and rubbed her back, trying to console her.

Matthews said Glendale police detectives arrived in Merced on Thursday.

Lorenz said Salas' relatives told him that she had no family or boyfriend problems that might have prompted her disappearance.

In the canyon, police, rangers, bloodhounds and a helicopter searched late into the night without success, and crews were called off early Thursday.

Salas, a fourth-year student and sociology major, was last enrolled at UCLA in fall 2008, according to university registrar records.

Lorenz said Salas' family was "adamant" that she was about to graduate from UCLA, and had been planning a graduation party. Friends claimed that she was enrolled at least part time.

The Associated Press contributed to this report